Anti-ScienceScienceSkepticism

Skeptics to Storm Parliament Tuesday!

It’s awesome to see skeptics organize and create real political change, and it’s continuing to happen here in the UK* in the fight to protect free speech (such as speech critical of quack treatments). At 2pm on Tuesday, 23 March, the Libel Reform coalition has organized a mass lobby at the House of Commons, and you should be there. I will!

It’s our best chance to put real, in-person pressure on the government before the election. The more people who show, the better able we’ll be to show MPs that libel reform has serious support.

You can just show up and be counted, but the best thing to do is to contact your MP directly and let them know they should meet you there. Here’s all the info from the Libel Reform Campaign . . . I hope to see you there!

1) Find out who your MP is, and their contact details, here: www.theyworkforyou.com

2) Email them or write to them.

Identify yourself as a constituent – give your postal address.

Tell your MP: I will be coming to the House of Commons on Tuesday 23rd March at 2 pm for a meeting on libel law reform in Committee Room 15. I would like to meet you at that meeting or afterwards in the Central Lobby between 3 pm and 4pm to find out where you and your party stand.

3) Turn up on the day

What will happen on the day?

Come to the Cromwell Green entrance to the Houses of Parliament. You will have to allow about 20 minutes to pass through security and to get to Committee Room 15 between 2 and 3pm. We will hear from high profile Champions of the campaign on why the political parties need to commit to reform libel laws which are unjust, against the public interest and an international menace and, we hope, from spokespeople for the parties on justice matters. Your MP may be there if you wrote to them. We can ask them en masse what they are doing to get a manifesto commitment for libel law reform or you can ask them personally.

Usually your MP will reply to your email agreeing to meet you in central lobby or apologising for not being around (you should ask to meet their researcher in that case).

Please let us know if you can come and if your MP agrees to meet you by emailing [email protected] This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . The House sits from 2 until 10 pm on Tuesday. If you can only come in the evening please let us know – if there is enough demand we will do something then as well.

The election in the UK is expected to be on Thursday 6th May so Parliament will rise very soon. This is our only chance for a mass lobby to change these archaic, restrictive laws.

*I keep using “UK” to refer to this issue and several people have complained that it is an English issue and Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have nothing to do with it. It’s my understanding that the coalition also needs all UK constituents to pressure their representatives, and that’s why I continue to use the more inclusive term.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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3 Comments

  1. From what I understand, here in Wales we have the same libel laws as in England. Scotland has its own civil law tradition on these matters, where they don’t make any distinction between libel and slander. I’ve no idea what happens in Northern Ireland – they probably refer to the Bible on the matter.

    Since there’s no single term for “England & Wales”, then “UK” is close enough. Just don’t tell the Scots, because it makes them cross ;-)

    At least you made the effort to understand the distinction. Most of your fellow USAians refer to us all as English.

  2. Disclaimer: My understanding of the Westminster system comes from working for the New Zealand government, but there should be sufficient similarities for this advice to hold.

    One thing I would suggest is that there is a limit to what you can do by lobbying MPs. At the end of the day backbench MPs are primarily there to do what they’re told.

    The strength of the party system means that power is concentrated into a few hands. The people you need to talk to are: The Prime Minister and the relevant portfolio Minister (probably the Home Secretary in this case, but I’m not sure). Since there’s a good change the UK’s about to have change of leadership, I’d also suggest talking to the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Home Secretary. You should go for the leader of the Lib Dems as well.

    These people will be harder to get the attention of, but this is an election year and if they can see there are a significant number of votes in it for them then they should give your arguments some careful attention.

    Good luck.

  3. I wonder if this will go entirely as planned because I have a feeling an awful lot of people are going to turn up, which in turns means a massive delay getting through security and the chance they will cap the number allowed into the room (I believe room 15 is fairly small but I may be wrong). But I don’t mind turning up and being turned away, so to speak, as long as they don’t cancel the whole thing due to weight of numbers or safety concerns or something.

    Let’s see what happens!

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