38 Degrees Logo38 Degrees Logo 38 Degrees Logo

Posts Tagged ‘gagging law’

Gagging law: update

October 9th, 2014 by

The gagging law – that horrible law that we fought together to stop – is now in force. I wanted to give you an update about how we’re coping with it.

Even though 38 Degrees is independent of all political parties, we face restrictions on our campaigning between now and the election next May. Inside the office, staff now have to fill in forms and get things checked by lawyers before sending out a campaign email.

There’s no doubt about it, the gagging law is an attack on everyone’s right to campaign together. But I’m approaching the next few months with hope not fear.

38 Degrees members were crystal clear on how to respond to the gagging law. There was no way we wanted to stop campaigning about the issues we care about. Campaigns like protecting our NHS, cracking down on tax dodging or stopping TTIP must continue.

You may have noticed that 38 Degrees has been changing the way it does some things. The aim is to increase the impact of campaigns for a fairer, more democratic UK, without getting trapped by the new law. Here’s a little bit more detail:

  1. The gagging law restricts money spent by the office – not time spent locally by members. So we’re putting more power in 38 Degrees members’ hands. That means:

  • Helping 38 Degrees members get together face to face in their local communities. Sometimes this is for a drink or chat with like minded people. Sometimes this is to campaign on a local issue, or a national issue like the NHS.

    Local 38 Degrees groups are now springing up in towns like Bristol and Glasgow. Imagine what we can do together when there are hundreds more across the    country.

  • Helping 38 Degrees members start their own petitions and run their own campaigns. We’ve expanded the “Campaigns By You” area of the web site, and more 38 Degrees members are running brilliant campaigns like saving local libraries and hospitals.

  1. We are running more campaigns which won’t be caught by the gagging law – for example because they are targeting corporations, quangos, councillors or MEPs rather than Westminster politicians.

    Our campaign to get Matalan to pay the compensation to the Rana Plaza factory workers was an example of this. Targeting members of the European Parliament about TTIP is another.

  1. We are continuing to make every penny we spend go as far as possible. The tight spending restrictions for many tactics make it even more important that each campaign gives us the most bang for our buck.

So that’s the plan as it stands. I think it’s good news, because most of the things we are doing to cope with the gagging law will also make us better at winning campaigns.

These plans have been hugely helped by the 8,000 members of 38 Degrees who make a monthly donation. It’s just so much easier to make ambitious plans like expanding a 38 Degrees local groups if I know how much money is coming in.

If you don’t already donate, I wanted to ask if you were willing to consider chipping in a couple of pounds each week, I’d be hugely grateful – and I can promise you it will make a huge difference. You can set up a secure direct debit by clicking here. 

Thank you for being part of 38 Degrees. There’s no way we’ll let the gagging law stop us –  there are just too many important people-powered campaigns to run.

One final thing: a few 38 Degrees members have been asking, who is responsible if 38 Degrees gets ‘caught’ breaking the gagging law. That would be me, as Executive Director! There’s no risk to individual 38 Degrees members. The lawyers should keep us the right side of the law. But to be be honest, I’d happily defend our campaigns in court if it means we can keep people power powerful.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about all this. Please do comment below and join in on the conversation with other 38 Degrees members.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts


Gagging Law: Meeting with Angela Eagle MP

March 28th, 2014 by

Yesterday, 50 members of 38 Degrees from all over the UK came together in Portcullis House in Westminster to meet with Angela Eagle, shadow leader of the Commons and the person who was leading on this for the Labour party. Thanks to everyone who came!

Together, we wanted to push Angela Eagle on what Labour are doing about the gagging law. Because although Labour strongly opposed it at every stage in Parliament, there’s been an eery silence since it was passed.

It was a useful meeting – Angela Eagle does really seem on our side on this issue. She opened the meeting by confirming to us that the gagging law is a ‘terrible piece of legislation’ which is ‘a totally unwarranted attack on new forms of democracy’.

38 Degrees members then posed challenging questions to Angela Eagle about what steps Labour are actually going to take to overturn the law. We wanted to make sure that we weren’t being fobbed off with all talk, no action.

