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Jan 8th, 2014

More gagging law petition hand-ins!

By India Thorogood

Hundreds of you have now met with MPs from all political persuasions to hand-in a copy of the 200,000 strong petition against the gagging law.  Below are some fantastic reports of petition hand-ins from 38 Degrees members. To find out if there is a petition hand in with your MP, or to help set one up if there isn’t yet, just click here and put in your postcode.


Andrew Stunell strongly supports the Lobbying Bill. He believes such legislation is needed to prevent single interest groups targeting parties and individual MP’s who take a particular position, or policy.  He raised the spectre of the National Rife Association’s (NRA) campaigning strategy in the USA as something that the proposed Bill was designed to prevent. He did not give an example of a similar campaign (planned or actual) in the UK.

 A group spokesperson used the Executive Summary and Recommendations of the second report of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement as guidelines for questioning. Because of limitations on time, questioning focussed on the following issues concerning the proposed Bill:
  • Why did the government not accept the Electoral Commission’s criticism that a six week ‘pause’ in the progress of the Bill is inadequate to do justice to the complexities of the issues, and set up a committee of the house to consider all issues over a longer period?
  • Why did the government not use the six week ‘pause’ to consult with charities and other organisations who would have their campaigning activities constrained by the proposed legislation?
  • The Bill proposes limits (£5,000) on expenditure that are too low and (including administration costs and the cost of registration) would effectively prevent many legitimate campaigns from being mounted. What are his objections to the amount of £20,000 recommended by the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement?

In concluding the meeting, Andrew Stunell was asked to transmit the 38 Degree petition, together with the grave concerns expressed by constituents in the meeting, to his ministerial colleagues. He agreed to reflect on the documents that had been given him – including the second report of the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement – and upon points made in the meeting. He also agreed to pass on to ministers the petition, together with the views expressed by constituents, but gave no undertaking to support his constituent’s views when the Bill is considered again in Parliament.

38 Degrees member Peter


A large portion of my generation (I am 33 and was born in 1980) is politically disinterested at best and ignorant at worst. Time to change that! We’re starting to have kids and we need to be active in the decisions that are made that shape our world. I decided to become more politically engaged because I want to set the right example for my daughter. I want it to feel just as natural for her to be round a table with 11 other semi-activists and an MP as it will playing on the swings in the park or visiting a museum. So that when she is an adult it will be second nature for her to have a voice and share her views.

I attended the petition hand-in with my baby, and found it to be really interesting. Zac Goldsmith was quite transparent about his views on the matter, and very encouraging of 38 Degrees as an organisation. He said that while the emails, letters, tweets etc do help create awareness, it’s the meetings such as the one we had yesterday that will force the issue back in to the public domain and create positive change. He is against the gagging law in its current form anyway and said he will continue to make a stand and we are in our right to call him in to account if he were to backtrack – though he assured us he won’t.

The people who need lobbying, the ones we should be trying to get in front of and insist on public meetings with (and these meetings should be more than just a couple of people, needs to be a handful at least to get the MP’s to respond) are the ones who haven’t even read the bill and are saying yes to it because they have been told to. Zac said that if we can get a meeting with them it will force them to actually read the bill and form an opinion and argument for or against, and he suspects some of them would then be against it like he is anyway.

38 Degrees member Leila


If you’re thinking of doing a petition hand-in yourself to your local MP, then don’t hesitate; it’s so easy. All it requires from you is a phone call or two to your MP’s office, and to turn up on the day. 38 Degrees do all the rest for you. I’ve never done anything like this before, and had no idea what to expect. Because the weather has been so appalling of late – gale force winds and torential squalls of rain – I fully expected to be the only person from 38 Degrees to turn up. I shouldn’t have worried, as the smart phone photo testifies.

Fortunately for us, Louise Ellman’s heating in her titchy office had broken down, so we could all troop off to the large bar area, and a very lively discussion/Q & A session followed. When I asked my MP why Dave Milliband hadn’t turned up for the 3rd vote, she replied that she didn’t know, which was honest of her. I then asked her if she was going to lobby  lord’s she knew, given that she’d voted against the bill going through, and voted for the much needed amendments. She replied that she didn’t have anything to do with the lords, but she’d place the petition in the hands of the party machinery to deal with the lords… whatever that means. So, basically a no then, for her personally trying to sway lords against the bill.

I also pointed out that if this bill passes as is, it would greatly damage Labour at the next election. If the likes of Mumsnet say, can’t campaign to reinstate universal CB say, or Housing Associations against the bedroom tax, then floating voters will think all is right with the world as nobody is raising issues like they used to. They will probably vote Tory as a result, out of sheer ignorance caused by a lack of information because of the gagging law, which they probably don’t even know exists. I don’t know if Louise Ellman voted against the gagging law out of personal conviction (I forgot to ask) or was simply toeing the party line. However, she did offer some very good advice on how to fight the bill. She suggested that we were preaching to the converted with Labour MP’s and should target all Lib-dem ones, and Tories with a small majority vote in their constituency. She’s right. Wirral West is a marginal seat with a Conservative majority over Labour of only 2,436 votes. Therefore my niece, who lives there, is going to arrange a date for a petition hand-in to Esther McVay on Tuesday (once she knows her work rota and assuming someone else hasn’t already.)

Perhaps knowing that so many people are against the gagging law, despite the media blackout over it (the first I heard about it was from 38 Degrees, and I’ve yet to hear about it on the news or read an article about it except one in the Guardian) then those Lib Dems and Tories in marginal seats just might find the back bone to vote against it, if only out of pure self-interest. Not much point in voting for a bill they now know is unpopular if it ends up getting them booted out of parliament is there. For those who are secretly against it, it just might give them the encouragement they need to go against the party line. However, unless this gagging bill’s chilling effects are made know to the general public at large, then the petition will probably fail. I know for a fact that all the tories I know care as passionately about freedom of speech as do Labour voters. Therefore, I’m going to batter my nieces local area – cafes, libraries/health centres/etc – with posters informing them about this bill. I hope others do likewise. I’m going to do it now as an individual, because if this gagging thing becomes law in May I don’t want to be arrested!

38 Degrees member Sandra

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