Tom Brake on 38 Degrees and the Transparency and Lobbying Bill

Tom Brake MPI’m sure some Liberal Democrat members and readers of Liberal Democrat Voice will have recently received a rather alarmist email from 38 Degrees claiming that the Government, through the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, is attempting to stop charities and campaign groups criticising government policy.

I would like to reassure Liberal Democrat Voice readers that 38 Degrees have rather regrettably misrepresented and exaggerated the effect and intent of the bill. We are doing nothing of the sort.

What the relevant section of the bill is designed to do is stop our political system going the way of America’s – where wealthy and unaccountable millionaires can spend small fortunes, outside the formal political parties, trying to deliver specific electoral outcomes through so-called “Super-PACs” and alike. Something I would have thought 38 Degrees and their email list would want to support.

Chloe Smith, the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform who is leading on this bill, explains in detail here why the concerns of 38 Degrees are unfounded.

But in short this bill is only designed to restrict, to within reasonable bounds, those who are trying to influence the electoral outcome by supporting or encouraging support for a party or candidate. It is absolutely not going to restrict charities or campaign groups campaigning to change public policy.

Civic society and the role it plays in our public life is hugely valued by Liberal Democrats and we would not be putting forward a bill that curtailed that. But I make no apology for a bill that seeks to prevent big, opaque and unaccountable money wielding undue influence over our political system.

* Tom Brake is Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, and Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

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84 Comments

  • peter tyzack 24th Aug '13 - 9:13am

    - and does the Bill include the misuse of ‘freedom’ by our untrammelled Press, whereby they can blatantly turn the prospects of a candidate, a party, or a cause by wanton misrepresentation of the facts and the arguments, – which are then lazily followed and repeated by some of the broadcast media and the chattering classes?

  • Simon McGrath 24th Aug '13 - 9:19am

    38 Degrees misrepresenting and exaggerating something. Surely not.

  • Ian Brewerton 24th Aug '13 - 10:17am

    Never mind 38 Degrees; the following organisations, (many of them not noticeably lunatic fringe), are among the two dozen to have signed up to the NCVO letter to the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform expressing concern about the financial and operational burden of the bill, and the possible unintended effects;
    British Heart Foundation
    C P R E
    Countryside Alliance
    National Federation of Women’s Institutes
    Oxfam
    RNIB
    Royal British Legion
    RSPB
    Salvation Army
    Shelter
    Woodland Trust
    WWF-UK
    I’m afraid these groups all think the bill is seriously flawed and dangerous.
    Read the NCVO letter at http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Chloe-Smith-non-party-campaigning-final.pdf

  • Geoffrey Payne 24th Aug '13 - 10:32am

    Simon – 38 degrees do not have unlimited funds to spend at election time. They are not hedge fund managers!

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 24th Aug '13 - 11:32am

    HOPE not hate one of the leading anti-racist organisations believes that:

    The proposals will:

    a) Cut the maximum amount HOPE not hate can spend in the 12 months before the election by up to 70% and make it a criminal offence to exceed the limit. In total we would be limited to £390,000 across the British Isles. When combined with a widening of the scope of activities and costs that will now have to be included, we would be significantly restricted in our ability to launch national campaigns. It should be noted that a political party (of any size) can spend up to £18.96 million in an election period. HOPE not hate will be restricted to 2% of the expenditure available to the BNP.

    b) Dramatically widen the scope of activities that need to be incorporated into our costs. These will now include staff time, organising events, the development and publication of policy papers and even research time that goes into blogs, websites and leaflets. While placing these new restrictions on organisations like HOPE not hate, the Government has decided that political parties do not have to include staff costs in their returns as they are too difficult to work out!

    c) Limit total spending to £9,750 per constituency in the 12 months before the election. When including staff and design costs this will significantly limit our ability to participate in grassroots campaigning activity in areas particularly vulnerable to the politics of hate.

    d) Require HOPE not hate to report to the Electoral Commission weekly during the election campaign, placing a huge administration burden on our small team.

    e) Restrict our ability to build coalitions against racism with other organisations, as any costs accrued by a coalition will need to be “aggregated” (meaning that HOPE not hate would have to declare within our reported expenses the full amount spent on the joint campaign, regardless of how much we contribute).

    f) Place more rigorous restrictions on HOPE not hate in an election period, then those faced by the BNP, the National Front or any other political party.

  • The three main political parties traditionally conspire make a complete mess of virtually anything to do with laws relating to elections. This tends to be because the prime inputs made into the process, at least the main ones which are listened to, come from Party apparatchiks of the three Parties whose view on the world is from an electoral process (rather than campaign-based) point of view and from the centre of the organisations rather than the constituent parts.

