Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Lobbying Bill will silence churches and other religious organisations

“Blogs and websites face being shut down and rallies could be prevented under a controversial new law designed to tackle political lobbying, Britain’s election watchdog has warned. Jenny Watson, head of the Electoral Commission, said that the Government’s proposals were so broad that they posed ‘real questions around freedom of speech’ and that legislation may even be impossible to enforce…Ministers hinted that the plan may have to be altered yesterday after it took a battering in the Commons. One MP described the legislation as the ‘worst Bill ever to be placed before Parliament’”
So says The Times (£). And an alliance of think tanks and campaigning groups have joined a general chorus of disapproval, including the IEA, TFA, CPS, TPA, PEN, BBW and the ASI, who warn of the Bill’s ‘fundamental failings’:
“Part II of the bill threatens the ability of charities, research and campaigning organisations to inform the public debate, fulfil their missions and raise awareness of important issues. The current drafting would capture a huge number of organisations who would not presently be considered as relevant to electoral law and who do not receive any state funding. It also threatens to dramatically expand the range of activity regulated far beyond any common sense understanding of commercial lobbying.”
Being concerned with the public good and the amelioration of society, most churches and religious organisations are charities. Many of the issues they campaign about – the sanctity of life, relief of poverty, housing the homeless – also fall under the aegis of registered charities.

All of these will be regulated under the provisions of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, which passed its Second Reading last night. If it becomes law, a church that campaigns against (say) euthanasia or abortion – for (say) a Christian candidate and against (say) a sitting atheist MP who favours liberalisation on these issues – would be subject to such stifling red tape and bureaucratic accounting procedures as to be intimidatingly prohibitive.

This was the scenario in Oxford West and Abingdon at the 2010 last General Election, when the (‘pro-life’) Anglican Christian Nicola Blackwood defeated Dr (‘Death’) Evan Harris by just 176 votes on a 6.9% swing from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives.

The churches campaigned strongly for one of their own, as is (currently) their unimpeded democratic right. Under the provisions of the Bill, their leaflets, flyers, church bulletins and coffee mornings would all constitute ‘political lobbying’ and be subject to a financial cap.

If Dr Harris sensed that his electoral defeat had been down to the campaigning antics of those pesky Christians with their subliminal sermons and subversive coffee mornings, which were really covert campaign meetings to get Nicola Blackwood elected, their erstwhile ‘civic activity’ would be classified along with those big businesses who pour £millions into lobbying and winning government contracts. Church activities will be fused with corporate interests, and Dr Harris would have recourse in law to examine church accounts and challenge the result of the election.

And God forbid that your church might want to sponsor a free school or provide child care. If they were to lobby a parliamentary candidate for these social goods in order to influence such decisions, this Bill moves beyond the mere reasonable requirement for transparency; it seeks to control all ‘non-party’ campaigning in the run-up to elections. As it is currently worded, any group that spends over £5,000 on anything that may in any way be said to affect the outcome of an election will be caught in the quagmire.

The Government insists that Part 2 of the Bill will have no effect on charities and other issue-based campaign groups, as only campaigning that affects the electoral success or standing of parties or candidates would be regulated.

But in Oxford West and Abingdon in the election of 2010, it was the charitable churches and pro-life campaign groups that won it – by a whisker – for Nicola Blackwood. It is inconceivable that their decision to align with and support a Christian candidate was not worth (at least) 176 votes. Ergo, by setting themselves against the pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia stance of Dr Evan Harris, they affected the outcome of an election.

This Bill now places them under criminal liability to regulate their activities ‘for election purposes’ during a pre-election period – whenever that might be deemed to begin (and how exactly is that to be gauged if a snap election is called?). How will the doubts, questions, imprecisions and unknowns not deter charities, churches and other voluntary organisations from engaging in policy debates?

