The three main party manifestos have failed to address the concerns campaigners have with Lobbying Act rules.
Sapio Research figures commissioned by Campaign Collective revealed that just over half of charities and social enterprises believe this general election will be important to their organisation, but less than a quarter expected to campaign on issues during the election.
The research backs up previous findings from official reports which showed that the Lobbying Act has had a chilling effect on campaigners, preventing them from effectively communicating during the election.
The Labour Party manifesto pledges to repeal the Lobbying Act, but threatens a tighter regulatory regime for public affairs. The Liberal Democrats pledge to strengthen democracy, but make no mention of reform of the legislation the party helped introduce while in coalition government. The SNP have pledged to repeal parts of the Act, but seem unclear on what elements will remain.
The Conservative manifesto makes no reference to safeguarding freedom to campaign, despite the last Tory government asking Lord Hodgson to make recommendations to improve the Lobbying Act.
We welcome any moves by parties to safeguard freedom of speech for charities and campaigners. The Hodgson Review and Harries Commission both reported widespread problems with the scale and scope of the current Lobbying Act and all parties should look carefully at how they can safeguard our democracy in their manifestoes.
Transparency in politics is important, but so is freedom of speech. Sadly, it seems as if the parties’ pledges are a missed opportunity to safeguard freedoms for campaigners and strengthen democracy.
Campaign Collective issued advice to charities and campaigners on the Lobbying Act earlier this month. Social Enterprise UK and NCVO have published useful round ups of wider manifesto pledges which have an impact on campaigning organisations.