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Polly Toynbee might possibly be right

In most ways the Pollyverse is a place where the rules of our continuum do not apply. She worships strange gods and that which she fears causes Earth-humans to rejoice.

But could she be right to fear the new lobbying bill?

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations publishes a report from a human rights QC warning that the bill could breach the right to freedom of speech. Lawyers for many charities warn of a legal minefield for trustees: if they trip into electoral law they must send weekly reports of all their spending during the electoral period, when any slip risks criminal charges. The government denies the bill will silence campaigners, but a letter of protest representing swaths of charities – from the British Legion to Citizens Advice – crosses the political divide. The campaign group 38 Degrees says the “proposed gagging law would have a chilling effect on British democracy”. The Taxpayers’ Alliance agrees: “The bill is a serious threat to independent politics that will stifle free and open democratic debate.”

Ironically, the bill seems to my uneducated eye to resemble the attempt to stifle free speech in the US that was defeated by the Citizens United decision, a ruling demonized by the Left. That irony might be fun to point out but the consequences are not reassuring. We in the UK do not have the protection of the First Amendment.

9 comments to Polly Toynbee might possibly be right

  • Mr Ed

    I cannot find without undue effort at the moment the text of the Bill, but presumably the idea is that if you are set up to lobby, it becomes routine, so the establsihed firms settle in and just do it, but anyone raising a single issue (other than a private individual) has to comply with alien and bizarre rules, so the lobbying firms gain what is almost a licence and a cartel.

    Who would have thought it?

    How about banning anyone other than a private individual acting personally from contacting their MP if this is to be done, just to keep it simple. Charities forfeiting their status if they comment on anything would be easier. No more talking dickheads on the radio.

  • Gareth

    The charities are free to cease to be charities and cease to have the tax benefits if they wish to play politics.

    The problem here is that the Charity Commission has previously been very lax in making sure charities stay out of politics. The lobbying legislation is a convenient round about way of tackling that rather than admit the charity commission has been crap at its job. A change of head at the Commission last year was a welcome step in the right direction: Charities warned to stop interfering in politics by new watchdog chief.

  • Kevin B

    The first anti-lobbying law should be the one that bans government from giving taxpayers money to NGOs who then use it to lobby the government to steal more money from us in order to give it to said NGOs.

  • Lee Moore

    I’m sympathetic to Gareth’s point of view, but does the Bill restrict its attention to registered charities ? ie if the charities that are really campaign groups gave up charitable status, would they not still be required to do all this micro-reporting ?

    In any event if one is going to have rules on political contributions – about which I hae ma doubts- how much serious corruption can be wrought for five grand ? Shirley, fifty grand or so would be nearer the mark ?

  • Paul Marks

    How about a simple rule that charities that get TAX MONEY (i.e. are not really “independent” at all) can not “lobby” – and those that do not can “lobby”?

    Of course that would be rational – and government does not like rationality.

    Better, in their opinion, to have (as Mr Ed say) a web of Red Tape leading a cartel.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Natalie should not have brought up Citizens United. I have a righteous rant about Citizens United.

    But I shall try to keep to the short form.

    How come it’s bad for non-Democratic, non-Leftist corporations like Citizens United to be able to spend money on campaigns, but Absolutely A-OK 100% jim-dandy when leftish or Democratic corporations, like the Tides Foundation, the Pew Foundation, and SEIU lavish the objects of their desire with moolah?

    How come Citizens United amounts to a clear avalanche of Conservative quadrillions that will sink the U.S.A., but simultaneously constitutes an impenetrable and utterly insurmountable barrier to G.E., say, which can now contribute directly to the latest Democratic Disaster?

    Why is it that the MSM never happens to point out that the Dims will benefit from this equally with (never mind that it’s really far more than) the Pubs?

    Oh why ask. It has “major funding” from the Eeeviiill Koch Bros., after all, and they do oil and stuff.


  • Julie near Chicago

    Well, I meant to say the Ford Fdn., not the Pew, but unfortunately the Pew also has come unmoored from its conservative roots. If you can become unmoored from roots, that is. ???

  • Laird

    I agree, Julie. The only thing I would add to your righteous rant is the observation that the leftist organizations (foundations, labor unions, etc.) already had pretty much unfettered ability to fund leftist causes and politicians; Citizens United merely extended that right to corporations (which are also, fundamentally, merely groups of individuals acting in concert). It leveled the playing field, as it were. This is what makes that decision anathema to the leftists, and prompted the Marxist-in-Chief to so rudely criticize the Supreme Court on national TV.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    I believe that right from the start trade unions were included among the bodies on behalf of which the Citizens United case was brought.