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Rochester & Strood by-election: Have your say

October 14th, 2014 by

Rochester and Strood is top of the national headlines right now. The upcoming by-election, caused by the MP Mark Reckless switching to UKIP, has put the media into a frenzy.

So far it’s been all about the parties grabbing headlines and politicians jostling for position. It might feel like the circus has come to town. But what does it mean to people in Rochester and Strood?

Together, 38 Degrees members are putting ordinary people at the centre of the by-election. Today, 38 Degrees members in Rochester and Strood are taking part in a poll to decide they can do together.

TTIP day of action Bristol

Political parties go all-out during by-elections like this one. They’ll knock on every door, more than once. They’ll deliver a new leaflet everyday. It can become a confusing mess of point scoring.

Together, 38 Degrees members can demand answers on the issues we actually care about. Everything we do will show politicians our power – and push them to stand up for ordinary people in Rochester, Strood and the Hoo Peninsula.

There are lots of options on the table. We can sign-up thousands of our neighbours to vote – or set up an event to quiz the candidates. Whatever 38 Degrees members do, the important thing is that we decide together.

38 Degrees members have been a force in by-elections before. In Eastleigh last year, the whole town saw our billboards on how to register to vote. And it was standing room only at the 38 Degrees ‘quiz the candidates’ event.

This election is about people in Rochester and Strood electing their MP. Ordinary people’s voices shouldn’t be lost just because it’s big news elsewhere.

38 Degrees is independent of all political parties. But that doesn’t mean we just sit back and let the politicians get on with it. When there are important issues at stake, together we can be heard. So please help decide what we should do.

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TTIP Day of Action in Photos

October 13th, 2014 by

It’s finally happening. TTIP’s been on the news, the radio and in the papers. And, that’s thanks to the thousands of us who went out in force this weekend.

All across the country we’ve been on the streets raising the alarm over this dangerous trade deal. In less than two weeks, over 575 events were set up, from Aberconwy to Eastbourne, Dorset to Edinburgh. And hundreds of other events were organised across Europe too.


photo 1IMG_1757
Jennifer, Richmond:
“It gave me quite a buzz to be out there.”
Stuart, Wigan:
“Had a fabulous day, handed out all of my leaflets and half of someone else’s! Even the rain kept off. Big congratulations.”
Paul, Glasgow:
“It was a great day, good atmosphere and we made a great impact. We definitely spread awareness and added a good few names to the petition.”
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International Day of Action noTTIP 11.10.14
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Everywhere – from ITV to BBC, The Independent to the Gloucestershire Echo. TTIP’s being described as “secretive”, “controversial” and facing “strong public opposition”.Together we’ve dragged TTIP out of the shadows. And sent a very clear message to our MEPs. They will have seen the news coverage and heard from the people they represent for the first time.This is just the beginning. Over the coming weeks we’ll keep up the pressure on our MEPs, and on those backing TTIP in Westminster. But for today, thanks for everything you’ve done.It’s been amazing.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

TTIP Day of action tomorrow!

October 10th, 2014 by

Almost 8000 38 Degrees members across the country are meeting up this Saturday to deliver leaflets and talk to the public about TTIP – the dangerous EU-US trade deal.

The idea is to pile pressure on to MEPs who have the power to scupper this dodgy trade deal.

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 ttipaction@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. It’s up to you how you raise awareness and it will probably be a bit different everywhere – some groups are handing out flyers on the high street, some are putting flyers through their neighbours’ doors, others will be meeting up and talking to people in busy local areas.

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:

  • 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.

If you don’t want to hand your leaflets directly to people, you can deliver them through the letterboxes of the people living on your street.

1. I NEED LEAFLETS, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
You’ll receive 200 leaflets through the post if you’ve signed up. 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. They very by region,  as they target MEPs:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/pages/ttip_leaflets

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 acharity, 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: ttipaction@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.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

Recall: Rebuttals for MP responses

October 9th, 2014 by

If you recently emailed your MP about recall, you may have got a reply that was similar to one of the three below. If you did, the office team have put together a draft reply which you could edit if you’d like, and send back to them.

Replying to your MP’s questions is a really important way to show your MP how much you care about real recall.

Please send any questions, or responses you get from MPs, to
recall@38degrees.org.uk

Typical reply from Conservative Party 

Dear Constituent, 

Thank you for contacting me about the recall of MPs.

The Government recently published a Bill to create a transparent and robust recall mechanism, where constituents are able to recall their Member of Parliament if they are found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing. Under its provisions MPs will be held to account between elections, but at the same time will not be left vulnerable to attack by those who simply disagree with them.

 The creation of a recall mechanism was a clear commitment in the Coalition’s Programme for Government and something that all three of the main Party manifestos committed to in 2010.