It is inconceivable that the Government is introducing this Bill without any awareness of its autocratic implications. Ergo we must consider the possibility that a Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition is purposely intent on introducing a Bill which is fundamentally un-conservative, illiberal and undemocratic. It cuts to the foundations of our democracy and constitutes a direct assault on free speech and freedom of religion. This is not a Bill to control lobbying; it is a Bill to curb dissent and impede those who seek to challenge the status quo of the establishment. One hopes and prays that the Lords Spiritual and Temporal will expose its sinister agenda when it comes for debate in the Upper House.

32 Comments:

Blogger Di said...

Add to this that under the more obscure provisions of the Lisbon Treaty it is already illegal now to criticise the European Union (although they have not started enforcing that one yet - they are waiting till they have all the Eurocops in place)and we should be very, very frightened.

4 September 2013 at 10:51  
Blogger Martin said...

'twas always so, those in power seek to impede the ability of those who want them out of power.

Our political parties are now so alike we have difficulty telling them apart so they must ensure only they get to say what the vote is on.

Perhaps it would be better if the power of the political party were curbed, their ability to spend money restricted to what they can raise in membership fees. They are fundamentally undemocratic clubs who seek the favour of the powerful.

Democracy, what's that?

4 September 2013 at 11:06  
Blogger John Percival said...

It sounds like the charities in the Oxford West and Abingdon election might have been pretty close to the line of what is legal right now under charity law:

"In the political arena, a charity must stress its independence and ensure that any involvement it has with political parties is balanced. A charity must not give support or funding to a political party, nor to a candidate or politician."

See Charity Commission guidance on campaigning and political activity by charities.

4 September 2013 at 11:24  
Blogger Peter D said...

And will all the 'culture of death' *charities* be restricted? Or those *charitable* organisations that campaign against heterosexual marriage and its importance as the foundation of our society?

4 September 2013 at 11:26  
Blogger Johnnyrvf said...

@Di, living in France, who conceived the idea of a united Europe after the gret war, I doubt if TPTB would tolerate their Gendarmeries being used for persecuting their citizens by Brussels, one of the fundamental failures of the U.K. govt. is to protect it's nationality and culture, everywhere else other Europeans are proud to be German, Spanish, Albanian, Latvian etc etc, only in the U.K. is there a deliberate policy to so dilute the culture that to be British is now almost meaningless. People are NOT supposed to criticise the French govt. but they sure do so, in France it is a sacred right.

4 September 2013 at 11:26  
Blogger Jay Bee said...

People don't like Big Brother interference. If bloggers and campaigners were issued with "stop notices" in the run up to an election the outcry against it would give them even more publicity. Suppression could backfire on the government and other vested interests at the polls.

This Bill does not inspire confidence in the ability or integrity of our legislators. Not that we had much anyway.

4 September 2013 at 11:38  
Blogger David Hussell said...

This is yet another badly thought through piece of proposed legislation, from a Government that specializes in such nonsenses. It is a dangerous challenge to our freedoms. The flow of highly illiberal so called liberalism, which is little more than compulsory Humanism, with scant regard for individual conscience and liberty, much of it associated with the EU, the mother of all our recent, european tyrannies, is never ending and all points in one direction -- our virtual enslavement to the new, Christian free, British values free, future.
Vote Ukip.
Either we can break free democratically or future generations will have to literally fight for it, again. That's the choice. I have no faith in Cameron's "renegotiation", because I have no faith in his integrity or that of half of the Conservative Party, and one cannot change the basic nature of the EU's philosophy, and to think otherwise is foolish vanity.
Maybe Brits are doomed to have to repeatedly fight for their freedoms, but this time around there are enemies within and without.

4 September 2013 at 11:43  
Blogger Patrick Cox said...

I find this interesting. What is forgotten is that the initial drafting is not done by the politicians, it is done by Civil Servants who 'gild the lily' at every opportunity. It is only once a Bill is before Parliament that the thing gets sorted out - maybe. Sadly, often the MPs themselves make an even worse hash of it.

Just a simple point on this though, over 80% of the Statute Book was replaced, superceded or amended under Blair, and his Luvvies and Minions in the CS made as bad a job of everything they touched as the present lot are doing. Lobbying does need to be curbed, far too much of the legislation introduced in the last thirty years (if not longer) has been a result of pressure groups and commercial interest lobbying, to the detriment of all our freedoms, of workers (in the case of the employment laws introduced by Blair) and the the ultimate benefit of small minorities and special interests for the most part.

