The Freedom Bill must restore the right to campaign

A basic form of democratic engagement is being made illegal.
Jim Cranshaw
18 November 2010

Right to campaign curtailed from Felix Gonzales on Vimeo.

It is commonly accepted that a basic tenet of a democratic society is the ability of its citizens to hold those in power to account. Many people’s first engagement with doing so will be the simple act of collecting petitions in the street. 

Yet this basic form of democratic engagement is gradually being made illegal. As shopping streets are increasingly owned by private companies, landowners are using the laws of trespass to ban any activity on their property that does not make them a profit.

For example, from 2006 - 2008, People and Planet ran a campaign asking Topshop to guarantee that no forced child labour is used in the production of their garments, following a spate of reports showing that clothes made from cotton picked by child labour in Uzbekistan was being sold in the UK.   

Reasonably enough, small groups of students gathered outside Topshops to politely gather petitions from customers. When shops were situated on the high street, this passed without incident. When shops were part of shopping centre complexes, students were forced out, sometimes physically, by private security.  

Therefore, the recently released video (above) of a group of campaigners being ejected from Birmingham Bullring shopping centre after just 38 seconds of attempting to collect petitions was unsurprising, but no less shocking. So too are the stories circulating the internet of the library assistants outside their workplace being moved on by Westfield heavies, the Jubilee Debt Campaign activists requested to move a street stall 40 centimetres forward and countless others.    

Now, however, there is something that can be done about it. The government has announced a Freedom (Great Repeal) Bill in their legislative programme, which, amongst other things, promises to restore the right to campaign.  

People and Planet is supporting a petition, hosted by 38degrees for the inclusion in the Freedom Bill of a legal right to protest in areas which are freely open to the public but which are privately owned, such as the walkways of shopping centres.

Please do sign the petition and join the campaign for the right to campaign.

Jim Cranshaw is an activist with People and Planet.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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