    This proposal is not disgracefully wrong in principle at present but is clearly currently seriously-biased in a number of ways referred to above, and possibly others. It needs a lot of thought before it becomes a ‘Dangerous Political Dogs Act’.

    One of the difficulties with such a proposal is that it attempts to retain a semi-monopoly in the political process within the ‘official’ participants in an election. This has the effect of severely-restricting the political agenda of any given general election to those areas of politics which the ‘official’ participants jointly feel comfortable with. Increasingly, partly due to laziness of centralised national media, the agendas upon which the main participants choose to fight elections with the general population can be quite narrow (all sorts of detailed stuff buried away in policy papers and subject manifestos gets read by a handful of people). So, if a group of people or organisations want to push another subject up the agenda and highlight the differences (however small) between Party or candidate positions on issues which the Parties have ‘unofficially’ conspired with each other to sideline, that might not be a bad thing. The question then arises as to what to do about this process and how to do it. It is difficult, too, to see as ‘fair’ any process which applies to charities and campaign organisations which tend to have a relatively blatant and ‘open’ agenda upon their chosen subject, whether you like it or not, and media groups which are far more blatantly political and have a mix of agendas, some more open and honest than others.

  • A Social Liberal 24th Aug '13 - 12:50pm

    Am I right in believing that this restriction on spending is for 12 months before ANY election? Including by elections, local government and general elections?

    If so, charities would never be able to mount a decent campaign because we have elections every year.

  • Stuart Mitchell 24th Aug '13 - 12:57pm

    Any arbitrary tinkering of this sort is undemocratic for the reasons put forward by Donnachadh McCarthy. If the rules do not affect everyone the same, then this is an abuse of government power.

    In my view the government should only take one of two positions on party and election funding. Either there should be no restrictions at all, or there should be rules in place to ensure that everybody is spending exactly the same amount. Anything in between, with unequal outcomes for different parties, is profoundly illiberal and undemocratic.

    “this bill is only designed to restrict, to within reasonable bounds, those who are trying to influence the electoral outcome by supporting or encouraging support for a party or candidate.”

    By “reasonable”, the government seems to mean placing restrictions on groups who are likely to oppose the current government, while allowing those who support it to continue as they are. That will be the practical outcome. The way things are going, we’ll need UN inspectors overseeing our election process soon.

  • Dave Eastham 24th Aug '13 - 1:39pm

    The intention may very well be to “stop our political system going the way of America’s”. Trouble is, so often legislation falls victim to unintended “creep”. (Not least the recent Schedule 7 shenanigans at Heathrow) 38 Degrees may well think they are the “target” for this legislation. Somehow I doubt it. As others have pointed out some very worthy and venerable charities have raised concerns. Furthermore, when both the Conservative Home and Labour List websites have legal advice that suggests that they may be subject to the legislation and fall victim to their own party disciplines, then there is something very wrong with this. Chloe Smith’s letter to 38 Degrees does not reassure me for one.

    see
    http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2013/08/will-the-lobbying-bill-give-cameron-the-power-to-close-down-conhome.html
    http://labourlist.org/2013/08/the-government-are-attacking-civil-society-and-free-speech-and-this-blog/

  • paul barker 24th Aug '13 - 1:39pm

    I unsubscribed from 38 degrees when I realised it was just another Labour Front.
    I dont want any money I give to charities to be used to campaign against my Party at Elections – is that so unreasonable ?

  • paul barker – Where did you get the idea that 38 Degrees is a Labour front? I’m a member and I must admit I haven’t given this much thought – any enlightenment would be most welcome.

  • A Social Liberal 24th Aug '13 - 2:27pm

    With respect Paul, 38 Degrees is no more a Labour front than is the RSPB. It tries to change the course of this right wing government but I suggest to you that it would have campaigned against ID Cards, Labours attempt to build the 3rd runway at Heathrow and many other Labour ‘schemes’.

  • Keith Morton 24th Aug '13 - 2:52pm

    A Bill intended to fool most of the people most of the time into thinking it tackles the deeply corrupt disgrace of corporate lobbying. Instead it cynically targets those who campaign in the public interest – or what they sincerely believe to be the public interest. Not altogether surprising that politicians are terrified of doing anything effective against the endless gravy train that is attached to corporate lobbying or the cosy little sinecures that they hope await them – courtesy of their corporate pals – after their often lacklustre term in office. The party propping up the Tories has turned into the Tories. And I’m one of the deluded fools who voted for them! I offer my sincerest apologies. I promise not to do it again.

