The British government recently succeeded in passing a piece of legislation commonly known as the “gagging bill”. After some toing and froing involving both houses of parliament, the bill conveying this legislation was eventually passed owing to a tied 145-145 vote in the House of Lords. When such a result happens, it is procedural to pass the bill.
Apart from their personal reading and research, readers may be aware of the progress of this vote from information I have passed-on from my source at the lobbying group 38 Degrees. The bill will place restrictions on groups, political or otherwise from speaking-out against projected government legislation prior to elections – including the UK government elections in 2015.
This bill was opposed by hundreds of groups within the UK on the grounds that it placed undue and unnecessary restrictions on public discussion and debate and is, therefore, anti-democratic. That the bill was eventually passed was due primarily to the support given to it by the Conservative Party in both houses of the British parliament.
It is ingenuous, if not downright disgraceful, that David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party and the British Prime Minister, recently labelled both the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties as being “enemies of democracy”. Why? Both of the latter has used their democratic privilege under parliamentary law and procedure to use procedural means to kill-off a private member’s bill that would have authorised an EU referendum. David Cameron’s outrage was not, it seems, assuaged by the fact that he very likely knew that this would be the outcome of his Downing Street desires!
What incensed the Conservative Party was the fact that it had “unveiled plans to overrule the House of Lords – through the rare act of invoking the Parliament Act.” In itself, this was legitimate, but it was halted in its tracks due to a further piece of parliamentary procedure. The Prime Minister told a BBC reporter that “We (the government, but not the Liberal Democrats, therefore, the Conservatives) will use every tactic possible to give the British people a referendum.”
It would seem at least a little hypocritical that Cameron and his party are happy to use “every tactic possible to give the British people a referendum”, insisting that it is their right to have one, but will do everything in its power to gag debate and discussion by the same people prior to an election! I suppose that, in the long run, it comes down to which way political parties and governments wish to manipulate the law, parliamentary procedure and the people that a government is meant to faithfully represent.