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Sep 17th, 2013

Stop the gagging law: Liberal Democrats conference

By Rebecca Falcon

This Sunday 38 Degrees members braved horizontal rain and wind to talk to Liberal Democrats outside their party conference in Glasgow. It was an opportunity to do a bit of campaigning to persuade Liberal Democrats that the gagging law is bad news. Together we were there to persuade them to debate and speak out against it at their party conference.

38 Degrees members stood outside the entrance of Glasgow’s SECC handing out leaflets and talking to people all morning. We wanted every delegate who went in or out of the conference to see and hear us, and know that the gagging law is bad news.

The gagging law is being rushed through parliament and will strangle charities and organisations like 38 Degrees from campaigning as we do now before an election. Frankly, it’s undemocratic. But it was the government that put it forward, so 38 Degrees members in Scotland got together to go and talk to them directly about why they should change this bill dramatically.

It’s a really important conference. The Lib Dems are deciding what’s party policy, and what’s not. But there are people who want to brush the gagging law under the carpet. It’s an embarrassing and badly drafted bill that tries to silence democratic debate. Together we were there to make sure as many people as possible knew the score, and how bad this bill really is.

An ‘emergency motion’, to make serious changes to the gagging law, had been put forward by one of the delegates. It slammed the bill as being “so unclear as to render it unenforceable” and “clearly detrimental to freedom of expression”.

Ideally, we wanted the Liberal Democrats to dedicate time in their conference to debating this motion, and the gagging law properly. But there were six other motions on the table too. In the end other motions – big important ones about legal aid and anti-terrorism laws – took priority and the gagging law still wasn’t properly discussed.

So now we need to step up the pressure. Liberal Democrat MPs are being told to toe the party line and support the gagging law, despite charities and not-for-profit organisations across the sector and the political spectrum damning this poorly drafted bill. What do you think we should do next? Comment in the field below.

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