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38 Degrees in parliament!

March 21st, 2014 by

Yesterday, David Babbs gave evidence in parliament to the influential Political and Constitutional Reform Committee about the state of politics in the UK.  He wasn’t alone though. He was armed with over 100,000 survey responses from 38 Degrees members, explaining the broad range of views we hold about how our political system is broken, and what can be done to fix it.

The survey responses were pulled together into a report for the Committee to consider. To have a look at the report, click here.

If you’d like to watch the video of David giving evidence, click here.

Do you think David did a good job of representing what 38 Degrees members believe and stand for? Was there anything in particular you thought he got spot on? Or something important he didn’t mention? Post a comment below to discuss the report and David’s appearance with other 38 Degrees members across the country.


Posted in Broken politics, Gagging law, Recall Your MP

Cameron and climate change: full page ad in the Witney Gazette

March 20th, 2014 by

Remember the event in a local Witney bookshop, where constituents pressured their MP David Cameron to take tough decisions to tackle climate change?

Well – did you catch the ad in today’s Witney Gazette upping the pressure even further? Check it out below. Come on Mr Cameron – as the EU climate talks approach, lead the way on strong targets. No one liked the floods. We’ll like the climate even less in 50 years if you don’t act now.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

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Victory in Finchley

March 18th, 2014 by

More and more 38 Degrees members are setting up their own petitions on Campaigns by You. And more and more of those campaigns are winning! Last week, Alon Or-bach discovered what this felt like when Finchley council agreed to save his local pub, the Bohemia. Here’s the story of the campaign, in his words:

In August 2013, The Bohemia, a popular pub in North Finchley, was shut with no warning – just a piece of paper saying it was closed – days before a big event to celebrate its first birthday on our high street.

In its mere year of existence, The Bohemia attracted a massive following in the area, establishing itself as a real asset to our community, offering not just great drinks and food but also putting on great events and becoming a vibrant hub for groups to meet – from local campaigns through to the knitting club.

So when it was suddenly gone, we didn’t want to just accept it.

We launched a petition on  Campaigns by You, calling for The Bohemia to be registered as an Asset of Community Value, and began digging to find out why it had shut.

We quickly gathered hundreds of signatures, and made the front page of both our local papers!

And so, the #BringBackBohemia campaign was formed. We set out our aims: ensure that we retain the site as a local pub, and ideally one that serves the community like The Bohemia did in its year of existence.

With a lot of effort, we unpicked the tangled web of companies involved – the main leaseholder, their letting agents, the pub group they had let to that had gone into administration and the group that took on the lease who they had then kicked out.

As we were doing all this work, a group of squatters occupied the pub, but assured us they would not get in the way of our campaign to bring it back as a licensed pub. They ran it as a community centre, and showed some of the potential the site had.

Then came the great news – the council granted our application and The Bohemia was registered as an Asset of Community Value!

Encouraged, we decided to explore the possibility of establishing a co-operative to run the pub.

With the help of the Plunkett Foundation, we put together a survey, distributing it in the local area and running street stalls to get over 300 responses in a couple of weeks.

We learned a lot about what people wanted to see from the pub, and received great suggestions – like using the vast space in the back for a microbrewery – and many event ideas.

However, we realised that the work involved, especially raising funds without ownership of the building, would require a lot more time than we had.

Thankfully, we were tipped off that the London Brewing Company was interested in bidding for the site, and were excited to hear about their ideas to build on the community spirit that The Bohemia had developed.

For a while, the bidding process did not look promising, but last month (February 2014) they got in touch with the good news that they were in the final stages of securing the lease, and wanted to reach out to us once it was confirmed.

Our new publicans, Dan and Senan, have made clear their desire to get our input to help make The Bohemia even more ingrained in the community and said our campaign had shown them how much The Bohemia was valued as a space to meet as well as an attraction to our local area.

We are now using the valuable input we collected in our community survey, with great ideas on how to develop on what The Bohemia had to offer.

For the real ale drinkers, there’s already the exciting news that The London Brewing Company plan to have a mini-brewery on site!

Now that we have succeeded in our aim of bringing The Bohemia back, we are encouraging those who got involved to help make sure that it is a success – not only serving us good drinks but also by being a real asset for our community.

