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Blogs by the 38 Degrees team, volunteers and members.

George Osborne joins Tax Dodgers protest in Beeston

March 22nd, 2015 by

210315_besston_tax_osborne

We organised a tax event today in Beeston (part of Broxtowe). The George Osborne mask made people smile, but also it was a bit intimidating. People like to see people, and smiles. People were pleased to see that 38 Degrees were in town. We made a lot of friends, the youngest one is shown below.
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I thought after all the noise that Osborne made about chasing up taxes and the rich that there would be less interest in calling for a stop to tax loopholes . Not so. Plenty of discussions.

We used the voter registration leaflets as well, indeed some of  us asked people first, “excuse me are you registered to vote”. We collected more than 100 signatures and told people about our next organising meeting at 7pm on the 31st at the White Lion.  (Click here to read about our inaugural meeting).

Here are some more photos:
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Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts, Tax dodging

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Swallownest against the Tax Dodgers

March 21st, 2015 by

Rother_tax_shoppers

Swallownest is a village near Rotherham in South Yorkshire. It is 4 miles south of Rotherham and 7 miles from Sheffield and forms part of the marginal Rother Valley constituency. The following extract from the Leeds Mercury details Swallownest as it was in August, 1900: “The first glimpse of Swallownest is all that could not be desired, and one is almost tempted to withhold criticism”.

The 38 Degrees experience is somewhat different: just look at the photo above. The woman on the left is Hilda who together with Mick Hall and Mick Firth leafleted and collected signatures for 2 hours.  They got 83 signatures which is brilliant and meant that  proportionally many more people stopped and talked than in central Sheffield, where similar activities were organised  on the same bitterly cold day (March 14).

Mick Firth was so angry about the Tax dodgers that at one of our Rother Valley organising meeting he volunteered to set up stall by himself. He was able to rope two of old friends in. “Unfortunately the other photo’s taken of us I somehow wiped off my camera.  I don’t know how it happened as I have never done that before!

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts, Tax dodging

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Why Stephen Williams MP is wrong: the evidence

March 20th, 2015 by

About the votes on forest privatisation that Stephen Williams supported:

On 2 February 2011, there was a fierce debate in the House of Commons over the government’s plans to sell-off England’s forests. The House of Commons was packed. 561 MPs took part in the votes, reflecting the high level of public interest in the issue.

Many MPs voted to oppose the forest sell-off. They included MPs from many different parties.  The motion was proposed by a Labour MP, but seven Lib Dem and three Conservative MPs also voted for it, as did the only Green MP and members of the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru. However, a majority of Lib Dem and Conservative MPs voted to support the government policy and the motion was defeated.

For all of us who were campaigning to protect England’s forests from this worrying sell-off plan, this vote mattered a lot and the defeat was a setback. We had put a lot of effort into persuading MPs to vote the right way – emails, phone calls, visits, even clubbing together to pay for newspaper adverts on the day of the vote.

Thankfully, the campaign to save the forests from this government policy did not give up. 38 Degrees members, amazing local campaign groups like HOOF in the Forest of Dean and Save Lake District forests in the Lake District, and a growing number of national environment and conservation charities kept up the pressure. A few weeks later we were successful – the government minister in charge of the sell-off stood up, admitted she had got it wrong, and announced a change of government policy.

What has all of this got to do with Stephen Williams? 

Well, this week one of his constituents noticed that a leaflet which he was distributing in Bristol claimed credit for “saving our forests from privatisation”. Yet back in 2011, he was voicing support for the policy. Letters sent by Stephen Williams to his constituents in January 2011 argued: “Please rest assured that the transfer of heritage forests such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean will have no affect on public access; walkers will still be able to enjoy them as they do at the moment…Nearly 70 per cent of England’s forests are already in private ownership and deliver a wide range of benefits”.

But on 2 February, he was one of 306 Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs who voted with the government. He helped defeat the motion opposing the sell-off, and then voted in favour of a government motion praising the plans for how the forests would be managed “once they are sold off”! 

Stephen Williams’ constituent questioned exactly how that counted as “saving our forests from privatisation”! So she launched a petition asking Stephen Williams to apologise for making this claim, which over 1,500 Bristolians have so far signed.