Under the proposals, a recall petition would be opened where: 

  • an MP is convicted in the UK of an offence and receives a custodial sentence of 12 months or less (for more than 12 months an MP is automatically expelled); or

  • the House of Commons orders the suspension of an MP for at least 21 sitting days.

To be successful a recall petition will need to be signed by at least 10 per cent of the registered voters in the constituency, when the MP’s seat would become vacant and a by-election held.

The recall model proposed fits with our system of Parliamentary democracy. Constituents elect MPs to represent them for five years and they should be able to carry out their jobs without facing frequent recall campaigns by their political opponents – but, where an MP’s behaviour has fallen below the standards expected of them, this Bill ensures that they will be subject to a recall petition.

I believe the Government’s proposed recall mechanism is the best approach so will not be supporting the draft law published by 38 Degrees. 

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Suggested Rebuttal

Dear

Thank you for your recent reply regarding the real recall amendments 38 Degrees is calling for to the government’s recall bill. I was however, quite concerned about a number of the points you made.

You say the government’s bill would give voters the power to hold MPs to account in between elections. Recall can only do this if it is voter driven, i.e. it empowers voters to decide themselves whether and why they want to attempt to recall their MP.

The proposed real recall amendments will ensure that the government’s recall bill does this. Currently the bill gives a committee of MPs the power to decide whether or not voters can attempt to recall their MP – and this will only happen if that MP has been found guilty of serious wrongdoing by that committee. Recall must empower voters, not committees.

You claim that by giving voters the right to decide if and whether to attempt to recall their MP the real recall amendments would make MPs vulnerable to attack by those who simply disagree with them leading to potentially frequent recall attempts by political opponents. This seems a strange claim to make given the series of checks and balances that the real recall amendments will create making it very difficult to recall an MP.

In the many democracies around the world that have recall (e.g. USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan) it is used extremely rarely and often strengthens the mandate of representatives. In the USA where recall has existed for over one hundred years it has only ever been used 40 times. I am surprised and concerned that your reply suggests you are not aware of this important evidence.

You also say voter driven recall would cause MPs to face frequent recalls that would prevent them from doing their jobs as representatives. The checks and balances in the real recall amendments ensure that frequent recalls would not happen.

Please support the real recall amendments to the government’s recall bill that will ensure recall empowers voters to decide whether and why to attempt to recall their MP. Thank you.

Typical Reply from the Liberal Democrat Party

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Recall of MPs Bill.

Liberal Democrats support the right of recall and I’m pleased the Coalition Government ensured that this year’s Queen’s Speech contained measures to get it into law. For too long, voters have not had any way to hold to account the small number of MPs who engage in serious wrongdoing.

At the moment, those MPs could stay in their seat until the general election. I think that is wrong.

The Recall of MPs Bill, which has now been published, proposes two triggers that would allow voters to open a petition and try to force a by-election. Once a petition is triggered, if 10% or more of registered voters in a constituency added their names to the petition, then there would be a by-election.

The first of these triggers would be if an MP is convicted of an offence and receives a custodial sentence of up to 12 months. MPs are already automatically expelled if they are given a jail sentence of more than 12 months.

The second trigger would be if the Parliamentary Standards Committee – a group of MPs from various parties as well as lay members from outside Parliament too – recommends (and the House of Commons accepts) the suspension of an MP from the House of Commons for at least 21 days.

Some people have called for a system of real recall, but it’s important to highlight the problems ‘real recall’ would create. MPs could face persistent recall challenges by those in their constituency who simply disagree with them. It could also lead to MPs with unpopular views (rather than who had committed serious wrongdoing) being removed from their seats by a campaign backed by wealthy individuals or campaign groups. Possible issues where this might have occurred recently were on votes on Equal Marriage and intervention in Syria, with very strong opinions being held on both sides.

The cost of real recall should not be underestimated either. Just one real recall petition per constituency per Parliament could cost the taxpayer £100m.

I think MPs should be able to speak freely and express their opinions without fear of being thrown out of their jobs before a General Election. Even where I strongly disagree with the views of MPs from other parties, I think it is really important to protect their ability to make up their own minds on how they vote.

This Bill will give you and every other voter out there the ability to do something you’ve never been able to do before – hold MPs guilty of serious wrongdoing to account.

Thank you again for contacting on this important issue. I hope this letter has assured you of the importance I place on this matter.

 With best wishes,

 Yours sincerely,

Suggested Rebuttal 

Dear

Thank you for your recent reply regarding the real recall amendments 38 Degrees is calling for to the government’s recall bill. I was however, quite concerned about a number of the points you made.

You say that you support recall only if MPs are found guilty of serious wrongdoing. Recall needs to be voter driven, to empower voters to decide themselves whether and why they want to attempt to recall their MP. This is how it works in the many democracies that have it already (e.g. USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan). I am surprised and concerned that your reply suggests you are not aware of these important facts.

