Monday, 23 September 2013

Hope not Hate - seeking the exclusive right to decide who is gagged in British politics

The government is trying to find a way to regulate lobbyists, and its current attempt is the Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. I think we can all agree that its provisions do not match the aims of what the government was trying to achieve.

Hope not Hate are also campaigning against the Bill. They have produced the following graphic to aid their campaign

As Hope not Hate say on their website,

"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."

In some respects, Hope not Hate have missed the point - third parties should be subject to tighter scrutiny than political parties for a very simple reason. Parties are accountable to the voters through the ballot box. Third Parties like Hope not Hate are accountable only to their funders; in Hope not Hate's case these are the large trades unions and the Labour Party.

The irony of the situation is almost wonderful to behold. For many years, Hope not Hate has gone out of its way to gag those it deems to be 'far-right'. As if that wasn't bad enough for the political process, we are now seeing their aim turned not on the far-right, but on UKIP - simply because their funders are frightened of them, and have no clue how to stop the party's rise. Intimidation of candidates, fraudulent claims about public statements backed up by photoshopped internet comments, fake social media profiles: a whole panoply of tricks which would shame a Murdoch newspaper and which do nothing but drag the whole political process into the gutter.

Hope not Hate are right. This legislation is bad for freedom of speech and democracy, and should not enter the statute book. What they can't seem to grasp is that it is the actions of groups such as theirs which has made people think it is necessary, and even as they campaign - and raise funds to keep their now pointless organisation afloat - they are still attempting to gag their political opponents. To quote a Central American revolutionary, Jose Marti,

"Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy"

Sadly, Hope not Hate would rather its supporters merely chanted 'Four legs good, two legs better' at every opportunity. The freedom of speech they argue for is the freedom to censor what their opponents think.

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