How has the Lobbying Act affected your work?

18 May 2017

Taking 40 minutes to calculate the cost of a tweet? You’re working within the restrictions of the Lobbying Act. 

“Will using an emoji in my social media post mean it passes the Lobbying Act’s ‘purpose’ test?” 

This seemingly crazy question from a colleague is actually a very important one.

The reason why this is such a tricky question to answer is because the Lobbying Act is at best a tricky piece of legislation to get your head around. And at worst a waste of precious time, money and resources for charities. 

Throw a snap election into the mix and charities are now having to play catch-up, putting systems and processes in place to ensure they don’t unintentionally fall foul of the Act. Charities have also been left feeling confused and hard done by thanks to the retrospective application of the regulated period under the Lobbying Act. The idea that charities could be penalised for campaigning the year prior to an election they didn’t even know about is incredibly harsh.

How confusing is the Lobbying Act? 

Let’s take the “purpose test” which states that a campaign activity would fall under the Act if the activity can reasonably be regarded as intended to influence voters to vote for or against political parties or candidates. What does reasonably be regarded mean in practice? And how do you establish “intention”? Working out whether an activity passes the purpose test is not easy because it all comes down to other people’s views and perceptions. 

Tweets, Facebook posts, website content, etc. are now being vetted against the rules and regulations outlined in the Lobbying Act. Charities we have spoken to are having to constantly judge their campaign activities using inadequate guidance. Based on the 2015 election, we know the Act created widespread confusion, which resulted in charities withdrawing from the debate. But we are yet to establish just how much of an impact the 2017 snap election has had on Bond’s members. 

Has the Lobbying Act affected your organisation’s work? 

Have you been confused into silence? Whatever your experience, Bond would like to hear from you. 

We all lose if the Lobbying Act remains in its current form. The act impacts upon free speech and is hugely detrimental to the public, political parties, and the very people these organisations represent and advocate for. Now is the time to make your voice heard. 

Specifically, we would like to hear from you if your organisation:

  • Has cancelled, paused or simply not undertaken a campaign activity because of the Act
  • Has adapted, altered or toned down your communications or campaign activities because of the Act
  • Is concerned that campaign activities that took place prior to the election announcement could be caught by the retrospective application of the Act
  • Has put in place specific structures and measures to ensure compliance with the Act

To share your experiences with us, please contact either Rowan Popplewell or Maryam Mohsin.  

Get more detailed info in our Lobby Act briefing.

About the author

Rowan Popplewell
Bond

Rowan works as advocacy adviser on the operating environment at Bond. She supports organisations from across the development and environment sector to respond to restrictions on advocacy and campaigning in the UK.

Maryam Mohsin
Bond

As media adviser, Maryam Mohsin leads and drives Bond’s media agenda to support the organisation’s members and the wider international development sector.