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Oct 9th, 2014

Gagging law: update

By 38 Degrees team

The gagging law – that horrible law that we fought together to stop – is now in force. I wanted to give you an update about how we’re coping with it.

Even though 38 Degrees is independent of all political parties, we face restrictions on our campaigning between now and the election next May. Inside the office, staff now have to fill in forms and get things checked by lawyers before sending out a campaign email.

There’s no doubt about it, the gagging law is an attack on everyone’s right to campaign together. But I’m approaching the next few months with hope not fear.

38 Degrees members were crystal clear on how to respond to the gagging law. There was no way we wanted to stop campaigning about the issues we care about. Campaigns like protecting our NHS, cracking down on tax dodging or stopping TTIP must continue.

You may have noticed that 38 Degrees has been changing the way it does some things. The aim is to increase the impact of campaigns for a fairer, more democratic UK, without getting trapped by the new law. Here’s a little bit more detail:

  1. The gagging law restricts money spent by the office – not time spent locally by members. So we’re putting more power in 38 Degrees members’ hands. That means:

  • Helping 38 Degrees members get together face to face in their local communities. Sometimes this is for a drink or chat with like minded people. Sometimes this is to campaign on a local issue, or a national issue like the NHS.

    Local 38 Degrees groups are now springing up in towns like Bristol and Glasgow. Imagine what we can do together when there are hundreds more across the    country.

  • Helping 38 Degrees members start their own petitions and run their own campaigns. We’ve expanded the “Campaigns By You” area of the web site, and more 38 Degrees members are running brilliant campaigns like saving local libraries and hospitals.

  1. We are running more campaigns which won’t be caught by the gagging law – for example because they are targeting corporations, quangos, councillors or MEPs rather than Westminster politicians.

    Our campaign to get Matalan to pay the compensation to the Rana Plaza factory workers was an example of this. Targeting members of the European Parliament about TTIP is another.

  1. We are continuing to make every penny we spend go as far as possible. The tight spending restrictions for many tactics make it even more important that each campaign gives us the most bang for our buck.

So that’s the plan as it stands. I think it’s good news, because most of the things we are doing to cope with the gagging law will also make us better at winning campaigns.

These plans have been hugely helped by the 8,000 members of 38 Degrees who make a monthly donation. It’s just so much easier to make ambitious plans like expanding a 38 Degrees local groups if I know how much money is coming in.

If you don’t already donate, I wanted to ask if you were willing to consider chipping in a couple of pounds each week, I’d be hugely grateful – and I can promise you it will make a huge difference. You can set up a secure direct debit by clicking here. 

Thank you for being part of 38 Degrees. There’s no way we’ll let the gagging law stop us –  there are just too many important people-powered campaigns to run.

One final thing: a few 38 Degrees members have been asking, who is responsible if 38 Degrees gets ‘caught’ breaking the gagging law. That would be me, as Executive Director! There’s no risk to individual 38 Degrees members. The lawyers should keep us the right side of the law. But to be be honest, I’d happily defend our campaigns in court if it means we can keep people power powerful.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about all this. Please do comment below and join in on the conversation with other 38 Degrees members.

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