4 September 2013 at 12:00  
Blogger Rasher Bacon said...

This bill seems to take the view that all groups should wear metaphorical burkas to prevent their susceptible MPs from being seduced. What a confession of LMF.

What should the response be from an offer to an MP of any favour of any size or type?

"No thanks, we're British MPs".

Ho hum. Perhaps these were in Isaiah's mind when he mentioned potsherds, and I should leave alone.

4 September 2013 at 12:43  
Blogger James said...

It is only once a Bill is before Parliament that the thing gets sorted out - maybe. Sadly, often the MPs themselves make an even worse hash of it.

Forgive the tmesis, but giving responsibility to Chloe Smith (the most incapable MP since Lousie Mensch) guarandamntees that the worst possible outcome will follow...

IIRC Eton's a charity - it provides half the Tory MPs in Cabinet, so should it be shut down for a year before an election?

4 September 2013 at 14:09  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Goodness! it seems to me that a lot of legislation these days is ill-conceived or malicious, with so much embedded in the small print it is almost impossible to understand. In the Jupiter this morning I also read of Lord Berkeley of Stratton's bill to transfer the royal assent from the Queen to Parliament...whatever happened to the ancient concept of checks and balances?

4 September 2013 at 14:44  
Blogger John Thomas said...

I don't know much about charity law, even as it stands at the moment, but is it not generally agreed that NOT registering as a charity is prudent, if you want to prevent government obstruction and interference?
"...last General Election, when the (‘pro-life’)..." - why the single inverted comma around pro life? How else could they be described? Either you really really believe in life or you're pro-death (no inverted commas); what middle way could there be? With abortion and euthanasia, a person is either alive or dead. Maybe Dr Death knows of some other ...

4 September 2013 at 15:10  
Blogger IanCad said...

James

" --giving responsibility to Chloe Smith--"

Just when I thought things couldn't get worse.
I'm almost ashamed to confess membership in the Conservative Party.

4 September 2013 at 15:42  
Blogger Philip said...

Perhaps it's the possibility of further curbing the influence of Christianity when it comes against the ruling elite's agenda, that really motivates Mr Cameron. After all, curbing freedom of religion and conscience (i.e. for Christians) is a likely consequence of his beloved law imposing his new definition of marriage. And he could not have been happy with the activities of the Coalition for Marriage in their encouraging of voters to tell MPs their vote for them will be determined by their not supporting his gay ‘marriage’ bill?

And who would Mr Cameron really have preferred to win Ox W and Abingdon? I can't think he'd really have preferred Nicola Blackwood to Dr Death?

4 September 2013 at 17:45  
Blogger non mouse said...

Sinister agenda indeed, Your Grace. This news today reinforces my reaction yesterday, after reading Dr. North's blog about the intended satellite/speed controls for traffic.

That, and the removal of Royal Assent .... are the People of Britain to have no voice left?

Meanwhile, deconstruction of the language continues, oh so subtly....


Isn't technology amazing?

4 September 2013 at 18:57  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

It would be illogical to blame this bill purely on those vile control freaks, the bizarrely named Liberal Democrats. No, Cameron is involved in this up to his neck. His inept hand is all over this. This is further proof that ALL politicians in this dreadful alliance are in it for themselves. They are now putting up barriers to keep themselves safe from interested parties that would have parley with them.

Damn poor show, you rotters !

Fortunately, this man doesn’t need more convincing that his abandoning of the Conservatives for UKIP is “the right thing to do”. Because “now is the time”, if one may hijack a couple of the aforementioned party’s calls from that ludicrous and thoroughly un-English SSM business.

And how about, “I’m voting for UKIP because I am a conservative”.





4 September 2013 at 19:19  
Blogger richardhj said...

Only almost.

I am very ashamed to have been a member.

At least that is something I have now put right.