Stephen Williams has responded with fury to this petition. He claims that he “did NOT vote in favour of selling forestry.” He claims that challenging the accuracy of his leaflets makes 38 Degrees members “sock puppets for the Labour party”. And he claims credit for introducing pro-forest measures in 2015 as a government minister.

Let’s take these claims in turn:

Stephen Williams’ claim: “I did NOT vote in favour of selling forestry”.

38 Degrees response: Stephen Williams did vote in favour of selling forestry, twice, on 2 February 2011. He now argues that somehow this vote wasn’t important, but that’s a matter of opinion. The explanation above shows that many 38 Degrees members at the time did consider these votes to be crucial. That he voted, and how he voted, is a matter of fact.

Theyworkforyou.com is an independent MP monitoring service which collates information on every MP’s voting record. According to theyworkforyou.com, Stephen Williams “Voted very strongly for selling England’s state owned forests”.

Why do they say this? Because on all the occasions where Stephen Williams had an opportunity to vote, he voted in support of selling off the forests.

Stephen Williams seems now to be arguing that those votes in some way weren’t proper votes, or were irrelevant votes, because the debate was called by the Labour Party. But at the time, he must have thought the vote was a proper vote – otherwise why did he turn up at all?

The party whips certainly thought it was a proper vote – they put down a “three line whip”, which signifies that it was a vote of high importance.

If this was not a proper vote, how come 561 MPs took part? And why did seven of Stephen’s Lib Dem colleagues decided to stick their necks out and vote against the government?

Stephen Williams’ claim: “38 Degrees now beyond doubt exposed as sock puppets for Labour Party”

38 Degrees response: 38 Degrees is independent of all political parties. The only evidence Stephen Williams is offering for this claim is that we are criticising him. 

Stephen Williams claims that 38 Degrees is criticising him because we want to help the Labour Party. Actually, 38 Degrees members are criticising Stephen because he claimed credit for “saving our forests from privatisation”, when actually he voted in favour of this policy.

38 Degrees is independent of all political parties. When 38 Degrees members voted on what we wanted to do together during the general election, exposing candidates’ lies was voted a priority. The office team are encouraging members to upload any dodgy-looking leaflet to electionleaflets.org and to start campaigns challenging dishonest materials at you.38degrees.org.uk.

38 Degrees members don’t think Stephen Williams is the only politician to have told a lie. Or that his untruth is the most serious there’s ever been (take Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, for example). But the fact remains he’s been caught, and he’d be better off owning up rather than throwing unfounded insults at anyone who dares to call him out.

Stephen Williams’ claim: “As Minister for Communities, I have personally overseen measures in the Infrastructure Bill to protect trees and areas of woodland”

38 Degrees response: this may be true, but it’s an attempt at distraction. The claim for which Stephen Williams is being criticised is taking credit for “saving our forests from privatisation” – the measures he talks about here were not about privatisation.

In 2014 Stephen Williams got a promotion and became a government minister. It is worth noting that none of the Liberal Democrat or Conservative MPs who did vote against selling off the forests in 2011 have received such a promotion – rebelling against government policy, as Stephen chose not to, generally has consequences for your political career!

As a minister, Stephen Williams, had some responsibility for the Infrastructure Act. This law probably got most attention for measures on fracking which were widely criticised by environmental organisations.

Stephen highlights that this law also contains some measures that are good for trees. “Through tree preservation orders, local planning authorities now have wide powers to make tree preservation orders to protect trees of significant value to communities. These written orders, in general, make it an offence to prune, fell, damage or destroy the trees they cover without local planning authority consent.”

That may be true, but what’s it got to do with whether or not he helped with “saving our forests from privatisation” four years earlier? The measures he highlights have little to do with privatisation and were introduced four years after the controversial privatisation plan was blocked by a campaign which he did not support at the time.

In fact, as it made its way through Parliament, the Infrastructure Bill did contain some clauses about forest privatisation. These clauses could have made it easier for future governments to sell forest land off, and forest campaigners were concerned that they could have enabled a revival of the 2011 forests sell-off plan.

