by Tom Morton Dec 17th, 2013
Over the last month, 38 Degrees members in Stroud have been working hard organising a public meeting on the gagging law with their MP, Neil Carmichael.
Last Thursday, nearly 200 people crammed into the Old Town Hall off the High Street to hear what he had to say. Neil Carmichael said he’d been to a few meetings in that room before, but never one that big!
There was a great panel of speakers. Jessica Metheringham from the Quakers chaired a wide ranging conversation with Neil Carmichael, David from 38 Degrees and Anne Miller, former board member of Stop Climate Chaos, all speaking.
But the best part of the night was the points raised by the audience. Questions from concerned voters and local charities came thick and fast, and Neil Carmichael certainly felt the pressure. One chair of a local charity said they were scared about what the bill would mean for them, and another asked whether it would make it harder to protect children centres. One resident challenged Neil with legal opinion and asked him to explain what the gagging law was for in the first place.
Neil seemed a little sketchy on the details of the law, repeating the same points even after it was shown that independent legal advice and the Electoral Commission disagreed with him! But credit where credit’s due, it was great that Neil was able to attend. Lots of MPs have refused so it’s important he made it along. He even said that he was in “listening mode”. That’s good, because there was a clear request to Neil – listen to your constituents, and do everything you can to fix or scrap the gagging law.
The gagging law is in the House of Lords right now. If our MPs realise their voters are against it, they can take our concerns straight to government and, when the bill returns to the commons, vote the right way next time.
38 Degrees members have been organising huge people-powered public meetings on the gagging law right across the country in the last few months. There’s been events in Cornwall, Norwich, Birmingham, Somerset, Manchester and elsewhere, and there’s some still to come in Edinburgh, Brighton and Bath. Loads of ordinary people getting together like this to debate issues with each other and their MPs is a fantastic celebration of democracy.
What do you think? Have you been to one of the public meetings? Do you think 38 Degrees members should keep organising them, or do something else instead? Post your comments below.