On Monday 17th January 2022 Parliament discussed the Tories Elections Bill. Unfortunately I was not called to speak during the debate. Here is the contribution I wished to make on behalf of Gower constituents:
The same Government that created fast lanes for their mates, is asking this house to put up roadblocks in the way of the ordinary people of this country.
The Conservative Governments’ Elections Bill is a brazen attack on our democracy. The bill will undermine the ability of civil society organisations, charities and trade unions to engage and campaign in our democracy. This Bill brings in new measures on Political Parties campaigning jointly with non-party campaigners, fundamentally limiting their power to campaign for a political party, or to work with political parties for a joint goal. Of course, this will have a disproportionate impact on the Labour party because Labour has a long history of supporting workers and developing relationships with the organisations that protect worker’s rights. To quote the National Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation, ‘There is no other political party that has the close constitutional ties with separate, independent organisations in the way that the Labour Party is linked to the trade union movement… The disproportionate, partisan impact of these changes goes against our democratic principles. It is not a level playing field when only one side suffers a disadvantage’
These rules could stop Trade Unions and other organisations campaigning in their own right on political issues that are important to their members, that just happen to take precedent in the year of an election. If unions’ £390,000 expenditure allowance is ‘used up’ by Labour Party expenditure that unions have been (unfairly) deemed to be liable for, then there simply won’t be funds available for other campaigns. Take this with the Government’s attempt to crack down on protesting in the Police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, and it’s hard not to conclude that this Government is trying to undermine our freedom of speech.
Not only is it an affront to the working people, it is also completely unnecessary – there are already regulations on joint campaigning and trade union funding is highly regulated. Indeed, the Electoral Commission produces guidance on joint campaigning. Of course, the Government have covered this as this Bill also undermines the independence of the Electoral Commission by giving a Secretary of State the right to potentially direct the Commission to change that guidance. Our democracy cannot be a level playing field if this happens.
From breaking lockdown rules, to protecting members caught up in lobbying scandals, the Tories have shown their contempt for everyday people. Now that the Government has seen the tide of public opinion turn against it, it is now doing everything it can to cling onto power. The Conservative Party Manifesto pledged to ‘protect the integrity of the UK’s democracy’. This Bill is not protection. It is an obliteration of our democratic system.