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Stopping the nuclear dump in the Lake District – Peter’s story

February 7th, 2013 by

Last week, Cumbria County Council voted to abandon plans to investigate building a nuclear waste dump in the Lake District. More than 50,000 38 Degrees members signed a petition opposing the dump; there were demonstrations, articles in the press and TV reports – and suddenly, the rest of the country had its eyes fixed on Cumbria.  Thousands of us wrote to the council leaders urging them to listen to the public and scrap these crazy plans – and in the end, they heard us.

Lake District

It’s easy to forget amongst all that where this campaign started. A few months ago, Peter Maher, a 38 Degrees member who lives near the Lake District national park, set up a petition on the new ‘Campaigns by You’ part of the 38 Degrees site (you.38degrees.org.uk). In just a few weeks, he grew and grew the petition until it had tens thousands of signatures – and became a powerful symbol of opposition to the nuclear waste dump that couldn’t be ignored.

Below is Peter’s story of how he started his campaign and made it such a success. It’s full of great tips and advice for potential campaigners – and he shows just what you can achieve running your own campaign. Read Peter’s account below and click here if you’d like to find out more about starting your own campaign: you.38degrees.org.uk


What can you do!

That’s how I felt when I heard that the proposal for searching for a nuclear site in the Lake District meant an exploration of a site under the National Park.  For you the issue will be different, but that sense of outrage was important in providing the motivation.

I called a meeting in the community; not the first time we’ve done that, and now because of that it’s easier, since we’ve got e-mail addresses for many of the locals.  On the first occasion though, on an entirely different issue (our village pub had closed!) we went door to door dropping a leaflet asking people to come to a meeting to discuss it.

On the nuclear dump issue, 150 people turned up; our small village school hall was packed to the rafters. That was the first physical sign that many people were alarmed at what was being proposed.  Despite a publicity campaign by the Council about the nuclear dump proposals most people had consigned the literature delivered to every door to the dustbin because, “nobody  would put such a thing under a national park……..would they?”

When they learned about the potential they were angered and wanted to take action.  This was the first time I had heard about 38 Degrees (sorry 38 Degrees!) and one of the tasks that I took on at the meeting was to go to the internet and find information. What I found was the “Campaigns by You” part of the 38 Degrees site where anyone can start a campaign on an issue that was important to them.

It was really easy and within 5 minutes I had my own campaign site and a URL that I could give to others so that they could sign up too.

The starting point was my own contacts database.  I sent to everyone I knew a copy of the link http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/no-nuclear-dump-in-the-lake-district and asked them to sign too.

Then I went further afield; everyone who had attended our village meeting was asked for their e-mail addresses.  I sent them the link and asked them to sign too.

Here’s the first big mistake and the first important bit of learning;  it’s not enough if you just get other people to sign up.  You have to develop the “pass it on” message.  Sign up and then pass it on to others and get them to do the same.  Just think about the exponential growth if you do that.  Say that the first people you give it to pass it on and they in turn persuade two more and so on.  What happened is this.

Your signature + 2 + 4 +8+16 +32 +64 +129 +256 +512 + 1024 +2048 + 4096 +8192 + 16,384 + 32768  and so on; if this happens day after day in just over 2 weeks you’ve collected 65,535 signatures.

That was more or less what happened to us; things started slowly, but as soon as we learned the “and-pass-it-on” trick we increased rapidly until we were getting 2000 signatures a day.  Health Warning – clicking the 38 Degrees link to see how many votes you’ve got now is very addictive behaviour!

A 38 Degrees petition is not enough; you have to supplement that with writing, emailing, encouraging others to join, making films, joining protest walks, writing blogs, driving Facebook and Twitter campaigns,  writing letters to politicians and papers, setting up paper copies of your petition putting up posters.

My advice, for what it is worth, is that you don’t need a complex and structured campaign group to organise this; a “committee” in my experience is the death knell of initiative.  Just tell your supporters that they don’t have to ask permission to take action.  It does not matter if 30 separate people write to the same politician – in fact it helps, or if the local paper get 50 letters of complaint addressed to “letters to the editor”; tell them “don’t ask, just go for it!”

