The Government Just Passed a ‘Gagging Law’ to Outlaw Critics Ahead of 2015 Elections

D01Last night, the UK government passed the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill.  A bill gagging charities, NGO’s, bloggers, community groups and most attempts at organised opposition to the government in the year prior to a general election…and just in time for the General Election next year.

What is the Gagging Law?

 The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, or Gagging Law, was hailed as the UK government’s answer to the issue of commercial lobbying.

But, this bill does not take on the political power of wealthy corporate lobbyists.  Instead, it kneecaps any attempts at organised local and national opposition by civil society, so as not to influence the outcome of general elections.  It is a gagging law.  The law puts in place a range of bureaucratic and financial barriers amounting to a gag on free speech and effective opposition.  These include:

  • The maximum that can be spent before groups have to be registered with the Electoral Commission £20,000 in England and £10,000 in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
  • Reduce the overall UK-wide spending limit before elections from £988,500 at present to a new limit of £450,000.  To put this in perspective – campaign group 38Degrees has 1.7m members, this would mean neutering their spending power on posters, staff, adverts and ancillary costs to just 26p per member.
  • Putting in place a spending cap of just £9,750 in a particular constituency, in the year running up to a general election – while the local MP can spend as much as they like until just 4 months from the election.

The new spending limits will come into effect on 19th September this year.

This is the state if affairs after a successful campaign of opposition put forward by the likes of 38Degrees, Oxfam and Caroline Lucas of the Green Party MP, along with concerned bloggers such as Another Angry Voice and Vox Political, and journalists like Polly Toynbee and Owen Jones.  This opposition won important concessions – but the bulk of the bill remains intact and now, law.

What Does this mean for Free Speech?

This means that groups across the political spectrum, find themselves in an unlikely alliance of  opposition to a bill that will silence them all.  Whether you want to bring back fox hunting or save your local hospital, the Bill will prevent you organising to do so.  As 38Degrees put it:

“It’s telling that so many groups who wouldn’t normally agree with each other have united to oppose the gagging law. Groups that speak out in favour of hunting, windfarms, HS2 or building more houses are joining together with groups who say exactly the opposite.”

The British Medical Association: “if the Bill is passed, its impact could be deeply disturbing, especially as it raises concerns about what this would mean for freedom of expression”.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) Head of Campaigns Nigel Stanley called it a “chilling attack” on free speech.

Iain Anderson, the deputy chair of the Association of Professional Political Consultants said “The bill doesn’t capture the vast majority of what lobbyists do. We want all lobbying covered in a statutory register.”

Tamsin Cave, of pressure group SpinWatch called the Bill a “deliberate act of divide and rule, that has the signature of Lynton Crosby [the Conservative Party’s election strategist] all over it…This bill, as it stands, is worse than nothing. It is bogus.”

Liz Hutchins, senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said it was a “bad day for anyone wanting to protect the environment, save a hospital or oppose tuition fees”.

And Corporate Lobbying Remains Untouched

 It is beyond challenge that UK politics has become corrupted by commercial interests.  This is not a single party issue, but a systemic issue.  But it is not merely about commercial interests paying campaign donations – we have a broader system of revolving doors between politics and business, combined with patronage and favours that this Bill will not touch.  Here are just a sample of modern examples this bill will do nothing to prevent:

Osborne

In 1994, future Chancellor George Osborne was photographed at a party, with his arm around a sex worker called Natalie Rowe, sitting at a table full cocaine.  In October 2005, Natalie Rowe came forward to release the picture and her story to the press.  Rowe sold her story to the Sunday Mirror.  However, to the surprise of Rowe and the Mirror, Andy Coulson broke the story in a leader column in the News of the World.  Not only that, but the story was spun in a manner entirely sympathetic to Osborne, stating that he was ‘a young man when he found himself in a murky world’.  Rowe’s lawyers allege that Coulson stole the story by hacking her phone, and used it to gain leverage with the future chancellor.

And lo, on news of his resignation from the News of the World – Andy Coulson became Director of Communications at Downing Street, despite recently resigning in shame over phone hacking allegations.  He was recruited on the recommendation of none other than George Osborne.