So keep in touch at BringBackBohemia@gmail.com, and do come along for a pint later this spring!

Alon Or-bach (on behalf of #BringBackBohemia)

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

Cameron, climate change and Witney

March 14th, 2014 by

Last night in the Oxfam Bookshop on Witney High St: more than a dozen 38 Degrees members, alongside Oxfam, Greenpeace and CAFOD supporters and a couple of local councillors, launched an open letter to their MP David Cameron asking him to start taking some tough action on climate change.

Since the recent catastrophic flooding in Oxfordshire and elsewhere in the country, David Cameron has started making the link between global climate change and local disasters – but in the words of Phil Ball, an Arctic 30 member and Witney constituent who spoke last night, joining those dots isn’t enough. He needs to act, too.

In less than two weeks Cameron will be at the EU climate summit, and in September at a global leaders’ summit – and he needs to make the choice now to go in hard and push for strong international climate change policy.

It can be hard sometimes in the fog that is international legislation on climate change to feel individual power and ownership over the process, but as Witney constituents proved last night: before David Cameron is a leader on the world stage, he is an MP for Witney, with responsibility for his constituents’ and their views.

38 Degrees members walked out of the bookshop with plans to book into his surgery, deliver the A0 print out of the open letter to his office, and to cut out any press on the event and send it to him. We’re coming, Mr Cameron.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

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NHS Hospital Closure clause: update

March 12th, 2014 by

Yesterday, MPs debated the hospital closure clause. Here’s a quick update:

Paul Burstow MP – the Lib Dem who tabled the amendment which 38 Degrees members got behind – decided to drop his amendment before it came to a vote. He said he was doing this because the government had promised changes which addressed his concerns.

At first glance it seems that the government did make some positive changes. The challenge is working out whether they go far enough. The office team has asked legal experts to look at them.

Firstly, the government pledged that people will be consulted before any changes are made to their local hospital. Secondly, the government agreed that local doctors who commission health services will have a say on any changes made in their area.

Paul Burstow MP has written an article explaining why he thinks 38 Degrees members should be pleased with what we’ve achieved, it’s pasted into the previous blog post.

 Jamie Reed MP, the Labour shadow minister who also signed Burstow’s amendment, thinks Burstow was wrong to withdraw it – he’s also going to write an article explaining why the government’s promises aren’t good enough.

So it’s a bit murky right now. It looks like we probably got some, but not all, of what we wanted. The question is how much – and how safe will that leave our local hospitals? 38 Degrees members will get the verdict from the legal experts as soon as it’s in.

Right now, though, there is one thing we can be certain of: the difference 38 Degrees members made to the debate. Our people-powered petition was referred to several times. Lots of MPs mentioned the many emails they’d received from constituents. And more than that, the amendment that Paul Burstow tabled was drafted by lawyers paid for by donations from 38 Degrees members.

The government probably wouldn’t have made any changes at all without 38 Degrees members, and the pressure we put on our MPs. 

It’s complicated stuff, but here’s a bit more detail about what the government said yesterday:

- they agreed that any plan to close a hospital has to have the agreement of all local doctors on clinical commissioning groups in any area affected.

- they confirmed that the procedure that allows the government to appoint a Trust Special Administrator (TSA) when NHS Trust gets into serious financial difficulty will only be used in extreme circumstances.

- they agreed that when these decisions are being made, the Trust Special Administrator will consult local communities, through Healthwatch, and consult with the local authority.

- they have appointed Paul Burstow MP to chair a committee of MPs and Lords to make sure that our concerns are properly addressed through guidance that explains how the law can be applied.

Please comment below with your thoughts.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

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Hospital Closure Clause: what do you think?

March 11th, 2014 by

Late this afternoon, MPs debated the Hospital Closure Clause. Since then, the office team has been trying to work out what to make of how it went. It’s quite complicated, and there’s still quite a lot of analysis to be done.

Here’s some questions 38 Degrees members will need to consider together over the next few days:

- how far has the government moved to meet our concerns?

- the government says the changes needed can be written into guidance which is prepared after the law is passed. Is this true, or do we need to amend the law further when it returns to the House of Lords?

- what other things could we be doing, together, to keep our local hospitals safe?

