With David Cameron as their MP, 38 Degrees members in Witney are certainly well placed to raise concerns about the gagging law. So, on Thursday, 38 Degrees held two briefings in Witney: one for local Councillors and one for the rest of the community.
Becky from 38 Degrees and Ros Baston, a specialist electoral lawyer, spoke at the meetings. Ros could provide a whole host of examples showing how electoral law works in practice, so she was a really powerful speaker. And everyone in the room could feel how deeply concerned she was about the gagging law. Becky also spoke passionately about how the gagging law could limit the work of organisations like 38 Degrees, Christian Aid and the RSPB.
Several local Councillors came along to find out more about the Bill. Even David Cameron’s Councillor was in attendance, who noted “I make sure his bins are collected!” He might keep the PM’s streets clean, but the Conservative Councillor hadn’t heard about the gagging law. At least not until local 38 Degrees members got in touch!
At our community meeting, lots of those in attendance were members of local charities or campaigning groups, like Witney First and BBOWT. It rung true when Becky said “you might not support a political party but you probably care about a local field, or your hospital or school.” Lots of 38 Degrees members commented that it would be a huge shame if the gagging law stopped people in Witney campaigning on these kind of issues.
38 Degrees member, Bev, said the gagging law “is against us all – everything my parents fought for and my grandparents fought for”
There were also some fantastic questions from the audience – who will enforce these rules? what punishments will there be? Will it affect charities? But the saddest question came when we talked about how the group could influence their MP – Does David Cameron think we matter?
Let’s hope so does. The 30 strong group who came along are going to try to raise this issue with their MP – even if he is a busy Prime Minister!
What should the next steps be in Witney? How do you think constituents could grab David Cameron’s attention?