Angela Eagle also made it clear that although Labour oppose the gagging law, in order for them to make this a priority in their manifesto we have to keep shouting about how the law is going to crush our campaigning efforts over the next year.

She listened carefully to (and noted down) our views and concerns, to pass them onto Ed Miliband. It’s true that we need to continue to prove to Labour that the gagging law will have a chilling effect in order to get it overturned.

So overall, quite good news. We can be confident that Labour are still against the gagging law. But it’s still not entirely clear if they’re taking serious action behind the scenes. We can’t put our feet up yet. Together, 38 Degrees members need to make sure that the commitments are followed through in Labour’s manifesto promises. Watch this space for the next steps!

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

Tags: , , , ,

Poll Results

February 11th, 2014 by

Thanks to everyone who took part in last week’s member poll. It was all about what 38 Degrees members think about the gagging law campaign, and what we should do together now it’s become law.

Loads of people took the poll, and the passion 38 Degrees members have to keep standing up for democracy, protecting freedom of speech and holding our decision makers to account is so inspiring.

Here are the poll results:

38 Degrees members were asked what we should do together when the gagging law kicks in in September. Here’s what everyone said:

And some other ideas 38 Degrees members had for what we should do to handle the law

“I like the idea of civil disobedience in trying to express a strength of feeling about how this law has missed its mark”

“Can 38 Degrees and a coalition of other charities take the issue to the European Courts to ask them to strike it down? I’d contribute to that campaign!”

“Lobby the other parties to get their firm undertaking that it would be removed as a priority if they won the next election”

Look at what 38 Degrees members said when asked how we’d describe to another 38 Degrees member why it’s worth carrying on campaigning:

“Politicians in power are letting us down in every way from climate change to democratic processes – your voice is more likely to count in 38 Degrees than at election time!!! Count me in”

“We have no political party that stands for or represents the individual people of this country. Without the likes of 38 Degrees what have we to stand together and fight this attack on our freedom?”

“Our freedom to stand up for what we believe should not be compromised by this goverment”

“The gagging law makes it even more important to stand up for democracy”

38 Degrees members also said …

“The political process has become an elite club, with access increasingly restricted to the general electorate. It is time these self-interested cliques were broken and the democratic process returned to the people”

“I’d be concerned that starting a political party will divide votes and might turn out to be counter productive with our current voting system”

“it alarms me how the gagging law is getting almost no mainstream media attention”

Next the poll asks some questions about the gagging law campaign we all worked on together. 96% of 38 Degrees members had some idea of what the implications of the gagging law will be. And it looks like people’s experience of the campaign was largely positive:

Have a read of what 38 Degrees members listed as their favourite parts of the campaign:

“The newspaper ads on the day of the House of Lords votes”

“When we appeared to successfully change the minds of the House of Lords , albeit only temporarily”

“The public meetings like the one here in Bath with Don Foster – just so disappointing that he chose to ignore the wishes of many of his constituents”

“Reading about the public meetings and the excuses MPs gave for not attending”

“Writing to my MP and when he replied then I wrote again with a critique of his answer”

“The pressure the 38 Degrees campaign put on supporters of the bill throughout its proposal and passage was well organised and very important as a whole”

It’s tough reading some of 38 Degrees members’ least favourite parts of the campaign:
“Losing the vote”

“writing to my MP as he invariably follows the party line and does not give a reasoned answer to any points I might raise”

“Is there any way we could have got more media coverage, as broadcast news and most papers seemed to ignore the issue”

Finally, your parting comments on the campaign were:

“Frustrating to get so close but still fail. Political democracy in this country is very compromised. We need 38 Degrees to express our voices”

“It appears to me that there is a legal challenge to be made and regardless of the law being passed, it is doubtful that it can be enforced since it violates human rights and since the law does nothing to protect the national economy or security, it can have no lawful basis within the context of EU Law”

“Congratulations on a fight well fought – shame on those who voted in favour of the bill”

“It showed this government that as many people voted against the bill as for it. That the government only got its way by the expediency of its casting vote is a very, very hollow victory. The campaign was well-fought and 38 Degrees should feel very proud of what it achieved and remain determined to continue the fight to its rightful end.”