Of course there is a need and room for some coordination.  In our case a website was a useful point for dissemination of ideas and information www.noend.org.uk. This was put together by Roger, just a neighbour from the local community; Roger claims no great IT skills but sufficient to get this off the ground; that leads to the next learning point:

Never underestimate the skills within your community:  ask and encourage people to help, give them permission to do so (without asking permission) and just see what they can do; your community represents a huge resource.

Finally let me talk about 38 Degrees; they have been helpful and supportive all along.  The ability to use their software to e-mail supporters who have already signed up is a great bonus (beware you are only allowed to do this 3 times a week).  They can help you plan your campaign, write media releases, get radio, TV and newspapers interested in running your story.  The fuel of publicity should not be underestimated.

So are there things that you can learn from our experience? Yes, but you too have got things to teach others, so use your creativity and do what you think is right for you and your campaign area.

  • Set up your own 38 Degrees campaign site at you.38degrees.org.uk; they make it easy for you
  • Send the link to  everyone you know
  • Get all those likeminded people in your community to do the same
  • Develop the “pass it on” message
  • Use your 38 Degrees site to send positive  messages to encourage each new wave of signatories to develop the “pass-it-on” culture
  • A 38 Degrees petition is not enough – look at the ways you can do more to raise the profile of your campaign; we found Facebook and Twitter a very useful tool.
  • Encourage your supporters to take the initiative and to be self motivated
  • Never underestimate the skills within your community of supporters
  • Use the help and guidance available of the 38 Degrees site and email the staff team who will help in whatever way they can.

We achieved our goal of getting Cumbria County Council to vote against the Nuclear Repository in just 7 weeks; you could have the same sort of impact and 38 Degrees can help you get there.

Oh, just one final thing; “what happened to the pub?” We started a cooperative, sold shares to 225 villages (min £100) and took it on ourselves; we’ve been open since April 2011 and business is booming.  We’re now planning to build a village shop and visitors centre with a village hall space for our community.  Our philosophy?  “Can we do it?  YES WE CAN!”

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Thank you note from Danny Nightingale

January 7th, 2013 by

Happy New Year!

A couple of months ago, Sergeant Danny Nightingale was released after nearly 110,000 38 Degrees members signed a petition calling for his release. Between us, we also raised more than £40,000 to help Danny cover the legal costs of winning his freedom. 

Danny wanted to say thank you for the support and incredible generosity 38 Degrees members showed him – so he’s asked the office team to share this note with you:


Dear friends,

Words can’t properly express how much your help has meant to me over the last couple of months. We’ve never met before – but a few weeks ago thousands of you stood up and did everything you could to help me in my hour of need. You gave your time, your support and your money, and you’ve helped change my life. I can never say it enough – from myself, my wife Sally, and our little girls Alys and Mara: thank you.

I knew while I was in jail that there was some support “out there” but I had no idea just how many of you were standing behind me. So when I sat there in court and heard my lawyers telling everyone there was a 38 Degrees petition supporting me with over 109,000 signatures – well, it was just incredible.

Your petition was vital in showing that there was no public interest in keeping me behind bars – it played a crucial role in getting my appeal brought forward. Without your help, I wouldn’t have been at home to spend Christmas with my family.

A few days ago, I received the money you donated to help pay for my legal costs. Whether you gave £1 or £100, your generosity has been truly humbling. Winning my freedom came at a cost that placed a huge burden on me and my family – and the £40,000 you raised for us has lifted a massive weight of our shoulders.

To all of you, thank you so very much for everything you’ve done for me and my family.

Take care and Happy New Year

Danny Nightingale


The petition that helped get Danny freed was started by 38 Degrees member Pat Johnson on the new ‘Campaigns by You’ part of the 38 Degrees site. ‘Campaigns by You’ lets anyone set up and run their own campaigns on any issue they want – big or small, local or national. Click here to find out more or start a petition: http://you.38degrees.org.uk

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts


Save Legal Aid – Rose’s Story

January 4th, 2012 by

Legal aid is under threat. The government is planning to change the rules so legal aid cannot be used to help people challenge welfare benefit decisions when mistakes are made. Inaccurate benefit decisions can see people pushed into poverty. Expert advice allows them to challenge these decisions and make sure they are right.