  • As some have already mentioned the major problem our democracy faces is the misuse of press freedom by wealthy owners who use their wealth and newspaper ownership to propagandise ceaseless for their own usually right wing) political agenda. I think I am correct in stating that Leveson singled out the misinformation and lies peddled by a couple of our newspapers about the EU as highly detrimental. Until these issues are addressed the rest is pointless and I can honestly never see anything significant being done about it.

  • @ Stweart
    38 degrees is not a “Labour Front” if you read this blog regulalrly you will realise that Paul Barker is quite obsessive in his anti-Labour views. Pity he’s rarely so critical of the Tories! The Daily Telegraph has been heavily trying to undermine a number of worthwhile charities by painting them inaccurately as left wing fronts, why I am not surprised Paul has jumped on the bandwagon with regard to 38 Degrees.

  • A Social Liberal 24th Aug '13 - 3:50pm

    @Simon Shaw

    Could you kindly show me where 38 Degrees has campaigned to stop the election of any politician, from any party.

  • Wouldn’t it be possible to get around this by forming 10 or 100 organisations on paper to campaign for or against a specific candidate?

  • Simon McGrath 24th Aug '13 - 4:43pm

    Anyone who thinks 38 degrees isnt a Labour front really hasn’t been paying attention.

  • 38 degrees has clearly become a Labour front organisation and it’s exactly the kind of shadow organisation that should be restricted in what it can spend. I also feel pretty uncomfortable that even supposedly respectable charities spend so much of the money we donate to them to “campaign” rather than spending it on actually doing something worthwhile in line with their supposed raison d’etre.

    People above have made a reasonable point about the influence of newspaper barons – and I’d certainly agree that where that is blatantly party political it ought also to come within the remit of these spending limits. So by all means let’s extend those limits but don’t let 38 degrees and other front organisations off the hook either.

  • What on earth is happening to the Lib Dems? You have the leader of the party abandoning civil liberty concerns and now members are seeing reds under the bed in organisations that challenge their worldview.

    Being paranoid and distrustful is not healthy in a political party.

  • 38 degrees far from being a Labour Front, accurately articulates what a great many Lib Dems and former Lib Dem voters think. It is a sad fact, supported by opinion polls and a lot of election results, that Nick Clegg has lost contact with our voters beliefs and aspirations.

    I certainly have considered supporting them financially and have quite happily supported a lot of their campaigns. Persons, such as myself who have been party members from the start and belong to the welfarist tradition might equally call the current Lib Dem party leadership a Tory Front – they are certainly helping the tories by dismantling our electoral base and uncoupling all the Labour tactical voters we’ve spent two decades squeasing across the south and south west.

  • As I understand it the rules apply to organisations whose predominant activity is lobbying – so whilst this would catch out 38 degrees, and one definitely hopes the so called “tax payer’s alliance” it would not catch up with big businesses spending a fortune furthering their own interests. Lets know where all the money is coming from first, then lets decide who is or isn’t a front.

  • My inclination is that Ben and OllyT are closer to the truth concerning 38 Degrees. Campaigns are chosen on the basis of members’ votes. Pretty admirable, really.

    Yes, they make mistakes, and, yes, they naturally gravitate towards an anti-government position (which leads people to associate them with Labour), but I think there’s is a form of political activism that we should be defending.

  • Tony Dawson 24th Aug '13 - 9:34pm

    @Simon McGrath:

    “Anyone who thinks 38 degrees isnt a Labour front really hasn’t been paying attention.”

    Now then! Would Simon be happy with: “Anyone who thinks Simon McGrath isn’t ALL front really hasn’t been paying attention”? ;-)

    Of course not. And he should therefore be wary of making such sweeping scathing and unfounded comments. 38 degrees by its very nature is unlikely to push for things which people think the government is already doing. Where the ideas come from for the wanted changes, however, can be from various parts of the political spectrum or none.

  • 38 Degrees is a fairly mainstream radical “front”. A Labour government would not find it a comfortable bedfellow.

    It’s perfectly sensible to limit non-party spending around elections. I’m still trying to read enough to work out whether the limits proposed are reasonable, which elections the bill applies to, and how.

    This is a bill prepared in haste from a bucket of half-thought-through ideas. It appears to cover an anti-fracking campaign or a dedicated lobbying company, for example, but not a fracking company lobbying in its own favour.

    Start again Tom, and this time intend to produce something which addresses the real problem.