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

Tags: , , ,

Thought for the day

February 7th, 2014 by

Bishop Harries talked about 38 Degrees on his “Thought for the day” piece on the Today Programme on Radio 4 this morning.

You can listen to an MP3 recording of what he said here.

In his thought for the day he said

“Public expectations and public pressure can change things for the better.

I’ve been amazed recently by the power of public pressure when it’s exercised through digital communication.

One group which is prepared to campaign on a range of topics … has more than 2 million supporters

Politics is no longer just for politicians, we all have a voice and can bring it to bear in unprecedented ways.”

Listen to an MP3 recording of his thought for the day here .

Bishop Harries was the chaired the The Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement the independent body which carried out a series of countrywide consultations and lobbied to reduce the negative impact of the gagging law.


Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

Tags: , , , ,

The gagging law: A summary

February 6th, 2014 by

This might be the last update about the gagging law for a while! After the final vote last week, here’s a quick summary of what it means and what happens next:

The gagging law kicks in from September 2014. At that point 38 Degrees will face big new restrictions on how we campaign. These will be lifted in May 2015, but then return a year before the next election.

That means we now have seven months to work out what to do when the gagging period starts. Every 38 Degrees member will get a say. We’ll also need to take advice from lawyers and other experts.

In the meantime, we can continue to campaign together as usual.

If you have thoughts on how the campaign went, and what 38 Degrees should do next, click here to complete this short survey.

In the next seven months, before the gagging law starts, we can achieve more together than we ever have before. The gagging law campaign showed just how determined 38 Degrees members are to stand up for principles like democracy and fairness.

One of the most exciting things about the campaign was how much happened “offline”, in local communities across the UK. Thousands of 38 Degrees members got involved in public meetings, petition hand-ins with MPs, and local protests. I hope we can do a lot more of that.

It was so exciting for 38 Degrees members to work with so many hundreds of charities, campaigners and community groups. Let’s make sure we keep these new friends. We’re all stronger when we stick together to stand up for democracy.

Suggestions have been flooding in for how 38 Degrees – and other campaign groups – can cope with the gagging law. Some are suggesting ways of getting around the law. Others are saying that campaign groups should simply refuse to obey it. And others are proposing ways of keeping campaigns going despite new restrictions.

One of the successes of the campaign was to get a delay in when the gagging law starts. We now have until September to look into all our options and decide together what we do. We will need to get expert advice. But the final decision will be up to all 38 Degrees members.

Please share your views on what we should do next by filling out this survey.

Here are what a few 38 Degrees members have said so far:

Micheline: Civil disobedience is the only rational response. Many laws have been found to be unenforceable in practice if they do not have the consent of the people.

Douglas: So this law doesn’t apply to political candidates… That in of itself is the get-out.

Mansukhlal: In the garb of democracy the coalition government’s steam rolling of gagging legislation is nothing less than breach of trust of the electorate, hook, line and sinker. At the forthcoming election vote for the party that gives cast iron guarantee that it will invalidate such a draconian measure within 4 weeks from success in the election.

Aiden: Just because the bill is now law, doesn’t mean we have to accept it. We should ignore the bill, and do all the campaigning we please.

Wendé: I am with you 38 Degrees people. We must keep on fighting this democracy- hating government. United we must stand and there must be lots of us. They can’t imprison everybody if we break such a stupid law.

Donald: Give them an election they will never ever forget…. GET OUT AND VOTE and encourage everyone else to as well. They want to hear our voice ? Let them hear it.

Please add your thoughts here.

It’s really hard when a big campaign is lost, especially one as important as this. But everyone is now refocusing on the future, and 38 Degrees members are determined to keep going. We can all feel very lucky to be working with such a large and principled group of people.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts


The gagging law: What we did together

February 6th, 2014 by

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

Tags: , ,

2014 New Year poll results

February 3rd, 2014 by

At the beginning of the year thousands of 38 Degrees members completed a short survey to look at the year ahead.

What would be the big issues? What do people value about living in the UK? and what 38 Degrees members should do during elections?

Here are the results from that survey:

The last question was asked before the final vote on the gagging law took place.  Until the law comes into effect, in a few months time, there will be big questions to ask about how 38 Degrees members can campaign on issues, especially around the upcoming election.