It's about time you did the same.

4 September 2013 at 19:53  
Blogger Nick said...

I think increasingly that our government is becoming an enemy of democracy; not its protector. DC seems to have given up trying to solve any of the real problems such as the economy, unemployment, immigration, etc.. Instead he is focussing on contentious issues that provide no real value to society, and frankly just p1ss people off.


Whoever described the Tories under Thatcher as the "Nasty Party" obviously had no idea what it was going to be under Cameron - more like the "Nazi Party".

This is surely all going to end in tears, with maybe civil unrest, or worse. Cameron has to be the worst PM this country has seen for many decades. He not only lack judgement, but also seems to have a vindictive streak in him.

What gets my goat too, are the lily-livered Tory MPs who go on supporting him.

4 September 2013 at 20:06  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Inspector,

Well said, that man !

I am an ex-Conservative too.

But Ukip does not just comprise ex-Conservatives, as there is a smattering of other types as well, plus hearteningly, the previously non-voter types, who are now re-energized and enfranchised by its common sense, non-PC, plain speaking style. And yes, I am very happy to say that there are some very clever women making a great contribution to the party as well. We like women ! Do not believe the scurrilous, smeary reports that emanate from the left/liberal media and press, especially the broadcasting arm of The Guardian, known as The BBC. And even The Telegraph (Torygraph) is deliberately giving a false account of where the party and its people stand.

And to all ex-Conservatives, or almost ex-Conservatives, there is a Ukip national conference on the near horizon, in central London, to furnish you with a timely, broad based sample of the political brand. You will almost certainly feel at home. Find out for yourselves, and enjoy yourselves !

The Inspector has spoken : -

" Now is the time".

Right on target, Inspector !

Good show that man.

Fire again !

Fire at will, all ranks !

4 September 2013 at 20:25  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

David Hussell. What is particularly unnerving about the Conservatives is that there is no heir apparent. If Cameron were to leave us in his sleep tonight, they’d have to get a temp in. This pitiful state of affairs can be put down to the Central Office list way of doing things. All they can put up is mediocre candidates who have no backbone.

One had thought of Haig, but even he’s gone off with the fairies...

4 September 2013 at 21:40  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Inspector,

Yes, good point. Perhaps Cameron sees himself as going on and on, a bit like his hero, Bliar. However I believe that there is some talk of Gove, the Chinless Wonder, being a future leader. As you say, Haig is on the wane, and a great disappointment. David Davies may well have made a much better fist of it than Cameron, and would have appealed to the blue collar aspiring types, which is how SuperMac and Maggie acquired good majorities.
Basically I think that Conservatism is, in the short term anyway, finished as an independent, governing political force, and only coalition situations offer them any prospect of being, partially, in government.
One hopes that a more traditional, genuine conservative Conservative leader, quite unlike Cameron, would negotiate an Britexit deal with an enhanced Ukip. Then a new, renewed conservative majority would recapture the spirit of conservatism, restoring national independence and taking a new, patriotic, as well as realistic stance, within our vastly changed international landscape.
Ukip, if nothing else, will keep alive the principle of British aspiration and independence. But it may, God willing, allow much more to be seized.

4 September 2013 at 22:21  
Blogger Matt A said...

Question: If UKIP were in power, would they reverse SSM legislation?

4 September 2013 at 22:23  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Inspector,
All they can put up is mediocre candidates who have no backbone
Mediocre candidates ensures DC's support as there is no one to stand up to him. Well done those Tories that voted against him.

On the issue of Iraqi, the Integrity Party would say, lets count the cost of all those missiles and use the money instead for humanitarian aid as there is no one better than the other in that fight.

4 September 2013 at 22:35  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Matt A. Good question, that man !

Thankfully barred as they are from churches, SSM is merely CP with a cherry on top, enabling a couple of queer types to call each other husband. So why not. As DanJ0 used to say, “The sky won’t fall in“...

But of course, it would only be done to protect the children. Won’t anybody think of the children !