  • Andy Boddington 25th Aug '13 - 8:25am

    The current wording of Part 2 of this Bill, “Non-Party Campaigning etc.”, will at best have a chilling effect on charitable campaigning during the election campaign period. At worst, it will lead to charities being dragged through the courts by candidates and parties who would prefer to silence their critics.

    The reduced funding limits and the potentially wide range of charitable activities that may be ensnared by this vaguely worded Bill will undermine effective campaigning whenever an election is in the offing. That cannot be good news.

    What this Bill really says is that politicians know best and charities should keep out of the election fray. This may not be a deliberate attempt to silence the critics of political policies but it could well achieve that.

  • Barry Edwards 25th Aug '13 - 10:31am

    Before the 2010 election how many Lib Dem members would have expected a Lib Dem MP to offer as his proof that something was not true the words of a Tory MP?

  • Another utterly stupid aspect of this bill, layered upon the utterly stupid proposals on a register of lobbyist that manage to let most lobbyists escape.

    How can a newspaper, which has relatively far more power and influence as a seemingly independent source, be fine to direct people how to vote on the basis of its editorial/proprietor bias, but a campaigning organisation not.

    Simon McGrath seems to have decided that 38 Degrees is a front, simply because it espouses solutions to problems that don’t fit with his free market fundamentalist world views. That’s real liberal of him.

  • @ Andy May
    Agreed. . The imbalance is bad enough now. One of the biggest challenges for a healthy democracy is what to do when “Freedom of the Press” has no real meaning other than the freedom of a hand full of very wealthy right-wing to propagandise relentlessly for their own political agenda. I really don’t have an answer but all else real pales in significance in comparison to the undue political influence exerted by those owning newspapers.

  • Michael Parsons 25th Aug '13 - 3:06pm

    @Tom Brake “What the relevant section of the bill is designed to do is stop our political system going the way of America’s – where wealthy and unaccountable millionaires can spend small fortunes, outside the formal political parties, trying to deliver specific electoral outcomes”
    You mean like buying dinners with Cameron? Like MP’s lobbying in return for favours? etc. endlessly .Where have you been, mate? Certaily not Westminster. Since the Parties already “respond” to financial donnations, why should millionaires need to spend “outside” them when they are already having their way with them inside? Time to rub the sleepy dirt out of your eyes, perhaps.l

  • Michael Parsons 25th Aug '13 - 3:40pm

    @ Tom Brake
    Since 38 Degrees and indeed many charities (and Unions) have memberships that dwarf these nasty little political parties many times over, when it comes to talk of exercising unfounded influence on public policy perhaps the boot is on the other foot? Which is why these gatherings of a few hundred thousand political party election-fixers (if that, far fewer in the LibDem case?) are so afraid of referendums, right of MP recall, annual parliaments and the internet: – politics seems to be moving way beyond the hee-hawing Honourable Members, and high time too! As Liberals and Democrats surely we should be encouraging that?

  • Mack(Not a Lib Dem) 25th Aug '13 - 10:29pm

    Of course the Liberal Democrat government hates 38 degrees. It was contributions from 38 degrees ( including this member) that enabled campaigners to go to court and have the Liberal Democrat government’s decision to close Lewisham Hospital overturned and declared illegal. Tom Brake is wrong. The bill is a trojan horse for suppressing dissent by anti government campaigners in the run up to the General Election. The Tories couldn’t get their boundary changes so now they want to stop all anti-government campaigning.

  • Mack(Not a Lib Dem) 25th Aug '13 - 10:33pm

    As for 38 degrees being a Labour Party Front, I only wish the Labour Party was half as effective as 38 degrees at campaigning!

  • Thanks Alex. The Electoral Commission, of course, are not allowed to take sides in a political argument. They can only speak up if they consider that a government proposal is actually unworkable and will hence do serious harm. This they have done.

    From the article you reference:

    “The bill … widens the definition of what counts as election-related activity to include work that could affect the outcome, even if that was not its purpose.”

    So – If Shelter maintain their normal campaign activity, the Tories might claim that, by pointing out that Britain has one or two housing problems, Shelter could cause people to stop voting Tory, even if that was not their aim. Ergo, their campaign should be rigidly monitored and restricted.

    If RSPB maintain their normal campaign activity the Tories might claim that, by pointing out that Britain has not done as much as it could for birds, RSPB could cause people to stop voting Tory, even if that was not their aim. Ergo, their campaign should be rigidly monitored and restricted.

    Yes, I can see why the Electoral Commission felt they should speak up.