Theresa May

Present day Home Secretary Theresa May’s husband is a director/shareholder in G4S. May has faced several conflict of interest allegations during her tenure.  One of the most egregious was the case of G4S winning a £200m contract to run Lincolnshire police operations.  G4S had recruited law firm White and Cade to support their bid.  In a stunning coincidence, May invited Tom Winsor, a lawyer from the same firm, to conduct ‘an independent review of police reform’ in the run up to the bid – giving the lawyer access to privy information and contacts.Stephen Green & HSBC

HSBC were found guilty in a court of law of funnelling the proceeds of crime through their books knowingly and deliberately.  This was not the act of some rogue trader.

HSBC set up a subsidiary firm with the specific intention of using it to launder the money of Mexican drug barons.  It spirited over $7bn of the stuff between 2001 and 2007.

Stephen Green, the Chairman of HSBC while all this took place, was appointed Trade Minister by David Cameron and now sits at the heart of UK government.

Philip Green

The owner of retail outlet Arcadia, which owns Topshop, is notorious for his tax avoidance schemes.  In 2005, he gave himself the biggest pay cheque in UK history, £1.2bn.  However, by putting Arcadia in his wife’s name (who lives in the tax haven of Monaco and hasn’t done a day’s work for the company) and channelling funds through a string of offshore accounts, Green managed to shift £300m out of the hands of the taxman.  This money could have paid the full £9,000 a year tuition fees for 32,000 students, or the annual salary of 20,000 nurses.  Instead, it sits in Green’s bloated wallet.

Furthermore, despite building a £5bn empire on the back of sweatshop labour – Green refused to sign a pledge to improve safety conditions for Bangladeshi workers after a series of avoidable accidents which left scores dead and injured.

Yet, the Tories appointed this man as their business tsar, leading an ‘efficiency review’ into government spending.  Therefore while Green refuses to pay his share into the pot of public money, he is given power to dictate how that public money is spent.

Libor

Despite persistent rumours about rate-rigging, and receiving information from several sources that an investigation was required – the UK regulator failed to act until it was forced into action by US regulators in 2012.  So why were the Tories so slow to act?

It might be coincidental of course, but some of the Conservative party’s most generous and powerful donors were involved in the scam.

Former Tory Party Treasurer Michael Spencer has donated almost £5m to the party.  This gave him access to dine with the Prime Minister at Chequers.

His firm iCap was fined £55m by regulators in the US and UK for LIBOR rate rigging, and three of his employees face up to 30 years in jail if convicted.  It is notable that while the US fine stood at £41m, the UK fine was a mere £14m (just 4% of their £330m pre-tax profits in 2008, the height of the rigging).  One might suggest this was a decent return on a worthwhile investment.

Lynton Crosby

Cameron has paid £500,000 to appoint Lynton Crosby as the Tory party election strategist.  Crosby is Cameron’s political compass, steering the Prime Minister to launch and ditch policies, and gain the party victory in 2015.

Crosby is an Australian strategist who helped John Howard to four elections victories, and was behind Boris Johnson’s successful campaign to gain re-election as London mayor.

Other items on Crosby’s CV include lobbying for tobacco firm Philip Morris, and he is reported to have signed a £6m deal to lobby on behalf of the firm just last November.  Crosby has also advised energy firms engaged in Fracking in Australia, championing shale gas over sustainable and renewable energy.

And in a remarkably unsurprising turn of events, this year the Tory party chose to ditch its policy on plain cigarette packaging, Osborne announced a raft of tax breaks on Fracking firms, and David Cameron went from promising “Vote Blue, go Green” to “get rid of all this green crap.”

The Bill will do the sum total of diddly squat to deal with these consistent and endemic abuses of power and privilege.

And don’t think Labour are coming to the rescue either.  I have previously covered the parallel issues for the Labour Party.  Labour will not overturn this legislation if they come to power, they have zero interest in doing so.

What Now?

One word: Resist.

