When the TUC denounces something as “an outrageous attack on freedom of speech worthy of an authoritarian dictatorship”, you know things are bad. The TUC is referring to the ‘Transparency of Lobbying, non-party campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill’, recently published. In particular, three clauses in that Bill draw the TUC’s fire:
First, the Bill changes the definition of what counts as campaigning. Current law only regulates activities designed with the intent of influencing an election result. The Bill will instead regulate activity that might be deemed to affect the result of an election. All sorts of organisations, not just unions, would be hit by this, as virtually any political activity on virtually any subject could be ruled unlawful in the year before a general election.
Second, it reduces the spending limit of third party campaigners to £390,000, more than halving the amount organisations can spend on issues which may be under discussion at elections (not a short list, one might think).
Third, it includes staff time and office costs in expenditure limits, thereby hoping to eradicate support given, for example by unions, but which is hard to separate from election-related party-political support.
“[The Bill] has been drawn so widely that its chilling effect will be to shut down dissent for the year before an election,” said TUC General secretary Frances O’Grady.
If this Bill became law as it stands, not only would any trade union demonstration be illegal within 12 months of an election – but so would holding of a TUC Congress!
Those who have allowed union rights to be described as privileges are now reaping the whirlwind. This neofascist legislation must be eradicated before it gets to the statute books. ■