  • Peter Watson 25th Aug '13 - 11:31pm

    If there were a Labour government then 38 Degrees would be campaigning against it (there’s not much mileage in trying to get people excited enough to campaign against what an opposition party is doing).

    If that Labour government were proposing what Tom Brake or Chloe Smith are currently defending, then I would expect outraged voices in the Lib Dem party and Lib Dem Voice to be condemning an illiberal clampdown on freedom of speech.

    I really don’t know what Lib Dems stand for these days, but it doesn’t seem to be what I used to vote for.

  • Peter Watson 25th Aug '13 - 11:39pm

    @David Allen
    To your list you could also add that it could prevent the RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports from campaigning against fox hunting in any year in which a conservative is standing for election to something.
    Or perhaps anti-racism organisations from campaigning when BNP candidates are standing.
    Or the NUS from campaigning against Lib Dems .. ah, now I understand!

  • Mack(Not a Lib Dem) 26th Aug '13 - 11:06am

    @Peter Watson
    “If that Labour government were proposing what Tom Brake or Chloe Smith are currently defending, then I would expect outraged voices in the Lib Dem party and Lib Dem Voice to be condemning an illiberal clampdown on freedom of speech.”

    Quite. If the “Democrat” in Liberal democrats means anything at all every Lib-Dem MP should be opposing and voting against this bill. The bill has been skewed to ensure the Tories don’t lose the support of their lobbyist friends anyway. This bill will allow the BNP to campaign but will stop those opposed to them. The National Council for Volountary Organisations have registered their concerns; so have Hope not Hate. This bill is worthy of North Korea. Every democrat in the land should oppose it.

    http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/article/2976/the-government-is-trying-to-gag-hope-not-hate
    http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2013/08/18/transparency-of-lobbying-bill-unintended-consequences-or-trojan-horse/

  • The reason these lobby groups are growing in strength is because ordinary people don’t feel that joining a political party has any impact upon that party’s policies as a result of the contempt the leadership of the main parties demonstrate towards their own members. So, the answer to this disengagement with the party political system proposed by two of these small cliques is to ban freedom of speech for ordinary people outside the party political system whilst ignoring the wealthy individual backers and newspaper proprietors who happen to be overwhelmingly right-wing . There was a time a few decades ago when the left routinely described as a ‘fascist’ anyone that happened to disagree with their world-view. Rarely, if ever, was the term applied correctly. The term does apply correctly in this instance however. This is a road to a fascist state.

  • David White 26th Aug '13 - 5:03pm

    Chloe Smith’s response to 38 Degrees is warmly comforting and placatory. However, I would like to add a few anxious words to other concerned comments on this website.

    There seem to be too many pitfalls and dangers lying on wait for truly liberal LibDems who might wish to help finance electoral opposition to illiberal candidates who are financed by wealthy self-interested people.

    Or am I getting twitchy about the increasing closing-down of reasonable protests?

  • I am/was a Liberal Democrat voter and this post disappoints me. I think it was said above quite well ‘playing the man, not the ball’.

  • A Social Liberal 27th Aug '13 - 6:17pm

    Simon Shaw said

    “What is wrong with having some sort of reasonable limit on what organisations can spend trying to influence the electoral outcome by supporting or encouraging or discouraging support for a party or candidate?”

    Nothing at all Simon – but there is no evidence to suggest that 38 Degrees or any other organisation who signed the paper is planning to do this. You are scaremongering by suggesting that they are.

  • Henry Tinsley 27th Aug '13 - 10:42pm

    If Simon McGrath thinks 38 Degrees is a Labour front he’s been reading too much Tory propaganda. It’s laughable and absurd.

  • Andrew Colman 27th Aug '13 - 11:42pm

    I would have some sympathy with this bill if it restricted how much “newspapers” could campaign for a particular party. By printing headlines that support a particular political agenda, they are offering free publicity for political parties which would otherwise cost £millions.

    Organisations like 38 degrees are just goups of people concerned about an issue, they are not mouthpeieces of super-rich super powerful corporations. A reasonable measure to stop corruption would be to impose a ceiling on how much can be donated in the run up to an election eg £10000

  • Andrew Colman 27th Aug '13 - 11:49pm

    If this bill goes through. I hope 38 degrees will be able to carry on campaigning by going offshore. It would be poetic justice that the thing the Tories and their friends have been determined to defend ie offshore tax dodges may turn out to be the source of their downfall.

  • Henry Tinsley 28th Aug '13 - 10:28am

    Of course the Gagging Bill can be defeated if the LibDems oppose it. Will they have the courage to do so?

