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Oct 28th, 2013

Solihull won’t be silenced on the gagging law

By kenband

Local campaigners just won’t keep quiet about Solihull MP Lorely Burt’s continuing support for the Lobbying Transparency Bill.

A group of the 38 Degrees members and local constituents wore gags to send an unmistakable message to their MP: ‘Lorely, we won’t be silenced on gagging.’

The action was taken at an event in the town less than a week after the MP’s own stormy meeting at which she attempted to defend her support for the Bill.

As reported on this blog at the time, a passionate and well informed audience quizzed the MP about the details of the gagging law and won a promise that she would take their concerns back to her colleagues in Parliament.

However, just a few hours before the follow-up meeting on Friday night, many constituents were angered when they received emails from Lorely Burt MP that included a copy of a letter she has sent to the Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office in the House of Lords.

The MP’s letter to Cabinet spokesman Lord Wallace includes a very brief outline of some of the concerns expressed by ‘a number’ of her constituents, but said that she had assured them of the bill’s good intentions. She also reaffirmed her own support for the legislation.

A 38 Degrees member said, “Mrs Burt’s letter really doesn’t do justice to the strength of the arguments she encountered at her meeting. Instead we got a sort of ‘calm down dear’ brush-off that ignores the many detailed concerns that our MP heard on the night.

Her response is vague and merely offers assurances. We want a halt to this Bill and a root-and-branch review of its entire scope and purpose.”

The follow-up meeting on Friday included a big-screen showing of the 38 Degrees film ‘What is The Gagging Law?’, in which opponents of the Bill from a range of organisations express their reasons for campaigning against it.

The meeting also featured an up-to-the-minute briefing on the background to the gagging law and the latest progress of the Bill in the House of Lords.

Separately, concern was voiced in the meeting that although details of the MP’s meeting were sent in advance to local media, no reporter was present and not a single line about it has appeared in any of the local papers.

One member said, “By any standards, this is an important story about local democracy as well as national democracy. It is extraordinary that it was ignored.”

Now the group has agreed to work together to raise awareness in the town of Lorely Burt MP’s continuing support for the Bill. They will begin by writing group letters to local media that are signed en-masse so they cannot be dismissed as lone voices.

They also intend to encourage involvement of other local branches of national organisations that oppose the law.

Local 38 Degrees supporters who couldn’t get to the meetings can follow and join in the continuing Solihull campaign against the gagging law online via the Facebook page and the Twitter page @silencesolihull

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