Thankfully, we came together to challenge these parts of the Infrastructure Bill and forced the government to remove them before the bill reached the House of Commons. This was thanks to the effort of a number of different organisations, many of whom had been involved in the 2010-11 campaign. This campaign received the support of members of House of Lords of a variety of parties, including some Lib Dems. Stephen Williams did not voice his support for this campaign.

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TTIP Day of Action in Scotland – FAQ

March 20th, 2015 by

38 Degrees members across Scotland are meeting up this Saturday 28 March to collect signatures and talk to the public about TTIP – the dangerous EU-US trade deal.

Already 12,000 of us have signed local petitions in every constituency in Scotland, telling our MP candidates to oppose TTIP. Let’s make these petitions even bigger – we’ll make sure every single candidate knows just how important it is that they listen to us and stand up to TTIP.

Below are some frequently asked questions 38 Degrees members have asked, if you can’t find the answer to your question, you can always email the office team on emailtheteam@38degrees.org.uk

1. THE LOGISTICS: ON THE DAY

What will happen on the day?

38 Degrees members are coming together to tell as many people as possible about this dangerous trade deal. We’re going to build up the local petitions, telling our Westminster candidates to stand up to TTIP.  Groups will have petition sheets and flyers to hand out.

There won’t be a member of the 38 Degrees staff team at your local event, but there should be other 38 Degrees members there. You can click here to see how many people are expected in your area.

If you don’t want to meet up with a local group, you could just post the leaflets through the letterboxes on your street and put your TTIP poster up somewhere people can see it!

What to take with you:

  • Petition sheets

  • Leaflets to hand out – volunteers will receive these before Saturday

  • A camera or smartphone if you have one to take pictures so you can share what’s happening on social media or emailing the 38 Degrees office team

  • Any posters or placards you’d like to make and take

Handing out your leaflets

Try to find a prominent place with lots of foot traffic where you’re leafleting. Gather together with other 38 Degrees members who have come along.

1. I NEED LEAFLETS, WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Everyone who sets up an event will receive 500 leaflets and some petition sheets to hand out to everyone on the day. If you think you’ll be able to hand out more and you’re able to print them off at home, please click this link for a copy of the flyers.

2. I’VE NOT DONE ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE – ANY TIPS?

Lots of people will have done this before and lots will be doing it for the first time. Use each other for support. Before the day you can chat to the other people in your area to ask their advice. Some people are meeting up before Saturday to talk through their plans.

Whatever your level of experience, there’s a few basic things to keep in mind. The first is to make sure you’re being respectful to everyone you meet and to keep yourself safe at all times.

The second is to have fun and be proud! Talking to people in your community and leafleting on an important issue you care about is fantastic. Whether you’re part of a big group with a market stall in a town, or walking your own street letterboxing in your village, you’re part of a much bigger movement to fix or scrap TTIP.

Some talking points to help start discussions:

Although it may seem daunting, having a conversation with others is one of the most effective ways to communicate your message. Remember, not everyone will agree with you (or even want to stop and talk at all) and that’s okay. Don’t be disheartened or take it personally, by being on the streets you’re already raising awareness about this secret trade deal.

Although a rehearsed speech might not be the best way to engage people in your community you might want to think of a few introductions to try and catch the attention of passers-by. Try a few different approaches with your group and share what happens!

The packet of materials contains a range of potential conversation starters, but simply asking someone “have you heard about TTIP?” might be enough to start a really good conversation.

How do I answer in-depth questions about TTIP?

You don’t have to be an expert! If someone has a question about TTIP and you’re not sure about the answer, you can point them to the web address on the bottom of the flyer. The site includes links to further reading about TTIP, and should give any interested members of the public the answers they need.

3. LEGAL INFO

Where should I give out my leaflets? Is it legal to give out leaflets?

There are a few different rules about giving out leaflets, but it’s definitely legal!

If you’re in a public place, you’re well within your rights to hand leaflets out to the public if it’s for a charity, or a political or religious group. So these leaflets will definitely be allowed. If anyone does ask you to move, put the ball back in their court and ask where you can hand them out instead.

If you’re meeting up somewhere that could be considered private property – like inside of a shopping centre – security or the centre’s managers could ask you to leave. If you are asked to leave somewhere by staff or security it’s best to do so and move to a public space to carry on handing out your leaflets.

4. IF YOU HAVE MORE QUESTIONS….

You can get in touch with the 38 Degrees office team.