  • Peter Watson 28th Aug '13 - 10:40pm

    Any chance of Tom Brake replying to some of the concerns raised here, or is this another example of a senior Lib Dem using LibDemVoice for one-way “communication”?

  • Martin Rosen 30th Aug '13 - 2:25pm

    It’s pretty obvious that Tom Brake hasn’t even read his own government’s draft Bill – he is just responding to a briefing note presumably from Chloe Smith.

    Chloe Smith says that organisations such as 38 Degrees are exempted from the Bill. Maybe she believes that, or maybe she hasn’t read it herself, but the fact is that a rigorous search of the draft shows that it just isn’t true. Or maybe I missed it? Perhaps Tom will be so kind as to point me to the exemption in the Bill, or else show me his Counsel’s advice which tells him that 38 Degrees are exempted …. or else perhaps he will apologise for misleading us.

  • Henry Tinsley 30th Aug '13 - 3:56pm

    I can’t imagine why Tom Brake or others think 38 Degrees will be exempt from the bill. The legal advice is quite clear: they, along with charities and other campaign groups, will be clobbered. It’s bizarre than any LibDem would think of supporting such a bill.

  • Seems to me the lobbyists got into power during the Blair years and are now thoroughly entrenched. Why else would they be privatising the health service and Post Office? We need organisations like 38deg to represent the people and try to limit the damage being caused. 38deg has 1.7 million members. So-called MPs want to limit the people’s power so they can continue on the gravy train as before, spending millions on their 2-week splurge of pointless ad campaigns every 4-5 years without anyone inconveniently pointing out that they are clueless or acting illegally.

  • David Griffiths 30th Aug '13 - 6:43pm

    I hope Tom Brake has the graceto read through these blogs very carefully & listen to the concerns that are being expressed. As a Liberal Democrat he should be giving fulsome support to 38 Degrees, which currently provides one of the best democratic platform for people of all political parties & none to challenge governments of all traditions on a wide variety of issues. I some how feel that if we had a Labour Party in power at the moment, we should hear very different words from our worthy MP. He also needs to listen to what charities are saying who are going to be hit by these proposals.

  • How can 38 Degrees be a Labour front when it offers opposition to activities of the present or future government.
    The 38 Degrees proposal can be voted on by members or disregarded if they disagree with it.

    There is no political agenda.

    If anyone finds a political party that meets all their political needs then I suggest that they are very lucky or very stupid.
    Therefore there will be opposition from people from all the spectrum of voters.

  • Britain is looking more like 1930s Germany every day !!!

    After a cursory read of the proposed legislation, I am appalled that this bill being pushed though, will limit my freedom of speech, expression & representation of my views.
    To use such a badly formulated catch all instrument, that appears to prevent organizations (such as -38 Degrees, The National Council of Voluntary Organisations, AAWT, & HOPE not hate), representing my views & campaigning for improvements to our society, is at best incompetent, at worst despicable.

    I & many others feel we are being disenfranchised by stealth.

    Successive governments have distanced themselves from the population so our voices are no longer heard or are just ignored by an elite group of legislators, many who regard their positions as a means to enhance their personal wealth to the determent of the country.
    ( For instance according to governments own figures, as a direct result of government energy policy, domestic energy cost has risen by 92% since 2002 & in the last 8yrs households in fuel poverty have doubled to approx 2 million, meanwhile the Ministers & MPs who oversee the legislation make small fortunes from involvement in the scam.)

    Our ancestors died fighting for the limited freedoms we have & over the last few decades many of these have been removed or severely eroded. If the government removes or curtails any more, either by design or by sloppy legislation, be prepared for much more militant opposition than just public lobbying.

    My parents & grand parents lived & fought in 2 world wars to protect our freedoms, as a result I was born with a democratic right to freedom of speech & representation of my views; I’m prepared to die fighting to retain that right for the next generation…so put me on the list of militants.

  • Brendan Linnane 31st Aug '13 - 12:37am

    “I would like to reassure Liberal Democrat Voice readers that 38 Degrees have rather regrettably misrepresented and exaggerated the effect and intent of the bill. We are doing nothing of the sort.”

    Effect and intent are neither here nor there. The actual words of an Act are what matter. Experience in Britain and in every other juristiction has shown that if a law can be abused it will be abused.

  • Silent Hunter 31st Aug '13 - 9:59am

    The veracity of the LibDem pronouncement on anything can be summed up in two words.

    Student Fees.

  • I’ve had emails on this, not just from 38 Degrees, but also from Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society, all tremendously concerned about this bill.

