Current electoral and charity law mean that while a pressure group can spend most years issuing press releases about whether politicians are doing a good or bad job of protecting children, or wildlife, or whatever, once an election is called they are bound by all sorts of rules, spending restrictions and red tape.
This is completely undemocratic – the one time it is most useful to be informed by indepenent commentators and analysts that, (say) Labour has better housing policies than the others, or the Liberal Democrats are the greenest of the main parties, or the Conservatives are most likely to cut red tape for small businesses, is when you actually get a chance to choose which one you are to be represented by.
Clearly it is important to prevent bodies who are very closely allied to one particular party to effectviely breach election spending limits, but this law has spread from groups in that position to those who are determinedly non-party political and independent, and who are rigorous in their analysis of each parties positions.
Why is this idea important?
If the Big Society means anything, it means holding politicians to account – and voluntary groups, chairties and NGOs play a huge role in this. Few people will read all three party manifestos. But many have trust in the views of certain pressure groups – and will want to hear what Friends of the Earth thinks of the environmental positions, or Amnesty think about their human rioghts proposals.
Currently the law makes it very difficult for these views to be properly aired.