4 September 2013 at 22:41  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Indeed Integrity. What appears to be a calamity in the Middle East is only Islam sorting itself out. Rather them than the blighters coming over here to sort us out, what !

4 September 2013 at 22:45  
Blogger bluedog said...

non mouse @ 18.57 says, 'after reading Dr. North's blog about the intended satellite/speed controls for traffic.'

Spend a little time researching Agenda 21 and all will be revealed. Designed and built by the Frankfurt School.

Matt A 2 22.23, UKIP should include the offer of a referendum on SSM in their manifesto. This communicant is absolutely convinced that a popular vote on SSM would result in massive disapproval. Consequently, removal of SSM from the statute book would be entirely justified.

4 September 2013 at 23:11  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

Ok, let's have on record that I think this legislation is an out and out train wreck, that I agree with whichever MP said that it was possibly the worst piece of legislation to be put in front of the Commons (at least in recent years), and that I note with relief that it's going to have to be changed.

But I do think it highlights a different point as well - that we need to look far more closely at what constitutes a charity, if charitable organisations are to be exempted from it (as I indeed think they should be)

There are some seriously dubious charities out there, with their own agendas (frequently political) and our Charities Commission is often toothless in dealing with them. If we want charities exempted then we have to think as always with any new law - not how it will benefit those of good will, but how it potentially can be misused by those of ill will. Sadly we tend to discover that some years down the road after the arguments in Parliament are long forgotten.

5 September 2013 at 08:18  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Matt A,

You asked, would Ukip reverse SSM ?

A tricky question that, but I'll try to help. This is just my opinion, you understand, not party policy. They were the only party that opposed it, as you know, so I anticipate much sympathy in that direction, but there is no formal policy to repeal. But then Ukip is some way off gaining that degree of political influence. First and foremost Ukip would free us from the framework of EU derived law that led to this legislation. That's the root of the problem, legally and politically. I understand that a group of UK politicians pressed for uniformity across the EU, leading to the rushed activity that we have seen. After that they would, I'm sure, as a minimum, clarify and strengthen the freedoms to disagree which are threatened at present, say for schools, Registrars and street preachers etc. Restoring our historic respect for freedom of conscience would be very important.
Personally I would very much like to see the laws that forced the RC adoption agencies to close to be repealed or modified, so that they can be reopened. That was an appalling series of highly illiberal, draconian powers that brought shame upon the principles of liberty and religious freedom for this country. I am not a Catholic but as a Christian I respected the stance of those agencies and found the legal actions taken against them deeply repugnant and bullying. Shame on our political establishment !

5 September 2013 at 08:52  
Blogger BeeLZeeBub said...

Why don't you bunch of faith addled idiots pray to your big sky deity to solve the problem.

Clearly it does not exist as your prayers are ALWAYS unanswered.

THICK GOONS.

5 September 2013 at 09:53  
Blogger LEN said...

The question that must be asked is what is 'a Conservative' nowadays.

Indeed our Politicians of all parties might as well just all join together and rubber stamp everything which their masters in the EU pass across their collective desks.

All political parties are still trying to preserve the illusion that they are are still actually in control.

5 September 2013 at 11:11  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Oh Lord ! We’ve only gone and upset BeeLZeeBub at 09:53 (…yet again…)

He wants to ‘marry’ his, er, chum, don’t you know.

He loathes Christians by the way. Bless him.

What we want to do for you old chap is only to save you from yourself, because we love you.

And we hope that one day you will recognize this and love us too.





5 September 2013 at 18:36  
Blogger LEN said...

It would seem that having an opinion other than that which follows the 'Politically correct 'one is dangerous so must be legislated against.(How Orwellian)

We already have our 'thought police' 'making sure all keep to the Government line' (that is of course our European Government)how much more control do they want over us?.

Perhaps what we are seeing now is the' Roman Empire 'reviving itself?.
Centralized control,religions having to be 'legalised by the 'governing body', the old gods re invoked(they never went away just heavily disguised as 'saints') then all will be ready for the arrival of Caesar?.

All in the Bible of course.

6 September 2013 at 14:43  

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