With the controversial lobbying bill having moved from the Commons to the Lords this month MPs might have hoped they would now be spared the protests of those worried the new law will curb the campaigning ability of charities and voluntary groups.
One organisation has redoubled its efforts, however, organising a rush of public meetings with Liberal Democrat MPs to remind them, it says, that their traditionally grassroots-based party should know better than to back such a measure.
The group, 38 Degrees, has set up 11 public meetings over little more than a week with MPs, 10 of them with Lib Dems and one with the Tory Chloe Smith, to demand continued attention over what is officially called the transparency of lobbying, non-party campaigning and trade union administration bill. Concentrating the MPs’ minds still further is the fact that several of them have distinctly slim majorities, several hovering around 1,000 and in the case of Simon Wright in Norwich South, a mere 310.
All the MPs at some point either supported or abstained on votes for the bill, which seeks to impose financial limits on spending “for election purposes”. A number of charities and campaign groups have warned this could affect even non-party political activities despite a series of amendments, said David Babbs, the executive director of 38 Degrees.
“We want to give the MPs a strong reminder that the lobbying bill threatens very popular institutions like charities and community groups, things that are generally held in much higher regard than they are, and their constituents will take a keen interest in how they voted on this,” he said. “Secondly, we want to remind MPs about what’s good about grassroots community campaigning, which this bill threatens to constrain. Most MPs at some point thought this stuff was important.”