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 AvatarDan Ellis 20th Nov - 8:11pm
    I must agree with Jenny and Nick here. I'm all for trade agreements, but the objections here are about agreeing to giving corporations power over...
  • User AvatarSesenco 20th Nov - 8:05pm
    A slight correction to Olly's piece. Geoff Juby is a local councillor in the Gillingham constituency, not Rochester & Strood. We currently have no councillors...
  • User AvatarG 20th Nov - 8:02pm
    Sarah, I've not sought to excuse Israel, I have focused on statements which are hyperbolic to the point of offense. And comparing Israel to apartheid...
  • User AvatarJulian Tisi 20th Nov - 7:54pm
    I agree with Toby and Daniel - I think this is an incredibly level headed article on TTIP and I agree entirely. I think your...
  • User AvatarPaul in Wokingham 20th Nov - 7:40pm
    I thought the John Lewis ad was more interesting as a reflection on modern urban life. It clearly channels "The Sixth Sense" (right down to...
  • User Avatartheakes 20th Nov - 7:24pm
    John Tilley, your first comment, I agree 100%