Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill
How the HOPE not hate campaign will be affected
The HOPE not hate campaign is a registered third party with the Electoral Commission and fully compliant with all the associated regulatory requirements. In the 2010 General Election HOPE not hate spent £319,231 campaigning against the BNP. This figure was well within the financial cap in place.
Just a day before Parliament broke for the summer recess, the Government published the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. The majority of the media coverage has focused on parts one and three of the bill (focusing on lobbying and trade union administration). However it is within part Two, which covers third party engagement in elections, that many of the most fundamental changes are proposed.
In the past only those organisations directly involved in engaging in the elections had to register as a Third Party with the Electoral Commission. Under these new proposals every organisation which seeks to influence public opinion, in the 12 months before the General Election – either directly or as a consequence of its actions – will now be covered. This will include charities, think tanks, trade associations and even blogs and websites.
The amount an organisation can spend is being drastically cut yet the scope of costs which have to be accounted for – such as staff time – has dramatically widened. Indeed, the restrictions on third parties are now far more extensive than those on political parties.
This bill is coming before Parliament on 3 September and the Government have stated their intention to have completed its parliamentary passage by the end of the year, leaving little to no time for consultation or discussion.
What began as a bid to clean up politics and make the process more transparent has ended up as an attempt to restrict people and individuals engaging in politics and exercising their democratic rights of free speech. And simply put, this Bill could gag HOPE not hate in the run up to the next General Election and prevent us offering a proper challenge to racism and fascism.
How the Bill will impact on the HOPE not hate campaign
The proposals will:
- Cut the maximum amount HOPE not hate can spend in the 12 months before the election by up to 70% and make it a criminal offence to exceed the limit. In total we would be limited to £390,000 across the British Isles. When combined with a widening of the scope of activities and costs that will now have to be included, we would be significantly restricted in our ability to launch national campaigns. It should be noted that a political party (of any size) can spend up to £18.96 million in an election period. HOPE not hate will be restricted to 2% of the expenditure available to the BNP.
- Dramatically widen the scope of activities that need to be incorporated into our costs. These will now include staff time, organising events, the development and publication of policy papers and even research time that goes into blogs, websites and leaflets. While placing these new restrictions on organisations like HOPE not hate, the Government has decided that political parties do not have to include staff costs in their returns as they are too difficult to work out!
- Limit total spending to £9,750 per constituency in the 12 months before the election. When including staff and design costs this will significantly limit our ability to participate in grassroots campaigning activity in areas particularly vulnerable to the politics of hate.
- Require HOPE not hate to report to the Electoral Commission weekly during the election campaign, placing a huge administration burden on our small team.
- Restrict our ability to build coalitions against racism with other organisations, as any costs accrued by a coalition will need to be “aggregated” (meaning that HOPE not hate would have to declare within our reported expenses the full amount spent on the joint campaign, regardless of how much we contribute).
- Place more rigorous restrictions on HOPE not hate in an election period, then those faced by the BNP, the National Front or any other political party.
By design or default this Bill will severely restrict the ability of organisations like HOPE not hate to function and combat fascism, racism and other forms of extremism. It is nothing more than a Gagging Bill, limiting democracy, political involvement and criticism. At a time when trust in political parties and politicians is at an all-time low we need to increase involvement and participation in the democratic process rather than limiting it.
HOPE not hate has achieved some amazing results over the last nine years and none more so that the defeat of the BNP in Barking & Dagenham in 2010. Please help us ensure we can continue to defeat racism and fascism in the future.