‘Chequebook politics’ to continue despite Transparency Bill amendments

"How much to make sure my company runs Project X, David?" Chequebook politics will continue to run the UK if the Transparency Bill is passed.

“How much to make sure my company runs Project X, David?” Chequebook politics will continue to run the UK if the Transparency Bill is passed.

You know the old saying: “You can fool all of the people some of the time … blah blah blah … but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

It seems the Conservative Party is determined to write in a new line: “But you can fool most of the people, enough of the time!”

Why else would they be doing what they’re proposing with the so-called Transparency Bill (which is in fact yet another permutation of their boring old bait-and-switch tactic)?

You know, dear reader, that this Bill is about ensuring that David Cameron’s corporate masters continue to have access to him whenever they want to open their chequebooks and give him an order. This blog – and others, we’re sure – has made that very clear.

You also know that it is about attacking the unions, rendering it almost impossible for them to carry out their business without being in breach of the new law.

The third section of the Bill – the part about “non-party campaigning” – was bolted on to provide a distraction, raising concerns across the country that free speech would be, effectively, outlawed in the UK. It seems clear now that this was included purely to provide a focal point for public outrage, away from the main purposes of the legislation.

Now, Andrew Lansley has come forward with amendments to the Bill – aimed at addressing “misunderstandings”. Misunderstandings on what?

On third party campaigning. And nothing else.

The government’s press release states that the amendments will:

  • Remove the additional test of “otherwise enhancing the standing of a party or candidates” from clause 26. This is to provide further reassurance to campaigners as to the test they have to meet in order to incur controlled expenditure. A third party will only be subject to regulation where its campaign can reasonably be regarded as intended to “promote or procure the electoral success” of a party of candidate,
  • Replace the separate listings for advertising, unsolicited material and manifesto/policy documents with election “material”; this is the language used in the current legislation that non-party campaigners and the Electoral Commission are already familiar with, and on which the Electoral Commission have existing guidance,
  • Make clear that it is public rallies and events that are being regulated; meetings or events just for an organisation’s members or supporters will not be captured by the bill. “We will also provide an exemption for annual events – such as an organisation’s annual conference”,
  • Ensure that non–party campaigners who respond to ad hoc media questions on specific policy issues are not captured by the bill, whilst still capturing press conferences and other organised media events, and
  • Ensure that all “market research or canvassing” which promotes electoral success is regulated.

Lansley added: “We have listened and acted, as I said we would do. I am confident that these changes will ensure that the concerns raised about the effect of the Bill on campaigning activities of charities have now been met.

“In doing so, the bill will continue to meet the necessary objective of giving transparency and proper regulation wherever third parties seek to have an influence directly on the outcome of elections.”

Anybody who believes that is all that’s wrong with this Bill is as gullible as Lansley wants them to be.

If you have contacted your MP about this Bill before, you may be surprised to hear that – unless you contact them again – they’re likely to believe that your fears about this Bill have been put to rest.

If they haven’t – and trust us on this, they shouldn’t – then it’s time to email them again.

Otherwise this government of millionaire marionettes will have fooled you again – and the corporate bosses pulling the strings will have good reason to be well pleased.

4 thoughts on “‘Chequebook politics’ to continue despite Transparency Bill amendments

  1. Alex Casale

    With Andrew Lansley’s proposed amendments to the “Transparency Bill” basically alleviating some of the fears of ‘non-party campaigners’.
    It does not, however, appear to address the reason, which most people expected to be foremost; and that is to make it blatantly transparent who is lobbying whom in the Houses of Parliament, and what that they are lobbying about.
    It was expected that there would be a list of lobbyists of MPs and Lords which would be open to the public.
    The non-party campaigners may accept the carrot, whilst the real chequebook lobbyists avoid the stick.

  2. Thomas M

    Assuming he is telling the truth about removing the gagging parts, or most of them-this is just like the Tories. They fix a really outrageous think to a bad bill,to make sure most of the bill goes through. And this is only possible due to the Liberal Democrats. If the Lib Dems cared about their voters they would never have joined with the Tories.

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  4. vomsters

    This is a cut & paste of the response I had (the first one ever in 3 years of writing to her!) when I first contacted her on this bill:

    I am writing to you in response to your concerns about the effect the Lobbying Bill will have on charities and campaigning groups. I understand it is not – and never has been – the Government’s intention to prevent any of those groups (for example, Frack Free Somerset, Keep Cheddar Gorgeous, Isle of Wedmore Green Group) from campaigning on the policies and issues which matter to them in the run-up to, or during, an election campaign. The Government does, however, want to make the system more transparent so people can have greater confidence in the way third parties interact with the political system.

    I know the Bill in its current form is of concern to many organisations. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has always been clear this legislation should not have an impact on charities going about their normal business. I am clear that changes to the Bill need to be made to ensure this will not happen.

    If you are a member of ‘38 Degrees’, you will be aware of the objections the movement has raised. It may be helpful for you to know that I spoke to 38 Degrees’ Executive Director on the Sunday before last, and asked him to brief me fully, which he did. When Parliament returned last week, I relayed those concerns to the Minister dealing with drafting the legislation. A number of changes have been made and I understand more are proposed.

    If you are not a member of 38 Degrees, may I suggest you look at the movement’s website, where you will find a summary of their arguments which may assist you. Either way, if you have any other ideas as to how the Bill can be improved over and above those made already, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    For just over 18 months, I have held a junior – and unpaid – role within the Government. This enables me to pass my concerns on any matter straight to the relevant Minister, and I can try to influence change directly – which has greater potential for impact than I had as a backbench MP. This has proven very effective to date and a number of my constituents have seen changes and improvements to regulations and legislation as a result. If I wish to vote against the Government, then I must resign my position. The effect would be to lose my ‘direct line’ to Ministers for the future. I explain this as I want to be open with you about my intention to vote with the Government, but I hope to reassure you that I have, and shall continue, to push for changes to the proposals.

    The Lib Dems have long campaigned for greater transparency and accountability across our political system, and I believe that there is a case for change. This Bill could take significant steps in the right direction, but it is important that we get it right. I wholeheartedly welcome the amendments made to date and I am pleased that the Government is acting to clarify its intentions in this legislation.

    I’m not entirely sure where she’s going with the 38 Degrees thing, I don’t recall whether I sent this particular complaint via them or sent a seperate email. Either way she missed more than 75% of my questions. And the bloody nonsense about “unpaid role” in government. Dear Tessa, you’re paid a salary and a very nice expenses package so don’t try to make me think you’re being oh-so noble and self-sacrificing rather than greedy and self-serving like the rest of your mates in Westminster. If it were up to me there would be no “extra” payments for ANY minister. Sod it, I’d bloody means-test MPs (ALL of them) regarding salary and expenses and there would be none of this 2nd home allowance crap (I know of no other London commuter that gets that sort of thing from their employer).

    Blair’s government pissed me off big time, I didn’t think anyone could surpass my disgust with NuLabour after 13 years but Cameron and His Cronies did it in under a year.

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