Last Tuesday, a controversial bill -called the Gagging Bill – limiting the amount that charities and voluntary bodies can spend on campaigning, was returned to the House of Lords, who had rejected it previously. This time their vote was equally divided so it will now become law.
What saddens me is that whole page ads had been taken out on behalf of concerned groups urging politicians to oppose it, but the usually progressive i newspaper failed to comment on it, and have still not reported the new law.
I have read that the groups who oppose it will be exempt, that it will not be a bureaucratic nightmare and so on, but it is the sheer number and variety of groups that I find so impressive and persuasive. There were, by my count, some 116 national groups with their logos on the ad, so representing a very large slice of the British public. They include the usual suspects such as CND, Greenpeace, Amnesty, the UN Human Appeal, 38 degrees and the National Union of Students, but also some that I have never heard of such as Tearfund, Doctors of the World, and A Rocha. I love the inclusion of the Campaign for Real Ale, the Women’s Institute, Love Where You Live, Business Britain, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Woodland Trust and Butterfly Conservation, and it is impressive that the Countryside Alliance and the League Against Cruel Sports, usually found shouting abuse at each other at foxhunting events are also listed on the same page.
All have promised to keep on fighting the law, which is good. But somehow it feels like they have already achieved a lot by coming together for this campaign to try to keep Britain a country where free and open campaigning for an incredibly wide range of good causes is both legal and even encouraged.