Please comment below with your thoughts.

Here’s what Paul Burstow MP thinks:

I want to thank 38 Degrees members in my constituency and across the country for raising concerns about the changes the Government was proposing to the way in which a hospital in serious financial or clinical trouble is handled in the NHS.  Trust special administration (TSA) as it is known was introduced by Labour in 2009.  It is a blunt process that should only ever be used in exceptional circumstances.

For me the starting point must be that decisions about the future of local health services are grounded in clinical evidence, supported by local clinicians and drawn up with the active involvement of local people. In the last few days with the support of emails from 38 Degree members to MPs and the 159,000 signatures we have got the Government to make some important concessions.  The amendment played a vital part in getting Ministers attention.

Today Ministers gave Parliament the assurance that everything possible will be done to help any potentially failing hospital to sort out their difficulties so that a TSA is only ever used in rare and extreme circumstances. Following my lobbying Ministers have amended the Bill to strengthen public and patient involvement by the inclusion of local Healthwatch.  In addition local councils are being added for the first time too.  In the Lewisham case the local Council played a vital role in standing up for local people.

Also as a result of today TSAs will have to consult with NHS Trusts and their staff and with commissioners (CCGs) of any affected NHS organisations.  And as a result of the amendment Ministers have conceded that equal weight must be given to views of each involved Trust, staff  and commissioners.  Finally Ministers confirmed in response to my amendment that any TSA plan must have the agreement of ALL relevant commissioners.

When it came to pushing the amendment to the vote I had to make a fine judgement.  Having secured important changes and commitments from the Government I took the view that pushing the amendment to a vote ran the risk of defeat and sacrificing what the Government had offered.

That is not the end of the matter.  A cross party committee of MPs and Peers will be set up to agree the guidance to TSAs.  I will be chairing that Committee and I am keen to engage with 38 Degree members as we draw up the rules to make sure the views of local clinicians and local people are heard.

And here’s a response from Jamie Reed MP, Shadow Health Minister:

I read Paul Burstow’s blog to 38 degrees members and to give him credit he was right about one thing – the amendment certainly got Ministers’ attention. So much so I had Tory MPs coming up to me last night saying that George Osborne was dragged in at the last minute to heed off any potential rebellion in the Commons.

Looking at the voting figures, the real tragedy is that if Paul had pushed our amendment to a vote, and brought with him the Lib-Dems, we could have won that vote last night. Instead only one Lib-Dem ended up voting for Paul Burstow’s amendment. And it wasn’t Paul Burstow.

The truth is no meaningful improvements to the hospital closure clause have been secured and it would be delusional to believe that they had.

But let’s have a look at the “important concessions” the Lib-Dems claim they won.

The first concession is a new job for Paul chairing a committee of MPs and Lords which will look at the guidance on how the legislation will be used in future. I’m not holding my breath.

The second concession is that Healthwatch will have a say in any decisions made. That’s the same Healthwatch who under the Health and Social Care Act is barred from criticising Government policy. And that’s the same Healthwatch who has just had its funding cut by £10m.

The final concession is that the Trust Special Administrator will now have to ‘consult’ with NHS staff affected by the changes, but crucially they will be under no obligation to take their advice, and, unbelievably, they will not be required to consult with local people.

I’m afraid Paul has sold out thousands of people who signed the 38 Degrees petition for some pretty meaningless public relations designed to let Jeremy Hunt get his way and save the face of the Lib-Dems.

We knew this was always likely to be the case.

The truth is that – from the widely hated Heath & Social Care Act onwards – the Lib-Dems have enabled the Conservative Party’s vandalism of the NHS. 38 Degrees members came under attack from Conservative MPs during yesterday’s debate – and not for the first time. Let’s not forget it was your donations that paid for the legal advice that drafted the amendment that Paul refused to push to a vote.

Instead it was left to Labour to ensure that the voices of the 159,000 petition signatories – and millions more in the country at large – were heard in Parliament.

