by Tom Morton Oct 28th, 2013
Last Friday night, Sutton and Cheam MP Paul Burstow came along to a public meeting on the gagging law organised by 38 Degrees members in his constituency.
A whole bunch of members and residents arrived early so they could have a chat before the main meeting got going. This was a good way for people to reflect on the campaign, and decide what they needed to ask their MP.
Cheam High School kindly let us use their main hall for a great meeting chaired by Andrew Pendleton from Friends of the Earth. People in Sutton and Cheam heard from Becky from 38 Degrees, who spoke about why so many members are concerned about the bill, and from Spyro Limneos from Avaaz, who explained how the bill fails to get big money out of politics.
It was good of Paul Burstow MP to come along and try and explain his support for the bill – but his constituents were sceptical to say the least. They asked him a whole host of taxing questions – the ambiguity of the definition of ‘for electoral purposes’, the way the bill had been rushed through parliament, and the unfair playing field the spending caps would mean being just some of the thorny issues that came up. As well as local residents, representatives from the Women’s Institute and other community groups had also come along to speak out and register their opposition to the bill. All in all it was a fantastic meeting – thanks to everyone who made it!
Last time around, Paul Burstow voted for the gagging law. He claimed that he didn’t understand why charities, community and campaigning groups are so worried about the bill. After being grilled for just under an hour, he said he recognised that organisations like 38 Degrees still had real concerns. With the gagging law currently going through the Lords, we need MPs like Paul Burstow to do the right thing and put pressure for the worst bits to be dropped.
In the last fortnight, there have been huge public meetings on the gagging law all over the country. In Brent, Bristol, Birmingham, Chippenham, Manchester, Newquay, Norwich, Penzance, Wells and elsewhere, people have come together to speak out. This is a celebration of the kind of people-powered, community action which the gagging law threatens. By coming together in this way to ensure MPs and Lords to do the right thing in the coming weeks, we can stop the gagging law.
What do you think? Do you think 38 Degrees members should organise more public meetings in future? What are the next steps for the campaign against the gagging law? Post your ideas below.