Back in 2020, we began to think about how Good Law Project might help individual campaigners, whose work with the law we value, establish organisations around them.
And we decided to set up a programme to help individual campaigners.
We would support them meet their costs of building a website, including third party costs of developing content, and give them access to the tech they would need to flourish in an age of digital campaigning. We also planned to give them subsidised access to Good Law Practice – the not-for-profit law firm we were then planning but had yet to establish.
We didn’t want to ‘hold their pen’ – control what they did or said – for lots of reasons. We don’t think we have any monopoly insight into what ‘right’ looks like. And they are separate entities, independent of Good Law Project. Our only expectation was that they would act respectfully towards us and others with whom we had similar relationships.
Good Law Project supported a few such campaigners – others will emerge in the coming months. But the programme as a whole we could never quite make work, mostly because it was hard to get the tech platform to function as we wanted. Of course, we don’t set out to fail but we also want to try lots of initiatives, some of which will work and some of which will not. This particular programme was more difficult to execute than we foresaw and, late last year, we decided to discontinue it. Other programmes have succeeded; Good Law Practice is up and running.
One of the campaigners we decided to support was Charlotte Proudman.
I’ve followed Charlotte Proudman’s career since 2015 when she courageously, in advance of the MeToo movement, called out sexual harassment on LinkedIn. She has continued to speak bravely about rape, domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour. Through her work as a barrister, she has advanced women’s and children’s rights in family law and has acted for women and girls involved in the sex trade. She speaks to some audiences we don’t. And importantly, her feminism is trans inclusive.
We would never have sought to circumscribe what she should talk about under the banner of her nascent organisation, ‘Right to Equality’. That would be inimical to the idea with which we started – that we would support campaigners whose work we rated start their organisations. Her Independent piece announcing its launch gives five key areas of focus which are: decriminalising abortion, criminalising public sexual harassment, ending period poverty, redefining rape to improve conviction rates, and protecting children from abusive parents.
Charlotte also wrote about her support of the Nordic model for regulating sex work.
We’d previously discussed in Good Law Project whether sex work was a space we would want to work in. We are not a political party that sees value in ‘stating a position’. For us, deciding whether to work in a space is fundamentally a question of whether and where to allocate our limited resources.
I understand something about how deprivation and exclusion are push factors to sex work. And how deprived and excluded the trans community (taken as a whole) is. If we wanted to work in that space, we would be guided, as we always are, by what the most vulnerable tell us they need. But it’s not a space we presently work in – or have any plans to.
I don’t think it really matters what my own views on sex work are; I tend to be a bit more radical than it is useful for an organisation that must hold a broad church to be. But I grew up in Aotearoa New Zealand where sex work is decriminalised and, as I perceive it, things seem to function fairly well. Obviously, I also respect Charlotte’s right to hold a different view.
The Right to Equality website was completed on the date of her Independent piece – November 2022 – and our meaningful financial support ended with its launch.
Our programme also anticipated that we would give each of our partners ongoing access to campaigning tech, meaning we would pay the additional hosting cost of their websites, around a hundred pounds a year. But we did not anticipate any other financial support – indeed our partners would pay us a small share of their revenue to defray part of our investment.
But as I’ve stated, for reasons that aren’t to do with Right to Equality, we have since paused the partnership programme. So we will pay for it to migrate its website to another host – and it will then pay its own hosting costs.
Like others advocating for underserved communities, it is possible that Right to Equality will want to use Good Law Practice to bring litigation and – depending on whether we share the goals of that litigation – we may well underwrite that work. To be clear, by ‘underwrite’, I mean that we will facilitate its use, as with other campaigners, at less than commercial rates.
Holding a broad church together is difficult – and important. Often it leaves some of your friends unhappy with the limits to what you feel you can be and say and do. But it also means you get to talk to those who are outside of the choir seats but still want to hear what you have to say. And that, for me at least, is what good advocacy looks like.
I remain very proud of the work we, at Good Law Project, have done with the trans community, and more will follow shortly.