The Independent View: Concerns about lobbying bill are not alarmist

So the pot has addressed the kettle again. Tom Brake and Chloe Smith have accused 38 Degrees of being either alarmist or scaremongering about the effects of Part 2 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. Perhaps they would like to add the  famously hysterical Electoral Commission to their list of doom-mongers, as they have also expressed serious concerns.

Mr Brake and Ms Smith claim that Part 2 will save the UK from unaccountable big-spending American-style Super-PACs. No alarmism there, then – especially when the only thing preventing this horror is that non-party spending is already limited to about 5% of what parties can spend.

So why slash this to just 2%, while adding many more activities into the mix and deliberately increasing red tape for the lowest spenders – all without any consultation with those affected or the Commission? There is no clear answer anywhere in the bill documents, so it’s not surprising people are suspicious.

Further, Part 2 restricts campaigners in ways that parties would never stomach for themselves. For example, it curtails targeting, the keystone of party election wins and losses for decades. It also includes staff costs in the limit, which most parties would, apparently, find too difficult.

Leaving fairness and proper process aside, Part 2 lacks clarity. Grappling with it is like wrestling an eel – difficult, slippery and ultimately unproductive. As with the current rules, campaigns on issues like housing, abortion, and the NHS, will be covered where they dare to raise voter awareness on issues that some parties or candidates support, and some don’t, even if they name no parties or candidates.

However, it’s much harder to work out what is definitely not covered, as the Commission has pointed out. This makes for poor regulatory law, particularly when there are criminal sanctions attached. The more questions people ask, the more grey areas and unintended consequences emerge. Some of these threaten the ability of groups to campaign at all.

With the number of concerns raised by a wide range of groups, the government should have the courtesy to listen rather than dismiss, and allay these worries with amendments. Then, maybe, it would be easier to believe that its intentions are honourable.

The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

* Ros Baston is a specialist political and election solicitor. Previously she was Lead Adviser (Party and Election Finance) at the Electoral Commission. http://bastonlegal.com/. She has received no payment from 38 Degrees for writing this article.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds and The Independent View.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/35938 for Twitter and emails.
Advert

2 Comments

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarClootie 29th Jul - 12:07am
    "Good sound bites without much substance" I think you will have a touch of déjà vu
  • User AvatarJoe Otten 28th Jul - 11:44pm
    There is an issue that mental health was typically funded by block grant as other areas were moving to per patient, and that mental health...
  • User AvatarJohn Dunn 28th Jul - 11:44pm
    I can fully respect someone for reviewing their party affiliation based on an appraisal of policy. You say : "I have always believed that we...
  • User AvatarAlex H 28th Jul - 11:40pm
    Welcome Jakob! I'm glad you took your time in weighing up your views and beliefs before leaving UKIP and in joining the Lib Dems, and...
  • User AvatarTed Logan 28th Jul - 11:26pm
    Welcome to the Liberal Democrats, Jakob. You are absolutely right that our party is a broad church, and we are very welcoming of all views...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 28th Jul - 11:19pm
    Peter, Good to hear from you. The point is that this man was in charge of the rules for conduct and behaviour. Their Lordships know...