Charities, campaigners, community groups and yes, bloggers like myself, will now figure out exactly what their legal standing is in this dark new age of restricted speech – we just don’t know.  But regardless of whether our opposition is legal or not, in coming months and years, we should not bow our heads in resigned acceptance of this most blatant attack on hard won democratic rights.  It is not enough for us to wave our hands, sigh and comply.  If opposing the government in a non-violent way such as organising a leafleting campaign, or transporting people to protests, or writing blogs and petitions calling on voters to act in their own interests is illegal – then let us break the law.  Thomas Jefferson once wrote: “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.” Well, man or woman, our time has come.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Scriptonite Daily is a citizen funded news site. If we want to make an alternative media, then we need to build it. Your donations make the difference.

Become a regular subscriber here

Payment Options


Make a one off donation here


39 thoughts on “The Government Just Passed a ‘Gagging Law’ to Outlaw Critics Ahead of 2015 Elections

  1. Pingback: Am I Charlie? - Doubting Thomas

  2. All you want is here now in www. jwf-.co.uk..a new party created by an anti fascist whose father came out of Dachau and who wants to make all cowardly politicians personally responsible for their promises and punish them if they lie and don’t deliver and give NHS MORE money by deleting managers and bureaucrats and only having only Doctors in charge;

  3. Pingback: The Government Just Passed a ‘Gagging Law’ to Outlaw Critics Ahead of 2015 Elections | Scriptonite Daily | Britain Isn't Eating

  4. Pingback: ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE | ARTICLE: Government Passes a ‘Gagging Law’ to Outlaw Critics Ahead of 2015 Elections

  5. Pingback: Labour commits to repeal Gagging Law! | Assocation of Manchester Open Space Societies

  6. fuck the new world order .,cameron n his puppets are a joke george,sorry gideon osborne,yes gideon,what a joke.fuck the lot of em

    • I make no apology for suggesting that more notice would be taken of comments and, indeed, any posting, if the comment/post could be made without resort to crude language. Similarly, the use of accurate spelling, grammar and punctuation would also add to a post’s impact.

  7. Pingback: THE GOVERNMENT JUST PASSED A ‘GAGGING LAW’ TO OUTLAW CRITICS AHEAD OF 2015 ELECTIONS | SyesWideShut

  8. there was an amendment to exclude charities, and it now only affects big business (21 Jan Reading 3 in the HofL)

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2013/october/lords-lobbying-bill/

    ‘Members of the Lords considered constituency limits on ‘controlled expenditure’. There was agreement that legislation should exist to stop elections being distorted at constituency level by disparities in funding, but concerns were raised about the potential impact on charities and campaigning groups who are not organised on a national basis. An amendment to tighten the definition of ‘controlled expenditure’ to remove the administrative burden on third party campaigners was taken to a vote. Members voted 248 in favour and 222 against, so the change was made.’

    So 38 degrees are exempt from such “gagging”

  9. Pingback: THe [UK] Government just passed a ‘Gagging Law’ to outlaw critics ahead of 2015 Elections - Pressenza

  10. TO get round the £ spending restrictions ALL these pressure groups, activists and their supporters and suppliers can easily set up a LETS / WIR style mutual credit clearing network. So long as the net balance of each member’s activity within the network is accounted for in sterling for tax purposes it perfect legal. In a health network members balances will tend to zero, hence no tax liabilities !

  11. This was a very interesting read! Didn’t know about this, until reading this, thank you!
    I would be grateful if you could check out my blog too, as you have inspired me greatly!

  12. Direct action has its benefits in raising awareness. However, there are only two ways to change the system, either through violent revolution or through the ballot box.
    The trouble is that every violent revolution appears to end up in the hands of the wrong revolutionary. It seems that revolutions really only succeed when their leaders are just another face of tyrany, and no one wants that bar the tyranical.
    The trouble with the ballot box is that we have three parties dressed up as opponents when in reality they are all fasttracked through the same elite educational establishments, are affiliated to the same secretive societies and brotherhoods and are streamlined versions of the same political ideology.

    My solution to this is to develop a new political party bound by a constitution which espouses a set of principles absent in contemporary politics but attractive and desirable to most people. This party has to be clearly different, pragmatic and serious. It has to break away from dualistic associations of left and right, of socialist or capitalist, red or blue. It has to transcend those value systems and that language which polarises debateand limits participation. Interested?