Call: 0207 970 6023

Tweet: @38_degrees

Email: emailtheteam@38degrees.org.uk

I can’t attend (or unable/afraid to/ don’t want to sign up online etc) the day of action. How can I get involved?

You can still put a TTIP poster in your window or tell your friends and family about this secret deal. There will definitely be other opportunities to get involved – in the next few weeks people will be contacting MPs and MEPs to let them know our concerns about TTIP.

You could help make the day of action a big event by sharing it with your friends, family and colleagues! Why not share the event page on Twitter and Facebook.

If you don’t use social media why not email friends and family instead? Are there any local groups you know who might be interested?

If you’re a journalist and would like to speak to our media team, you can find our press office number on our media page.

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We like Jammy Dodgers, not Tax Dodgers

March 20th, 2015 by

sheffield_tax_jammydodgers

It took us only ten days in Sheffield to organise something against tax dodging by the rich. We were able to stand on the shoulders of  the 38Degrees online petition about closing the Mayfair tax loophole and turn this into a street activity. It was a great success, considering it was shockingly cold and none of us had gloves. Harder to organise than around the NHS but we still got nearly 200 hundred signatures.   It was great making  connections with the 15 of us doing the leafleting, who came from all over Sheffield .

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Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts, Pay your taxes George, Tax dodging

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Hands up for the NHS in Hove

March 20th, 2015 by

38 Degrees members met in The Sussex pub in Hove last night to talk politics beside the fire. From TTIP to the Health & Social Care Act of 2012, then onto Austerity there was plenty to get us fired up.

On Saturday we’ll be back on the high street, putting our hands up high for the NHS. Join us for action on George Street this Saturday (21st March) to add weight to our petition to protect the NHS. You can join the discussion here, or meet us by Boots on George Street at 12pm.

That same evening we’re going over to Kemptown to meet 38 Degrees members from the other side of town to watch hard-hitting documentary “The Sell Off” – all are welcome, it’s a free event. Click here for details and to RSVP.

Brighton Pavilion members want to talk about TTIP, and we’re all invited – join them 7.30pm Monday 23rd March at 68 Middle Street. They hope to plan a city-wide public event to raise awareness and start conversations about TTIP before the election. Come along if you can. For details and to RSVP, click here.

 

Hove meeting 19th March

 

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Stephen Williams MP: Apologise for misleading leaflets

March 19th, 2015 by

Exposed – the Lib Dems have posted leaflets through doors in Bristol West claiming they were the ones who saved our forests from privatisation. Even though parliamentary records show that Stephen Williams, your Lib Dem MP, voted “very strongly” for selling England’s forests.

Thousands of 38 Degrees members in Bristol West have signed a petition telling Stephen Williams to apologise and take personal responsibility for making sure no more misleading leaflets are delivered in Bristol West. They want to send a strong message to all the candidates – they won’t get away with giving us misleading information to win our votes.

38 Degrees members voted to draw attention to politicians who tell lies during their election campaigns. Whoever was responsible for writing this leaflet, it was Stephen Williams who agreed to the leaflet being delivered. Even though it implies something that isn’t true.

38 Degrees members campaigned hard to stop the government selling off our forests. Together, over 500,000 of us signed a huge petition and made saving our forests a national issue – and won!

The election race is particularly tight in Bristol West, so candidates are doing all they can to win votes. But it’s not OK for our politicians to resort to dirty tactics.

By signing the petition, 38 Degrees members are hoping to make sure that the election in Bristol West is based on honesty, not party political spin. You can also sign the petition asking Stephen Williams to apologise for these misleading leaflets now and help raise the bar.

Have you received any other leaflets from candidates through your door? There’s a website called ElectionLeaflet.org making a database of leaflets – so that everyone can see what they say. Can you start uploading any leaflets you get onto the site and help all of us hold politicians to account?

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South West Surrey met for a very fine curry

March 18th, 2015 by

38 Degrees members in South West Surrey talked politics over poppadoms at a buzzy meeting last night at the Bengal Lounge in Wrecclesham, Farnham.

Thanks to the Bengal Lounge, we left our mark. Pop in and sign the petition

Some of our number have spent their entire careers in the NHS, proud of the service it’s offered. Now they are watching it being dismantled in front of them – with little thought for patients or staff.