You say MPs could face consistent recall challenges, yet recall is used extremely rarely and often strengthens the mandate of representatives in the democracies that have it. In the USA where it has existed for over one hundred years it has only ever been used 40 times. Again I am surprised and concerned that you seem unaware of these important facts.

You say MPs with unpopular views could be removed from their seats by a campaign backed by wealthy individuals or campaign groups. However, someone like Rupert Murdoch would have nothing to gain by spending their resources – in Murdoch’s case column space in his national newspapers – over many weeks, even months, in order to attempt to influence a local constituency recall attempt. The attempt may be unsuccessful, with the public, customers, financial backers or advertisers of Mr Murdoch’s publications objecting or being angered.

Furthermore, despite over 100 years of recall being used across the USA, ‘big money’ does not influence or misuse the process there. In fact recall was introduced in the USA as a remedy to stop the bad influence that big business and corrupt finance had over their democracy in the late 19th century.

Finally, with regards to the unexplained figure of £100 million, this is based on the outlandish assumption that every single one of the 650 constituencies in the UK would seek to recall their MP at once. This would mean over 10 million people signing respective recall petitions across the UK. The biggest UK petition ever raised was on Post Office closures in 2006 which collected 4 million signatures. I think it is highly irresponsible to quote a figure like this without an explanation especially given that this figure is based on such an outlandish assumption.

Please support the real recall amendments to the government’s recall bill that will ensure recall empowers voters to decide whether and why to attempt to recall their MP.

Thank you.

Typical Reply from the Labour Party

Thank you for writing to me recently concerning the right of constituents to recall their Member of Parliament.

I support the principle of a right to recall where an MP has been involved in serious misconduct as I believe this would provide greater accountability and it would further empower constituents. The right of recall could also increase public engagement in politics and help to restore public trust.

The previous Labour Government had plans to introduce a right of recall and there was broad cross-party support for this at the last General Election. The Government has now brought forward a Bill. Whilst late in the day, it is to be welcomed.

We will scrutinise the Government’s Bill in great detail, but I am not in favour of a system of recall that simply enhances the House of Commons’ internal disciplinary procedures. There is a real risk that such a system will be seen as the political establishment closing ranks and could lose the confidence of the public.

In addition, any system of recall has to be designed in such a way that will avoid powerful vested interests from taking action against MPs, where no wrongdoing has happened, but they simply dislike the way a politician has voted on controversial issues.

I will therefore be judging the Government’s Bill on the basis of these two conditions.

I am aware that there is an alternative Bill which has been published by Zac Goldsmith MP and others, and am similarly looking at the details of these proposals.

Recall could play an important role in giving people a bigger say if we get the detail right. That is why I will be closely studying the Government’s Bill.

Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.

Yours sincerely,

Suggested Rebuttal

Dear

Thank you for your recent reply regarding the real recall amendments 38 Degrees is calling for to the government’s recall bill.

I am glad that you are not in favour of the bill that currently will only serve to empower an MP committee and not voters.

However, I am concerned that you say that giving voters the right to recall their MP only if that MP has been found guilty of serious misconduct could provide greater accountability and further empower constituents, increase public engagement and restore public trust.

Only voter driven recall will restore public trust and empower constituents. If recall is not voter driven, i.e. if it does not empower voters to decide themselves whether and why they want to attempt to recall their MP, then it risks causing disillusionment and further disengagement. This is how it works in the many democracies that have it already (e.g. USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan). I am surprised and concerned that your reply suggests you are not aware of this important facts.

You say that recall should not mean that powerful vested interests can take action against MPs. However, someone like Rupert Murdoch would have nothing to gain by spending their resources – in Murdoch’s case column space in his national newspapers – over many weeks, even months, in order to attempt to influence a local constituency recall attempt. The attempt may be unsuccessful, with the public, customers, financial backers or advertisers of Mr Murdoch’s publications being angered.

Furthermore, despite over 100 years of recall being used across the USA, ‘big money’ does not influence or misuse the process there. In fact recall was introduced in the USA as a remedy to stop the bad influence that big business and corrupt finance had over their democracy in the late 19th century. I am surprised and concerned that your reply suggests you are not aware of these important facts.

Please support the real recall amendments to the government’s recall bill that will ensure recall empowers voters to decide whether and why to attempt to recall their MP.

Thank you.

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Recall: Meet your MP

October 9th, 2014 by

It’s crunch time. In a few weeks MPs will vote on whether to support real recall: giving voters the power to sack bad MPs in between elections.

From the expenses scandal to cash for questions – we’ve seen ‘bad apple’ MPs who shouldn’t get to keep their job. But the government’s version of recall (unsurprisingly) wants to keeps the power to sack MPs within the Westminster club, and out of voters hands.

