PRCA keep calm carry on

It is not just the PR industry which has been asking difficult questions about the impact of regulations for non-party campaigners during the 2015 General Election.

And unless any last ditch attempts to delay the introduction of the Lobbying Act are successful, there is less than a month to go until the law comes into force.

So, here are five tips to ensure charities and campaigners can stay on the right side of the new regulations.

1. Keep calm and keep campaigning

This initial guidance from the PRCA is still correct. And as the NCVO advise, the key now is to manage risk, not to turn a blind eye. Or be cowed by the complexity of the law.

2. Start campaigning now

Providing your campaign started prior to the 19th September and is part of the longer term objectives of an organisation, it will be difficult to argue the Act applies.

And new guidance the Commission gave the PRCA shows [full letter] that even if politicians then decide to support a campaign, the regulations will not apply.

3. Keep things apolitical and avoid emotive language

One of the basic principles of good campaigning during an election has always been to try to secure cross party support for your cause or issue. The Lobbying Act makes that even more important. If your cause is actively supported by politicians on all sides (and you avoid publicly shaming people who don’t support you), it is difficult to see how the Act could apply.

4. Understand the purpose and public test

This is at the heart of the Lobbying Act and is the test that you should apply to see if your activity is covered. If the purpose of your activity…

…can reasonably be regarded as intended to influence voters to vote for or against political parties or categories of candidates, including political parties or categories of candidates who support or do not support particular policies or issues.

It will be covered by the ‘Purpose’ test. In addition, additional types of tactics might also be covered by the ‘Public’ test if the activity is…

…also aimed at, [can be] seen or heard by, or involve the public.

However, it is worth noting that not all tactics are covered.

And, even if it does fall foul of the tests and is regulated, the amount of expenditure permitted (and the fact that volunteers are excluded) is such that many campaigners will not come close to the limits on spending imposed by the Act.

5. Keep records

If your campaign does meet the test and is regulated (or is found at a later date to be subject to the Act), you need to ensure that adequate records are kept of time and expenses spent on regulated work. You can use systems like 10,000 feet to do this easily.

And finally, do more reading…

Sign up to the Electoral Commission’s Updates for the latest on the Act and read this official document [pdf] for an overview of the Act. Third Sector‘s coverage of developments and debate around the Act is also useful.

This blog post does not constitute formal legal advice.