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Nov 26th, 2013

Gagging Law: Meeting in Sheffield

By Rebecca Falcon

On Friday night, over 120 people turned out in force to discuss the gagging law with local politicians and other 38 Degrees members in Sheffield.

It was a heated debate. Why were politicians not putting such stringent measures on their own campaigning? Was the gagging law a reaction to the student fees protests? Which political party would benefit most from the gagging law? The questions kept on coming.

On the panel were Peter Garbutt from the Green Party, Oliver Coppard Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Labour Party in Sheffield and Joe Otten, a Liberal Democrat councillor, as well as David Babbs from 38 Degrees. Unfortunately, Nick Clegg, who had been asked several times and invited to pick a suitable date for the meeting, refused to attend. The Conservative Party in Sheffield also refused to offer someone to be on the panel.

Joe Otten had the unenviable task of representing Clegg and tried hard to defend the law. But 38 Degrees members raised concerns that were difficult to answer. In particular, people were angry about the complete lack of evidence of a need for the gagging law. What exactly, people asked, was this piece of legislation trying to fix?

‘I can’t think of any campaigns right now, but I’m sure this is a growing problem’ was the response they received from Otten.

A huge thank you to all the 38 Degrees members in Sheffield who came along to the Wesley Hall in Sheffield on Friday night. Together, we showed our representatives what democracy looks like, and turned up the heat on Nick Clegg in Sheffield. I’m sure Joe Otten will be reporting back to Nick Clegg that there were a lot of very unhappy constituents in the audience. Several of them were Lib Dem voters who vowed never to vote for Nick Clegg again if he didn’t scrap the law.

As Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg’s position on the gagging law is key. By piling pressure on Joe Otten, Clegg’s representative at the meeting, 38 Degrees members in Sheffield have sent a clear message to the top that the gagging law is a bad piece of legislation and needs to be scrapped.

What do you think? Were you at the meeting? What do you think are the best questions to ask our MPs and local representatives? What else should 38 Degrees members do to stop the gagging law? Post your comments below.

Click here to watch a recording by one audience member of the evening:

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