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Prince-Peace-Evolutionary-Shift-Consciousness/dp/0957264607/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391077433&sr=1-1&keywords=the+prince+of+peace

  13. Its all well and good sat in front of a screen tapping away, but what can we DO? I don’t like right wing politics but I equally deplore lefty liberals who waffle on but achieve nothing. The consensus nowadays is one of apathy. Everyone wants their soapbox yet don’t offer solutions. We’re not all Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela; most of us are hardworking decent family folk who will do anything for a quiet life.

  14. Pingback: The Government just passed a 'Gagging Law' to outlaw Critics ahead of 2015 elections - Stormfront

  15. Pingback: Kneecapped By The Government | Don't Bend, Ascend

  16. I Totaly Agree..!!. We Are Allowing The Powers that beTo Do Whatever They Want. Then They Get Us To Vote For Their Riddiculous Plans by Scaremongering.. WE ARE SHEEPLE..

  17. Pingback: The Government Just Passed a ‘Gagging Law...

  18. Democracy? don’t make me laugh! This Cameron is a despot; so him and his
    corrupt cronies should be dropped over a bridge somewhere wearing concrete boots.
    Check out ZURKER , the best social network on the planet!

  19. Whats the point? I do not fear the gagging law because the govt does these things in plain sight and the press and public do nothing. The public are so apathetic we deserve what we get. Ive spent years telling people what theyre up to and no one gives a shit. Theyre all too busy trying to find ingenious new ways to pay the bills.
    This country is fucked. Sadly im too poor to emigrate or id be gone. Im so angry and frustrated with mentally challenged idiots who live here who only concern themselves with x factor. The Tories could ‘go the full fascist’ and no one would do anything. Im starting to hate the people of this country for letting the red/blue/yellow tories walk all over them as i do the govt.

    Nothin will change until we have armed revolt. Until we make politicians afraid for their lives. Im not the one to do it as im ill and lack the required mettle to take lives but ill be clapping and cheering when someone else does.

    If you think im some reactionary or grumpy old man and have always been this way… 5 years ago I was a libdem supporter, a follower of Liberty, and vehemently opposed to the death penalty.

    The Coalition and its war on the vulnerable changed all that.

    • Yes we are apathetic but here is something you can ndo to overcome it, peace is within YOU, find it, know it and enjoy it, check wopg.org. That is words of peace global, check it out and listen and learn. Peace is possible for us all, now, in this life and come away from darkness and confusion and live in clarity and understanding.

    • Oh, come on… No society deserves this level of repression. I won’t attempt to overtly patronise you by suggesting your advocacy of taking up the armed struggle from your non-participatory sickbed is an historically stupid position which would be belied by being subjected to a few episodes of “‘Ello, ‘Ello”. I doubt you’ll find it any more to your liking anywhere in Europe currently – or did you imagine a lottery windfall could blow you over to the Seychelles?

      I’m attempting to take the piss in a mild way: many of the people I work with are former Liberals. Many are also former Labour supporters who voted Liberal solely on the basis that they lived in fear of imprisonment because they were downloading too many obscure Sun Ra albums illegally (I hope that creates a “click-track” in your brain). What we are looking at now is situation where the so-called “Overton Window” of political opportunity has pushed leftist Liberal free-thinkers over the fences created by the ridiculously ideological apparatchiks of the traditional labour movement into the arms of the so-called hard-left extremists. Or as we so-called hard-left extremists are more commonly known, “mutualists”. (The real hard-left extremists, joyfully engaging in the media hatred they generate to keep their wage-levels up, generally emerge from Machiavellian bastardized variants of the TU movement – McNotAnAlly of PCS, much of the Labour Representation Committee – and will impotently threaten violence).

      People like me don’t have to defend party funding. We’re massively disappointed with both Labour and the TU movement. We rarely have £9750 to run on a local campaign. Yet we can make a difference. And curiously, we generally are more effective than our richer “brothers”.

    • 64 last week and you speak for me! No rented cottage on the IOW (if its not too dear) for me. If I could find the courage, I should like to think I’d be able to take direct action against these execrable fascists.

Leave a Reply