However as you can see from the results, 38 Degrees members strongly believe that we should be campaigning on the issues that are important to us all, and making sure we hold MPs and candidates to account on pre-election promises.

So watch this space to help us all decide together on our next moves.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

Tags: , , ,

Ed Miliband: Scrap the gagging law if Labour win the election

January 31st, 2014 by

The dust is still settling after the final vote on the gagging law. There is a lot more thinking to do about how we respond together, and what lessons we should learn.

One thing that makes it all even harder to swallow, is just how painfully close it was. All that 38 Degrees members did, standing alongside all the other campaigning groups, took it to within one vote. So many thousands of people gave the campaign their all. It’ll take a little while to pick ourselves up again.

But alongside taking some time to reflect, it feels like we should try to seize any immediate chances to stop the gagging law scandal getting brushed under the carpet.

There’s one thing we can be pretty sure will be happening right now. The Labour Party will be weighing up whether to make an official pledge to scrap the gagging law if they win the next election. They’ve opposed it up to this point. Now it has become law they have to decide whether to continue that opposition.

That will be Ed Miliband’s choice, and he could well be deciding in the next few days. He is more likely to make scrapping the gagging law an election pledge if he hears from thousands of members of the public telling him they want him to. So please could you send him a quick email now? Click here.

Thanks in part to hundreds of thousands of us piling on the pressure, Labour opposed the gagging law at every vote. But now it’s been voted through the spotlight could fade. There’s a danger that Miliband could decide it’s no longer a priority to fight it.

A pledge from Labour obviously wouldn’t solve all our problems. It would only come into play if Labour won the next election. And we’ll all be able to think of past occasions where politicians haven’t stuck to their manifesto promises.

But by getting a promise now, we’d be in a stronger position to hold Labour to account if they did win. And whoever wins the next election, Labour being officially opposed would at least keep the issue alive.

It feels a bit strange asking you to email a politician to ask them to do the right thing. We’ve just had a very real experience of most politicians refusing to listen! But it also feels like getting Labour to make a manifesto pledge is a real possibility. And it would be one way of building on all the amazing campaigning we’ve done together over the past few months.

Please click here to send Ed Miliband an email now.

Thousands of you replied to the last email explaining that we had lost by a single vote. The messages of determination to keep campaigning have been an inspiration to the whole office team. It has helped remind us all why 38 Degrees matters so much. To read about what we did achieve together over the course of the gagging law campaign click here.

PS The response from 38 Degrees members over the last few days has been lovely. Here’s just a small sample of the passion and determination we’ve heard:

Sue: Don’t despair. Don’t roll over! This is supposed to be a democracy. 38 Degrees is allowing us to BE democratic. If we, the people, don’t accept this law we don’t have to.

Regena: This is devastating news but sometimes it is more important to be fighting on the right side, than to win.

Kevin: It seems to me that the lobbying bill is the first strong indicator that 38 degrees are now considered a real threat.

Marian: Be proud and fight on to get this selfish Governmental attack against democracy overturned

Rosa: This is a horrific misuse of government power and a yet another blow to democracy in the UK.

Roger: I think it is time to get militant! I’m 72 but I will take this to the street.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

Tags: , , , ,

Gagging law: it’s over, for now.

January 29th, 2014 by

Yesterday, the gagging law, more formally known as the Transparency of Lobbying Bill, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill (now Act), cleared its final hurdle in Parliament. It’s now on its way to getting royal assent and becoming law.

This is a message sent from 38 Degrees Executive Director David Babbs to every single 38 Degrees member, immediately after the final two votes (on the range of activity counted towards a spending cap in any single constituency, and on whether staff costs count towards total spend) were lost in the House of Lords:

I wanted to let you know straight away. I’m afraid we lost the gagging law vote in the House of Lords this evening. That’s it – it’s going to become law.

It couldn’t have been closer. On the final vote, 245 Lords voted in favour and 245 against. Unfortunately the rules mean that in the case of a tie, the government gets its way.

Personally I feel pretty devastated about this. I’m worried about what it means for the future of 38 Degrees. More importantly, I’m worried about what it means for the future of democracy, and what it tells us about the state of British politics.

