A Conservative MP has said that the approach of the campaigning group 38 Degrees to influencing MPs’ views on the lobbying bill was "stupid" and counter-productive.
The group has been raising concerns with MPs about measures contained in the lobbying bill, which it says will prevent campaigning groups and organisations from speaking out in the run-up to elections.
But Sir Peter Bottomley, the MP for Worthing West, told a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Civil Society and Volunteering in Westminster yesterday that receiving "hundreds of emails" from campaigners disrupted the work of parliamentarians and ultimately irritated them.
"The 38 Degrees campaign is turning off many members of the house," he said. "It’s stupid".
Bottomley’s comments echoed those made at a previous APPG meeting in October, which specifically addressed charities and their campaigning role, when he accused the National Council for Voluntary Organisations of leading a "massive overreaction" to the lobbying bill
Bottomley said in October that when charities encouraged supporters to email him en masse, he would approach the charity’s chief executive to explain why this was not a good method of campaigning.
Responding to Bottomley’s comments today, Blanche Jones, campaigns director at 38 Degrees, said: "It's a shame that Sir Peter Bottomley sees his constituents’ campaigning as unproductive, or even stupid. Organisations like 38 Degrees exist because of the desire of millions of people to get involved in the political process. At a time when many politicians are criticising voter apathy and a lack of public interest in politics, we should celebrate the parts of our democracy that are alive and well.
"There are conversations to be had about how we can ensure that MPs’ offices are able to respond to the digital age and the engagement it is bringing. I look forward to 38 Degrees playing a role in this."