Reading Paul’s justification for his actions, I was reminded of Ricky Gervais’ David Brent character breaking the news of redundancies to his staff after promising them there would be none: “The bad news is there will be redundancies. The good news is, I’ve been promoted…”

But it’s not all bad news. It turns out that the job offered to Paul in the chamber of the House of Commons in return for not moving the amendment is not remunerated. That’s bad luck – at least Judas was paid.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

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38 Degrees members in Witney tell David Cameron to act on climate change

March 11th, 2014 by

Over 300 38 Degrees members in Witney have signed an open letter to their MP, a certain Mr David Cameron, calling on him to take hard decisions and push for real policy changes on climate change.

Oxfordshire’s just had some of its worst flooding in decades. David Cameron’s gone as far as to connect it to global climate change… but we need strong policy action from him, too.

In two weeks’ time, Cameron will be at the EU climate summit in Brussels. Either he’ll push for the strong climate change policy we need – or he won’t.

Cameron might be Prime Minister, but he’s not immune to what his constituents think. Greenpeace, Oxfam and Stop Climate Chaos Coalition supporters in Witney are signing this open letter to Cameron asking him to show strong leadership at the EU summit – and now hundreds of 38 Degrees members have joined them.

Here’s the open letter they’re signing:

Dear Mr Cameron,

Over the past month West Oxfordshire has seen some of its worst flooding in over 50 years. Before 2007 such flooding was rare, yet this is the third time in five years that crops across the area have been destroyed, travel disrupted and property damage commonplace. As your constituents, we were pleased to hear our concerns being voiced when you pointed out the link between climate change and the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events – both in the UK and abroad.

However, we are keen to see that statements like these translate into policy decisions which might help avert the worst effects of climate change. We are writing to urge you to play a leading role in the coming weeks to ensure the EU takes on its fair share of the global effort to keep temperature rise well below 2 degrees, beyond which scientists have predicted catastrophic climate change.

We hope that you will demonstrate strong leadership at the EU climate summit by urging it to adopt far-reaching, legally binding targets to curb greenhouse gases and stimulate energy efficiency and renewable energy. The impact of the flooding on our economy and wellbeing, and the devastation caused by more extreme examples such as Typhoon Haiyan, demonstrates how necessary it is to be taking ambitious action to tackle climate change. Now is the time for action.

The EU summit at the end of March will set the stage for a global summit in September. Changing climate change policy is a long game – but the UK’s position in two weeks’ time really matters.

If Cameron goes in hard now and pushes for strong emissions targets, there’s a good chance that the opportunities on the table in September will be more ambitious. And if they’re ambitious, 2014 could be the year that we start turning the tide on climate change.

38 Degrees members are getting the ball rolling by signing up in their hundreds to the open letter. If you live in Witney and you’d like to sign up too, here’s a link where you can add your name: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/cameron-climate-change

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

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Roundup of what 38 Degrees members have done to scrap the Hospital Closure Clause

March 11th, 2014 by

MPs are set to vote on the crucial amendment which would scrap the Hospital Closure Clause and replace the clause with new wording at 6pm this evening.  The vote is on a knife’s edge and the media are reporting a growing rebellion from coalition MPs.

In the meantime, here’s a quick roundup of what 38 Degrees members have done to get us this far:

Nov 2013: 38 Degrees member, GP and chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, Louise Irvine, launches a petition on Campaigns By You calling on Jeremy Hunt to axe the Hospital Closure Clause. It gets over 100,000 signatures in a couple of days.

23rd Feb 2014: 38 Degrees members vote overwhelmingly to launch a massive campaign to stop the Hospital Closure Clause.

26th Feb 2014: The huge people powered petition to scrap the Hospital closure clause is launched, it gathers 100,000 signatures in less than 24 hours!

27th Feb 2014: Campaigners gather outside Downing Street to hand in Campaigns By You petition.

March 1st 2014: 38 Degrees members and local hospital campaigners meet their local Lib Dem MP and ex health minister, Paul Burstow. They leave him in no doubt that they want him to do everything in their power to scrap the hospital closure clause. To find out more about what happened in the meeting click here. 

March 3rd 2014: Award winning filmmakers worked at break-neck speed to pull together a hard-hitting video about the hospital closure clause. The video was paid for by donations from 38 Degrees members. Thousands of people shared it and watched it. The aim was to show just why Jeremy Hunt’s plans needed to be stopped.

Here’s the link to the video.

