In response to Dave Rendle’s ‘Against Gagging Law’ on the 26th September, can I add that recent reassurances from the government have been a long way short of encouraging.
Green MP Caroline Lucas has said, “The Bill would have horrifying implications for the way politics – and political campaigning – are practised in this country. Outrageously, it would suppress a range of legitimate voices, while doing very little to expose the murky world of lobbying.”
As someone who regularly gets into political debates, I am personally very troubled about these laws. While I do a fair bit as a member of the local Green Party, I’m also actively involved with 38 Degrees, I support a group campaigning for the rights of live aboard boaters, and I’m a blogger. Much of my work has a political angle. I am not a lawyer, nor can I afford to spend the year before each election checking with one to make sure I stay on the right side of the law!
This new legislation will make people who are political and independent of parties nervous about raising their voices and engaging in public debate. That is not democracy. Yet a wealthy businessperson with private access to the ear of an MP will likely suffer no setbacks at all. Who gets to decide what counts as political lobbying, even? How can an ordinary person who wants to connect with other people to raise an issue, even tell if they’re about to fall foul of the legislation? The fear caused by lack of clarity is as big an issue as anything else here.
Speaking for the local Greens, John Marjoram said, “The Greens have long been worried about how democracy is being closed down in this country. We need to watch this very carefully.”
If we lose the right to protest, to speak out, to campaign over issues we care about, to object to what our governments do and to peacefully challenge authority, we cease to be a democracy. When that happens in other countries, we call them oppressive regimes.