  • David White 1st Sep '13 - 12:36pm

    Yes, me too, dear ‘Jon M’. I support them. And I’ve also been contacted by Hope Not Hate in similar terms – that’s another organization which has my support.

    It’s been rather worrying to read increasingly hysterical attempts by Simon Shaw and one or two others to defend the untenable position of Tom Brake and the ConDem government.

    To imply that, along with 38 Degrees, the WI, the Countryside Alliance, the RBL and the RNIB are bunch of militant ‘Trots’ is pushing credibility too far. And, back in the 1980s, I knew the NCVO people: the publisher for which I worked marketed their books; the NCVO people were super: liberal, worthy, dedicated.

    This Bill, in its present guise, must prove unacceptable to anybody who describes themselves as liberal and/or Liberal. It is not a real LibDem Bill; its 100% OldCon pedigree is patent.

  • Andrea Verrall 1st Sep '13 - 6:18pm

    I was such a gullible optimist when I voted Lib Dem in the last election, their actions since have seriously devalued our democratic process. This, a party who’s name used to be synonymous with civil liberties and equality, now casually tramples these tenets into the ground. With Labour providing no inspiring alternative, (just more of the same really, it’s principals and ethics also diluted beyond recognition or usefulness) it is with relief that I turn to 38degrees for an effective way of having my voice heard, regaining some sense of the bloke on the street’s voice be audible above the resounding rattle of self seeking vested interests. Come on Lib Dems, it’s time get back to doing what it says on your tin, my vote for you was for a liberal democracy, it’s time for you to deliver. Kick this bill out and espouse liberal democratic values or seriously consider changing your name to avoid the charge of misrepresentation of goods

  • Kathy Smyth 2nd Sep '13 - 6:22pm

    Ignore 38 degrees, for a moment at least. What should concern all Liberal Democrats is that what is arguably the leading firm of lawyers advising on charity law, Bates Wells and Braithwaite, are so concerned about it they have issued a briefing note setting their concerns out.
    I’m also a former lawyer and now campaign in the voluntary sector and having read the draft legislation I’m also pretty concerned. The intention and meaning of the draft isn’t very clear at all, and introducing ambiguity is one of the worst things that the legislature can do. It’s another really poor piece of drafting produced by the legislature. What is fairly clear is that as currently drafted this is going to create another bureaucratic nightmare for the charity and voluntary sector in the run up to any election. They are pretty well on their knees anyway due to the financial climate resulting in cuts in grants and problems in raising money from the public so if you want to crush them any more this is the way to do it. So do you?

  • This proposed legislation is an ill thought out knee jerk reaction that could cause real harm if taken to it’s natural conclusion.
    Imagine a natural disaster happens and many NGOs need to raise funds to help. Problem is, it’s an election year so they are restrained from appealing for donations which could be construed as political because overseas funding has been cut by the current government.
    I despair. Who the Hell am I going to vote for at the next election?

  • Andrew Colman 3rd Sep '13 - 5:00pm

    This bill shows that the Lib Dem MPs sadly are seriously loosing the plot, and I am likely to become a former Lib dem if this bill goes through. I have been a Lib Dem for 25 yearsbut this bill is one of the worst I have seen by any government over that period.

    The fact is that the wrong people are being targetted (I expect due to the Tory obsession with curtailing unions).
    Campaign groups will be muzzled whilst Murdoch and his chums will be able to continue spewing out their propoganda unheeded.

    It is very easy for governments to muzzle minorities, particularly they don’t have economic clout. However, the sins can come back to haunt. Some disenfanchised people will decide they no longer have a democratic voice and will replace the ballot box with the bullet. This is whats happened in Syria. God Forbid if our corrupt and lazy politicians let it happen here also!

  • Damon Hoppe 3rd Sep '13 - 5:58pm

    This Bill has only one possible intention to prevent people from criticizing “wealthy and unaccountable millionaires who spend small fortunes” to get the policies and government they want!. Am I really to believe all that corporate advertising which takes place at the run up to elections, or policy votes by the rich to promote their values and lifestyle would be curtailed…. of course not! It is aimed at those who wish to point out how the greed and selfishness of these people is destroying our society, economy and environment.

  • Damon Hoppe 4th Sep '13 - 11:19am

    Will scientist’s be gagged by this proposal?…At present scientists are at liberty to publish in magazines like Nature scientific articles which directly contradict the statements made by the government and other politicians….As someone who is highly influenced by the view of scientists and publications like Nature, to the point of determining my voting behavior, will the work of scientists be limited in the run up to elections?

