On 19th November 2004, the Government passed the Hunting Act 2004, making it an offence to hunt mammals with dogs, except under certain circumstances.
The Minister of Agriculture of the time, Alun Michael, had said that any legislation should be soundly based on principle and evidence but the Hunting Act is neither principle nor evidence based. Even Lord Burns, who chaired the Government’s own inquiry into Hunting with Dogs, said that he struggled to see how the Hunting Act passed that test.
A majority of parliamentarians opposed the legislation and the Labour Government resorted to the highly unusual mechanism of the Parliament Act to force the legislation through against massive cross-party opposition in the Lords.
When challenged on the legislation and the way in which it had been passed, Alun Michael retorted that if we did not like what the Government had done, then we could vote them out of office.
He thought he was being facetious, but we thought: “Actually yes, thanks Alun, great idea! That is exactly what we will do…”
And so, Vote-OK was born.
What do we do?
We encourage ordinary people who disagree with the Hunting Ban to get actively involved in the political process. Instead of just sitting back and complaining, we show them how they can take real action to assist the election of MPs who will support repeal of the Hunting Act 2004.
Isn’t that interfering with Democracy?
No, it is exactly the opposite. We encourage people to get involved in the democratic process. Every political party agrees that not enough people do get involved in politics, so every party should welcome any initiative that increases the participation of people in elections.
The essence of democratic accountability is not that the people get to vote politicians into power – it is that they have the right to vote them out again if they do not like what they have done. If any politician or party tried to stop people from exercising their democratic freedom to campaign for someone else – that would be interfering with democracy!
Are you allowed to do this?
Yes. Vote-OK is registered as a “non-party Campaigner” with the Electoral Commission. Non-party campaigners are individuals or organisations that campaign in elections, but are not standing as political parties or candidates. In electoral law, these individuals or organisations are also sometimes called ‘third parties’. Our activities are regulated by the Electoral Commission and in accordance with the law.
But you are advising people to campaign in constituencies where they do not live. Isn’t that wrong?
No. Getting people who live in “safe seats” to go and help local party organisations in “target seats” is called “mutual aid” and is practised by every political party and also by other non-party campaigners, too, such as Trade Unions. It is a standard practice in the democratic process. If you see the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition visiting a constituency not his or her own during an election, that is also “mutual aid”.
But these people are only interested in a single issue – that’s not proper politics…?
If you talk to any political activist of any persuasion, you will usually find that it was one particular issue that pushed them through the “inertia barrier” from being politically inactive to being politically active. For us, it was the injustice inherent in the Hunting Act 2004; for others it will be a problem at their local school, or with the Health Service or taxation or pensions or whatever. But once they become involved, they find that they get more informed about, and more interested in, all of the other issues that make up an election campaign. Politics governs every aspect of our lives and very few people are only interested in one issue, no matter how fervently they may believe in it.
Telford is the marginal seat the SouthShropshire will be fighting to win. For information on how you can get involved please email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org