The Lobbying Bill being promoted by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the Commons today risks putting Cambridge campaign groups such as No to Mill Road Tesco, Cambridge Cycling Campaign, Cambridge Older People’s Enterprise (COPE) and many others outside the law, warns Cambridge Labour Parliamentary Candidate Daniel Zeichner.
In a letter to Government Minister Chloe Smith, The National Council for Voluntary Organisations have warned that the proposed measures “risk seriously hampering their ability to speak up on issues of concern” – amongst the 23 major national organisations, signatories include Oxfam, Royal British legion, and RNIB.
A key change is that third party activity in elections will now be defined by the effect of campaigning rather than the intent – anything that enhances or distracts from the reputation of a political party will count as regulated activity and have to be declared as election spending.
Mr Zeichner warns that in a city like Cambridge where free-debate flourishes, local campaign groups risk unwittingly finding themselves outside the law:
“The rules on political campaign spending in this country are already extremely complicated – I spend much of my time in my day job advising people on this, and most people are surprised to find that many campaign activities are already subject to regulations which they aren’t aware of. But these new proposals, on which there has been no consultation, and are being rushed through and will make the situation far worse. I am absolutely certain that Cambridge people will not be silenced, nor should they be, but these ill-thought through plans risk putting decent people outside the law. They should be withdrawn.”