March 4th 2014: The lawyers who represented the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign drafted amendments to Clause 119, paid for by donations from 38 Degrees members, which Paul Burstow MP tables.

March 7th 2014: Tens of thousands of 38 Degrees members email their MPs asking them to support the Burstow amendment.

March 7th: Local hospital campaigners across the country got in touch with their MPs and local press about the hospital closure clause to ramp up the pressure locally. Special mention to REACH and Save the Alex campaign, who even made the Today programme.

March 10th 2014: Thousands of 38 Degrees members phone their MPs asking them to support the Paul Burstow amendments.

March 10th 2014: Our massive people powered petition is handed in to Paul Burstow MP, who presents it at the debate.

March 11th 2014:  Thousands of 38 Degrees members tweet their MPs asking them to support the Burstow papers.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

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Zero hours: public consultation

March 11th, 2014 by

Imagine if your boss called up and said you were only needed for, and being paid for, five hours work next week. And probably not at all for the following week. Would it be a problem making ends meet?

For nearly one million people on zero hours contracts this is a reality. The contracts offer no guarantee of work week to week, and put all the power in the hands of employers.

Last year, over 100,000 members of 38 Degrees helped convince the government to hold a public consultation into these types of contracts. We now have just two days to tell business minister, Vince Cable, exactly how these contracts should be improved.

Can you help stand up for fairer working practices and demand the government improves zero hours contracts? It only takes two minutes to email Vince Cable. Please click here:

Flexibility of working hours is great, if there is genuine flexibility for everyone. But often bosses use it as a discipline tool. Some people don’t even realise they are working on zero hours contracts as bosses don’t explain properly. Some employers tell workers they can’t work for anyone else, as they need to always be available even though they don’t guarantee work. That’s just wrong.

Last year lots of 38 Degrees members wrote in to talk about their personal experiences on zero hours contracts. From being forced to work late for free, to not getting any hours because they had taken a day off sick – most of the stories were pretty shocking.

The government’s public consultation is a positive first step. But the way it’s written is so complicated – and they’ve barely promoted it. Which is where 38 Degrees members can help. Together we can flood Vince Cable’s office with emails demanding he improves these contracts.

Click here to fill in the form. We’ve simplified it so it only takes two minutes:

It won’t be easy to sort out zero hours contracts, but for the sake of over one million people who have no job security, we’ve got to try and get it right.

PS: 38 Degrees member, Zahera, is taking her ex-employer, Sports Direct, to an employment tribunal because of the treatment she received on a zero hours contract. Over 10,000 members of 38 Degrees chipped in to fund Zahera’s case. Have you worked for Sports Direct or know someone who has? Would you be willing to talk about your experience? If yes, please get in touch: emailtheteam@38degrees.org.uk

PPS: If you want to fill in the government’s own consultation form, you can find it here

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

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NHS: tweet MPs about the Hospital Closure Clause

March 11th, 2014 by

NHS - Locked gates image

Urgent: Today MPs will vote on the hospital closure clause. They have a choice. They could vote the law through, making it dangerously easy for the government to close our local hospitals without any real consultation.

Or, they can scrap the hospital closure clause and make sure that local people and doctors are properly involved in any decisions about changes to hospitals. All they’d need to do is vote for changes to the law laid down by Paul Burstow MP, amendment NC16.

We only have hours left before MPs start voting. And the one thing MPs always have with them is their phone. Let’s keep the pressure up until the last minute via Twitter.

Can you tweet your MP now? It takes 30 seconds and you’ll find some suggested text. Click here.

Support for the amendment is snowballing. More and more MPs – including Conservative and Liberal Democrats – are signing up to the amendment. That’s down to everything 38 Degrees members have done together.

Over the last three weeks 38 Degrees members have built a 180,000-strong petition, sent over 80,000 emails to their MPs and placed hundreds of calls to MPs’ offices. There are signs that a rebellion against the government’s plans is growing, but the parliamentary maths is still tight.

Lots of MPs could still go either way – so let’s give them a nudge in the right direction. Every time they glance down at their phones, they need to see more of us asking them to vote for the amendment.

Amendment NC16 will see off a huge threat to our local hospitals. MPs need to vote for it today.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

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