Temperatures rose as we talked about TTIP: a dodgy EU-US trade deal, cooked up by corporate lobbyists in Brussels, that could allow US corporations to carve up our health service. With people keen to spread the word, there was a strong commitment to action on Saturday 18th April.

38 Degree members talked politics over poppadoms

Social care was a big item on the agenda, with stories shared of personal experiences of treatment of loved ones.

Local MP Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, tweeted yesterday “We need to make sure that we can look after older people around the world with dignity and respect“, ironic that in his own constituency all the state run care homes have been recently condemned for closure.

Then at the end of the night, the superb staff signed themselves up and offered to keep petition sheets on the front desk. Let’s hope Jeremy Hunt has a read next time he’s in.

Staff back the campaign after the Curry in Surrey

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Cardiff North: Join in the Tax Dodging day of action!

March 18th, 2015 by

This Saturday, 38 Degrees members in Cardiff North are taking on tax dodgers. Together, we’re hitting the streets to talk to local people – and gather signatures for the massive petition calling on politicians to crack down on tax dodging. Will you join in?

38 Degrees members voted to make tax dodging a big issue this election – and next Saturday we can start to do just that. Every conversation we have will put more pressure on the politicians trying to be Cardiff North’s MP to stop companies and individuals who avoid paying their fair share.

Liz, John, Maryse and other 38 Degrees members are hosting the event on the day. They’ll have petition sheets and leaflets about the campaign. But the more of us that join in the bigger our impact will be. Can you come along next Saturday? Please RSVP by clicking the link to let others know you’re coming (you’ll be able to chat with them on the website too).

Where: Outside the Post Office, 53 Merthyr Road, Whitchurch, CF14 1XG
When: Saturday 21st March, 10am
RSVP here.

Most of us pay our tax, and play our part in society. Because we’re serious about protecting our vital public services, like lifesaving NHS care and teachers to nurture our children. At a time when people are relying on food-banks, some rich individuals are stashing away billions. Tax dodgers have had special treatment for too long.

Two weeks ago, over 10,000 38 Degrees members came out in towns and cities across England to speak up for NHS services. On one day, we gathered over 170,000 signatures for local petitions to protect NHS services – and got the most media coverage of any 38 Degrees action, ever!

So can you spare an hour or two next Saturday to join in? Everyone is welcome and it will be a great way to meet other 38 Degrees members who live near you. Together we can make sure that everyone in Cardiff North knows that tax dodging is a key issue – and push our MP candidates to do the right thing.

Please click here to let the others know if you’ll be joining in.

Here’s some information on tax dodging to help you out on the day:

1. A copy of the report about the Mayfair Loophole.

2. Tax dodging costs the UK £119 billion a year, the current UK deficit is £90 billion

3. The Mayfair Loophole costs the UK £700m a year: this could pay for 13,000 teachers or 20,000 nurses

Tax dodging is an example of us living in an unequal society – with one rule for the rich, and another for the rest of us. Many fewer people are prosecuted for tax avoidance than benefits fraud. If we cracked down on tax dodging, we could rethink austerity – cuts that impact on local services.

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Kingswood 38 Degrees members rally for Cossham Hospital

March 18th, 2015 by

On Wednesday 11th March, 38 Degrees members in Kingswood rallied together to raise pressure for a minor injuries unit at Cossham Hospital.

38 Degrees members joined the rally, organised by the Save Cossham Hospital group. Together, they called for a Minor Injuries Unit at Cossham Hospital. One that’s run by the NHS, and not a private company. Lots of people turned up and they aimed to make sure the local press, MP candidates and members of the public heard just how important protecting NHS services is – and got behind the campaign.

The Save Cossham Hospital group want to show politicians hoping to be the next Kingswood MP, that local people want an NHS that focuses on saving lives. Not making money for private companies.

The rally was an opportunity to make sure every politician in Kingswood knew that if they intend to run down or sell off the NHS, they’ve got a fight on their hands. It was also a great chance for 38 Degrees members in Kingswood to meet other people who live nearby and to fight to protect our NHS.

Bristol People's March for the NHS

Kingswood Cossham Hospital

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