But I also feel proud of everything 38 Degrees members did together to fight this. I hope you do too.

There will be a lot of thinking and discussion to be done in the coming days. 38 Degrees members will need to pull together to think about how to fight this terrible law. And we’ll need to work out how we can keep standing up for all we believe in – despite the restrictions the government is trying to impose.

But right now, I feel sure of one thing. We won’t give up.

Sorry I’m not emailing with better news, and thank you for everything you’ve done,


PS: 38 Degrees members are discussing the outcome on Facebook. You can join in at https://www.facebook.com/peoplepowerchange

Here’s some of the comments so far:

Peter: I am Spartacus. Who’s with me?

Zoë: sad news, let’s keep fighting to change it

Kirsty: The government shouldn’t even be allowed to vote on something like this…. it should be a vote left to the general public. Of course the government want us mute so this is no surprise

Peter: I strongly believe there should now be a coordinated campaign of civil disobedience. During the election campaign, all those organisations that stood against this atrocious and illiberal legislation should simply ignore it and campaign as usual. Maybe with a campaign fund set up to help defend the smaller organisations.

Liz: Gradually democracy is being eroded. The arrogance of this government is beyond belief.

Today is a difficult day. After a wonderful, uplifting, broad-based, people-powered campaign lasting six months, characterized by one of the broadest coalitions of civil society ever to work together in the UK, today the Bill is law.

But once the dust has settled, hopefully there will be as much pride as there is anger and sadness. Together, 38 Degrees members and hundreds of organisations supported by hundreds of thousands of people, made a catastrophic law better. It’s still a bad law, but here are the fixes we won:

  1. We changed potentially ruinous joint spending rules for organisations working in coalition to exclude small-spending organisations (Amd. 39)
  2. We got some costs excluded from spending that counts towards the new spending caps:
    • translation into Welsh (Amd. 44)
    • disability access (Amd. 44)
    • safety and security measures (Amd. 43)
    • NI parades (Amd. 42)
    • Volunteer costs (Amd. 44)
  3. We raised the minimum spend threshold, after which you have to register with the Electoral Commission and take on a whole lot more red tape, to £20,000 from £10,000 in England, and to £10,000 from £5,000 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (Amd. 46)
  4. We raised the overall spending limit in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by £20,000 each, bringing the new caps there to: (Amd. 47)
    • Scotland: £55,000 (from proposed £35,000)
    • Wales: £44,000 (from proposed £24,000)
    • NI: £31,000 (from proposed £11,000)
  5. Reduced the period for which the law is applicable before the 2015 General Election from 1 year to 7.5 months (Amd. 30-35)
  6. Won a review of all the rules that apply to organisations campaiging during elections, due to happen after the 2015 General Election (Amd. 118)
  7. Got rid of proposed spending caps in individual constituencies for the time period between Parliament dissolves and the General Election happens (Amd. 53)
  8. Got rid of some of the worst new proposed red tape and reporting requirements for organisations registering with the Electoral Commission – these would have been particularly hard for small organisations with limited budgets and staff to comply with (Amd. 50 & Amd. 5)

That’s truly something to be proud of.

The exact implications of the Act on campaigning organisations and local groups across the country (and on 38 Degrees!) won’t be known until the Electoral Commission produces its guidance on how it should be implemented and enforced. There are some marshalled case studies of projected implications for organisations here.

And here’s a wonderful video of 38 Degrees members across the country meeting MPs (some of whom then switched their votes!) throughout the course of the campaign. Watch it. I defy you not to feel pride and hope.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts, Gagging law


We’re in the papers!

January 28th, 2014 by

Full page ads are running in The Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian and the i today. They ask MPs and Lords to fix the worst bits of the gagging law – and they look great!

Together, the papers have a circulation of over 1 million – and copies of all of them will be lying in tea rooms and offices all over Parliament today.

The number of organisations behind these ads means they’re uniquely powerful. How often do we see that many logos together?

Thousands of 38 Degrees members chipped in to make these ads possible. It’s another reminder of what we can accomplish together.

If you’d like to share the ads on Facebook or Twitter, click here:

Share on Facebook

Posted in Gagging law

Tags: , , , , ,