Lord McNally is in charge of the government bill in the House of Lords. Email him urging the government to amend it to ensure thousands of people continue to benefit from expert legal advice.

People living with a disability will be among those who will suffer most from the government’s plans to cut legal aid. Rose Hartley would have been one of those people -after her disability benefit was wrongly cut by the government, she was only able to appeal against the decision thanks to the free legal aid advice she received. Here is Rose’s story:

Photograph by Ben Langdon

 “They took my money off me so it must be right”

Rose Hartley’s mobility, speech and memory were seriously impaired by a stroke which has also resulted in her needing a pacemaker and daily injections to thin her blood. Fortunately, despite accepting the decision that cut her benefit to just £18 a week, Rose showed her letter to one of the carers at the stroke clinic she attends. He urged her to seek legal aid advice and she was referred to the Islington Law Centre which is where Lorna Reid began supporting her.

Lorna explains that Rose had made the common mistake of not providing enough information in her medical assessment and so she had been judged capable of self-care. “For example, when asked whether she could use the bath Rose had said yes. What she hadn’t said was she needed her friend Wendy to run the bath, test the water, check for obstacles and then wait patiently for 40 minutes while she got herself into the bath.”

“Disability tests take a very simple view of things and are often presented as you can or can’t do things. Here we have the time and the experience to drill down into the answers people give to find out more. If someone answers ‘yes’ to ‘can you dress yourself?’ we will ask them how long it takes them.”

It became clear to Lorna during the time she spent with Rose that it was Rose’s confidence in her own ability to rehabilitate and her determination to remain independent that were her “undoing”. Rose agrees: “I can’t get dressed, I can’t use the cooker, I can’t clean or go shopping. I thought I could do all these things, but it doesn’t work like that. I want to do them, but I can’t. Maybe one day I will be able to.”

But by not providing the Department of Work and Pensions with the true facts of her situation Rose was missing out money that would have helped her live a more comfortable life. By spending time with Rose and Wendy and asking them the right questions Lorna was able to understand the true extent of Rose’s need and build a set of medical evidence that meant she was able to successfully appeal her benefit decision.

Rose says: “I didn’t think I was going to get my appeal, but I got it and it is only down to these people.”

It’s vital we protect access to free legal advice for people like Rose. Email Lord McNally now and tell the government to scrap their plans to cut legal aid.

Thanks to Scope for sharing Rose’s story.

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UK blocking a Robin Hood Tax

November 10th, 2011 by

Robin Hood Tax Demonstration

Photograph by Delphine Bedel/Oxfam France

At the G20 summit on Monday, a large group of countries including Germany, France, Brazil and South Africa stood up to support a Robin Hood tax on the banks. But on Tuesday, George Osborne announced that the UK plans to block progress. His message from the UK to the rest of the world was loud and clear: “that’s not going to happen.”

The Robin Hood Tax is a brilliant idea. With just a tiny levy on the banks’ financial transactions, we could generate billions to invest in sustainable development, reducing poverty and tackling climate change. More and more countries across the globe are agreeing that now is the time to bring in the tax. It would be a tragedy if UK banking lobbyists blocked progress.

We’ve got just a few weeks to change our government’s tune. On 9th December, David Cameron will attend a European summit. The Robin Hood Tax should be on the table. We need to make sure we put him under overwhelming pressure not to block progress.

Last year, more than half the Conservative Party’s donations came from bankers. David Cameron is already worried that people think his government is in bed with banking lobbyists. We know that he changes his mind when hundreds of MPs tell him that voters aren’t happy. If enough of us email our MPs about the UK blocking the Robin Hood Tax, Cameron could decide this isn’t worth the damage to his reputation.

So let’s prove that the public are watching whose side he takes. Along with lots of others including Oxfam, Save the Children and Friends of the Earth, we can show him he can’t afford to side with the bankers against the rest of us.

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