‘Anti-HS2 campaign could be illegal’
Posters calling on people not to vote for parties which support HS2 fall foul of a new law, it has been claimed.
Stop HS2 has produced posters and window stickers with the slogan of ‘We won’t vote for any party that supports HS2’.
But under the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014, campaigners have to provide figures for any expenditure which can be interpreted as supporting particular parties or candidates and their policies.
Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said complying with the law, which he dubbed ‘The Gagging Act’, was an impossible task.
He said there ‘is no question’ that continuing to campaign against HS2 in the run-up to the general election will fall foul of the act, given that the The Green Party, UKIP and the NHA Party want to scrap the line.
Mr Rukin added: “You would think that not only it should be the democratic right of anyone to express how they feel about specific policies and political parties, but also that these rights should be even more important in the run up to an election.
“However, the Gagging Act means the reverse is true. Because many of our supporters wish to make the statement that they won’t vote for any party that supports HS2, the costs of any publicity, meetings, travel and press conferences aimed at that end are supposed to be collated and reported to the Electoral Commission three months after the election.
“With three national groups and over 100 local actions groups campaigning against HS2, along with countless residents associations, parish councils and other bodies, the idea that all spending could be identified and collated within three months is completely laughable.
“The law is totally unworkable as it stands, and is aimed at doing one thing and one thing only, trying to silence campaigners who have something to say that politicians don’t want to hear and more importantly don’t want people to be thinking about when they cast their vote.
“There are tens of thousands of people who feel betrayed by politicians blindly pushing through their vanity project, and they want to say loud and clear that they will not vote for any party that supports HS2.
“We feel that the fact doing this will mean breaking the law, will only make people more resolute, as we will not be silenced. With so many politicians refusing to listen to common sense on HS2, the only option we have is to punish them at the ballot box.
“That is what democracy is meant to be about, and after five years of the three main parties ignoring public opinion on HS2, it is all we have left. It will not be taken away from us by an unworkable law aimed at silencing ordinary people.”
This newspaper has contacted the Electoral Commission for a response.