  • Peter Chivall 4th Sep '13 - 11:24am

    I turned on the radio at the weekend to hear a junior Tory Minister defending the muzzling of campaigning charities and the further emasculation of democratic Trades Unions, by this mish-mash-of-apretence-at-resticting lobbying bill. When the presenter said; “That was Tom Brake, LibDem Minister, speaking in favour of the Bill…” I thought; “My God, the Parliamentary Party really have lost the plot”.
    After over 40 years in this Party, and its predecessor, where do I go? As a supporter (yes I paid money because ‘they’re worth it!) of 38 Degrees and a lifelong believer in a diverse Liberal Society, I can no longer accept the views expressed by Tom Brake and others whose limp defence of Liberal principles is besmirching the name of my Party week by sorry week.
    I’m not going to leave the Party, so it’s time people like Tom Brake decided whether they’re in the right place. I’d happily send a cheque for his blue membership card to Tory Central office – it’s the least I can do!

  • http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2013/09/03/bloggers-and-campaigners-to-be-gagged-by-lobbying-bill
    says:

    Bloggers and campaigners to be gagged by lobbying bill
    Tuesday, 3 September 2013 12:17 PM

    By Adam Bienkov

    Bloggers and campaigners could be issued with “stop notices” in the run up to the next election if the government’s new lobbying bill is passed, MPs were warned today.

    The chair of the Electoral Commission said that regulators could be forced to take legal action against community groups and activists due to confusion over their new role.

    “There may be circumstances where a stop notice might be argued to be needed in cases of, for example, asking somebody to take down a blog or a website or prevent a rally from happening,” commission chair Jenny Watson told the constiturional reform committee.

    “That is a significant intervention for the electoral commission to take.”

  • I wonder if our leaders have considered just how damaging it will be for them if during an election campaign the papers are full of news about gagging notices – some of them quite possibly issued against highly respected non-partisan organisations. Bearing in mind that that is the time when the public feels most fed up with a force-fed diet of the antics of professional politicians.

  • David White 6th Sep '13 - 12:49pm

    The comments from those who seem, in truth, to be closet OldCons have been swamped by those from those of us who are fervently liberal – praise be!

    There have been so many marvellous comments following Mr Brake’s ill-conceived and feebly-argued article that I reluctant to choose a ‘top of [my] pops’. However, I must give my accolade to Peter Chivall. If I may, dear Mr Chivall, I will share the cost of Tom Brake’s OldCon membership card with you!

  • The overwhelming consensus of comments has been a resounding rebuff of Chloe and Tom’s position and reinforces my view that the current proposed legislation will be a disaster for everyone. The concerns of the many charitable organisations and the Electoral Commission provide more than sufficient evidence that this legislation is flawed. The rabid anti 38 degrees comments have no relevance to the debate. Like many others here I despair of our parliamentary party and wonder why I am still a member.

  • Have just signed an Electoral Reform Society petition against part 2 of this Act of Parliament. What I’m reading is saying the Bill is not just anti- civil society but is bad law: badly drafted and unenforceable.

    Not just deeply damaging to Liberal Democracy in my view but also to Cameron aligned “Big Society” Conservatives.

  • Mr Brake, I have followed the Common’s debates of this bill. Your statements of what the bill is going to do or is not going to do are so speculative as to be quite meaningless. The bill was not based on any evidence based research or any proper consultation process. Implementing agencies, such as the Electioral Commission, were not consulted and can’t make much sense of it. Its precise policy objectives are entirely unclear. It was clearly sketched out on the back of an evelope by some minister or other and given to some civil servant to draft a bill from that at very short notice. It is so badly drafted that it is generally quite unclear how it would would work in practical detail and leaves numerous issues so unclear that the courts will have to determine what the bill actually means in practice. Its passage through Parliament sofar is a complete farce, without sufficient time to debate it properly and raced though with whipped votes. It is already clear that this bill will enter the textbooks as a classic case study of how not to produce legislation. It constitutes contempt for Parlament. It is utterly embarassing for LibDem MPs to be associated with it. Someone with your Parliamentary experience, since 1997, should not have touched it with a bargepole, You have embarrassed and let down the Liberal Democrats.

  • Tony Greaves 13th Oct '13 - 4:12pm

    House of Lords ~Second Reading is on Tuesday 22nd Octob er.

    Tony

  • David A Palmer 1st Dec '13 - 3:21pm

    Part 2 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill is an anti democratic as it could be. What 38 Degrees say is absolutely correct – READ THE BILL. LibDem and Voice are living in dreamland if they say different, you are totally wrong… The is Dictocracy at its worst. The CONLABLIB party needs ousting now…

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