Among the thousands of General Election 2017 posts bashed out by the bloggerati over the next few days, most will point to a dramatic shift in the political climate since 2015.
But for campaigners, there is one thing that remains the same: the law.
The Lobbying Act remains in place. Attempts to reform it have been shelved (and are now unlikely to be implemented for this or the next election). The Act was successfully designed to have a chilling effect on campaigners – especially those working in charities – by forcing any organisation that spends over £20,000 on campaigning to register with the Electoral Commission and declare its spending.
Many charities erred on the side of caution and reigned in their activity around the 2015 election. But campaigners will only allow the law to be successful in hampering their activity if they let it.
Advice to charities on the 2017 General Election is to keep calm and keep campaigning.
The 2015 campaign bore out the advice then that the majority of activity will not be covered by the Act. The narrow range of the “purpose” and “public” tests as well as the Electoral Commission’s clarifications that business as usual activity, volunteer time and many communications tactics are not covered mean that few organisations need to be worried.
This is not a carte blanche, but it does mean that campaigners should not be cowed by the Act and should ensure that, where appropriate, their voices are heard.
For more information on the Lobbying Act, visit: https://campaigncollective.org/general-election-2017-advice-for-charities-and-campaigners/