A Courageous Parliament would Oppose the Curbs of Freedom of Speech

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Richard Bowyer

Now that backbenchers have shown that they aren’t afraid to flex their muscles when they disagree with their leaders, let’s hope that they have the courage to throw out the disgraceful, Orwellian “Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill” that is due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons tomorrow. My worry is that rebel Tories and LibDems may think that they should use the vote to demonstrate that they actually are loyal to their front benches after all, but this is an issue that is very significant indeed – almost as important as Thursday’s vote.

Huge impact on us all

Unions, community groups, charities and campaigning organisations would all be hit. On the big issues of the day –

  • job cuts,
  • whether or not to go to war,
  • the future of our NHS,
  • welfare,
  • privatisation,
  • attacks on our terms and conditions

– we’d all be gagged.

The human rights lawyer Helen Mountfield QC has warned that charities in Britain will be put in fear of criminal prosecution by the Bill’s curbs on political campaigning by third parties, and she says that it is likely to have a chilling effect on freedom of expression by putting small organisations and their trustees/directors in fear of criminal penalty if they speak out on matters of public interest and concern during the 12 months before an election.

It would cut from £989,000 to £390,000 the amount third-party groups could spend in this period before a general election. The bill would also broaden the definition of what constitutes “election campaigning”, outlined in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act 2000. The new bill says that activity could be deemed to come within the terms of the act if it affects the outcome of an election even if that was not its purpose.

In her legal opinion, Mountfield says the Cabinet Office claims charities will not be covered by the legislation. But she cites a recent report by the Electoral Commission, which warned charities could be covered, to say that the NCVO is right to be concerned. The bill would “have a chilling effect on the expression of views on matters of public interest by third sector organisations”.

Mountfield warns of of uncertainty over what the bill means by “for political purpose”. She writes: “This uncertainty about what the law requires is likely to have a chilling effect on freedom of expression, by putting small organisations and their trustees/directors in fear of criminal penalty if they speak out on matters of public interest and concern.

“The TUC has accused the coalition of legislating out of “pure political spite” rather than genuinely taking action to tackle rich corporate lobbyists.

“Most people will see this bill for what it is – a cynical attempt to deflect growing public concern about the behaviour of rich corporate lobbyists representing hedge funds and private health companies, many of whom donate substantial sums to the Conservative party,” general secretary Frances O’Grady said. (Politics UK)

“Meanwhile unions campaigning to get the voices of Britain’s nurses, factory workers, shop assistants and other employees heard around Westminster are being targeted.”

The bill was published after the final prime minister’s questions before the summer recess. The exchanges were dominated by Ed Miliband’s suggestions that the Conservatives’ general election adviser Lynton Crosby, a tobacco lobbyist, had influenced the government’s decision to drop its plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.

As the government lost a key vote on military action in Syria, it seems Ed Miliband and the Labour Party have increased popularity in recent opinion polls. At last, we are seeing our representatives voting with conscience, and listening to the people who elected them , rather than the Conservative press, and the will of the USA. Apparently, the government is now getting worried about growing opposition to the Bill, so we must hope the LibDems and some Tories will have the courage of their convictions and vote to send it back to the drawing-board.

These are definite signs of a change for Labour and Ed Miliband, with hopeful signs of prospects for a courageous parliament, and a Courageous State.

Let the Children Walk Away from War

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Let the Children Walk away from War

By Trevor Bacon

Have you noticed how adept governments are at shifting the focus of an argument like the Germans may have done in 1933? If they had asked the population, “Do you think we should have separate sections in the camps for Jews and Catholics?”, what would they  have answered?  Now the question is, did Assad or, didn’t he?

warsyrianchildrenIn actuality the situation is, as always , more complex than to bomb, or not to bomb. With regard to the Apocalypse, it has potential, not least because of Iran‘s threats, empty or not, and not less than the nightmare scenario of Russia and China being inadvertently sucked into action. We have to note that Russia are moving two more war ships into posistion in the Med as I write. Clearly Putin is not about to declare open war and the Chinese have perfected the art of aloof pragmatism, but red lines abound and though not as clearly drawn as those of Barrack Obama, they still exist. Even rabbits will turn and fight, if all avenues of escape are blocked. We need time to think, we need time for cooler heads in the US and the UN to prevail.

Everybody in the world understands the dominance of the US military machine. The US spend more than the rest of the world put together. A combination of this fact, coupled with an insolvable economic crisis at home is a deadly combination. While we like to think that the American administrations are independent and very different from one another this of course is window dressing. In actuality the longer plan is still in play, a doctrine of full spectrum world dominance. The Wolfowitz Doctrine, restated ten years later by PNAC states that America, although in the first stage of Imperial decay from its heyday in the 1950’s can artificially hold onto its number one economic position. This can only happen if the rest of the worlds nations can be induced to remain Vassal states under the military boot or the US Dollar. These two things go hand in hand. It’s an old story, the US $ retains its value not because of gold reserves, which it decoupled under Nixon but because of its tie to oil trades. Those countries who have attempted to move away from this link, Iraq and Iran to name two. Well you know what happened and will happen there. Also Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi had been trying to re introduce gold backing to Africa in the creation of the Golden Dinar. So you see the link, and you see why the US need to destroy all opposition. The weaker the US $ becomes, the less that currency is worth, the less it is worth and  the less interested the bond markets will be in buying its debt. The less interested the bond market are in buying its debt, the more important it is for the US to get its deficits under control. The more under control the deficits, the angrier Americans will become.

Clearly, nobody in their right mind wants this to escalate further, Russia and China have achieved a victory of sorts. They have at least held up the PNAC ‘Pax Americana‘ game to some extent, even if they know that this is no more than a slow and deadly intermission. So now, whoever is responsible for the gas attacks,  arming liver-and-heart-eating rebel commanders,  for sawing the heads off of Bishops and priests,  for getting a child to chop the head off a prisoner, for the destruction and ethnic cleansing of Christian and Kurdish villages, for giving the green light to the Saudis to pour billions into this fight,  for giving encouragement to the equally despotic Assad government, or for firing artillery shells into populated areas, whoever they are, they must  all know that it is, once again, time to step away from the precipice.

A final message to Obama and Kerry. You’re in Washington, not Las Vegas. If you are looking for something to define your presidency Mr President, let it be that humanity prevailed under your administration. If you want to show your metal, to show you are not coward, then propose a peace keeping force. Stop arming the Rebels and come to agreement with the Russians and Chinese to stop arming Assad. Support the Geneva 2 Peace Talks as if you meant it Mr Kerry. Let these children in the picture walk away from this!