‘Chilling’ effect on campaign groups

Freedom to campaign and protest threatened

The UK government is making it harder for campaigning voices to be heard, staff from Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) have said. Writing on the Quakers in Britain website, Grace Da Costa, public affairs and advocacy manager for BYM, sets out the impact of what the blog describes as the ‘chilling effect on civil society’, and shares details of a network formed to counteract it.

‘Our freedom to [campaign and protest] is being threatened, but Quakers in Britain and other concerned groups are working together to do something about it,’ she says, citing a Civil Society Voice network, which Quakers have formed with charities including Friends of the Earth and Shelter.

One of the factors making it harder to campaign, she says, is less engagement and consultation from the government with faith and civil society groups when changing laws and policies. Other factors include: changes in rules on campaigning during elections such as the Lobbying Act; anti-advocacy clauses which prevent charities in receipt of government funding from criticising government policy; and limits on the right to protest.

Grace Da Costa also refers to criticism aimed at charities that campaign, such as ‘Boris Johnson’s disparaging remarks about “lefty human rights lawyers and other do-gooders” and… Tina Stowell’s recent Daily Mail article telling charities to stay out of politics and “culture wars”.’

The blog also highlights the fact that the government is considering changes to the judicial review system that she says ‘would have a negative impact’ on access to it for ordinary people and the organisations that represent them.

Recent initiatives of Civil Society Voice include: monitoring and sharing information about the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on human rights and civil liberties; and submitting joint evidence to a parliamentary select committee inquiry on constitution, democracy and rights, in which it asked ‘for the whole of civil society to be involved in any attempts to change the UK’s constitution’. The network also met with Danny Kruger MP.

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