But there’s a real chance we could transform the recall bill to put voters in charge. First we need to persuade enough MPs to vote for crucial changes to the government’s plans. The vote’s in a couple of weeks so we have to move quickly.

Let’s start by arranging meetings with as many of our MPs as possible. MPs from all parties have already come out in support. Click here to set up a meeting with your MP.

It’s really easy to set up the meeting. When you click the link there are instructions on the webpage. And as soon as you have a meeting confirmed, the 38 Degrees staff team can invite other 38 Degrees members who live near you to come along. There are top tips and guides to help you respond to any questions MPs might have here.

But the key message you’ll need to get across, which MPs will find difficult to argue with face-to-face, is that they should trust their voters to make good decisions.

It’s within our grasp. MPs can, and will, vote for our changes. But they’ll need to hear from their voters to be convinced They need to know that this’ll be a vote-winner.

Can you set up a meeting now?

 

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TTIP: WHY POLITICIANS ARE WRONG

October 9th, 2014 by

Last month, Vince Cable- Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills- wrote to MPs trying to convince them that TTIP isn’t a threat. The arguments he uses are very similar to those that politicians in support of TTIP are coming out with. Thankfully, expert John Hilary- executive director of War on Want- a group that campaign for human rights and against the root causes of global poverty, inequality and injustice- has written a fantastic comeback. It spells out why politicians are wrong about TTIP and can be used when talking to MEPs and MPs.

Below is Vince Cable’s letter:


John Hilary, from War on Want:

1. NO ECONOMIC BENEFITS

Vince Cable claims that “plausible economic studies suggest that a successful agreement between the EU and the US could bring economic benefits of up to £10 billion annually to the UK.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. His own government has already admitted to us in private meetings that these claims are anything but plausible, and that no one takes them seriously. For more detail on the true economic impact of TTIP, and the widespread rejection of the government figures, read our mythbuster for MPs here.

2. ONE MILLION LOST JOBS

To suggest that TTIP will bring more jobs is a perversion of the official impact assessments. According to the main report commissioned at the start of the negotiations, TTIP will lead to the direct loss of at least one million jobs in the EU and USA combined. If the negotiations conclude with the ‘ambitious’ deal that they hope for, then at least two million people will lose their jobs.

3. SMALL BUSINESSES AT RISK

It is also untrue to suggest that small firms will benefit more from TTIP. The consequence of almost all free trade agreements has been the further concentration of markets in favour of monopoly capital, not smaller enterprises. For this reason, the association of German small businesses, the BVMV, has rejected entirely the new powers that TTIP would give to big business.

4. DEREGULATION

It is entirely disingenuous for Cable to suggest that TTIP aims to maintain high environmental and labour standards. The entire point of TTIP is to remove the regulations that corporations have identified as ‘barriers’ to their operation, including through the ‘mutual recognition’ process that he accepts will continue. For more detail on this, read War on Want’s longer study on the threat of TTIP.

5. NHS UNDER ATTACK

Cable is conscious that many people are concerned about the threat of TTIP to the NHS – and rightly so. His claim that the NHS is safe from privatisation under TTIP rings particularly hollow, seeing that his government is responsible for having already opened up the public service to private providers through the Health & Social Care Act 2012. Ken Clarke MP, who was previously responsible for promoting TTIP to the British public, admitted openly that the NHS is vulnerable under TTIP, and the European Commission has also confirmed that health services are included in the TTIP negotiations.

6. NEW POWERS TO CAPITAL

Cable also tries to downplay fears over the new rights that TTIP will grant US corporations to sue the UK and other European states before secret courts. Yet the government’s own impact assessment, commissioned from the London School of Economics, has stated clearly that we will face an onslaught of these claims from US corporations if we sign up to TTIP, with no extra investment as a result. The European Commission was forced to hold a public consultation on these controversial new powers earlier in the year, and they received a record 150,000 responses telling them to reject them outright.

7. LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

Finally, Cable suggests that it is unfair to accuse the government of a lack of transparency over the EU-US negotiations. Yet even his own government officials have complained to us that they are being kept in the dark by the European Commission! All the key documents relating to the TTIP negotiations have been marked with a 30-year ban on public access, and our own elected MPs have no access to anything but the ‘position papers’ (propaganda) of the EU. In trade negotiations, there is no substitute for the detailed negotiating documents themselves, and these are completely hidden from all of us except through leaks.

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Hertfordshire buses petition hand-in

October 9th, 2014 by

Yesterday campaigners from across Hertfordshire came together to hand-in over 3,800 petition signatures to stop cuts to local bus services.

Terry, a 38 Degrees member, has been campaigning to stop the council’s proposals to cut bus services on evenings and weekends. Earlier this week a ‘protest van’ even took to the streets to spread the word about the planned cuts.

And yesterday, on the last day of the consultation, local campaigners handed the petition directly to the council member responsible.

The reaction to the consultation on the bus cuts has been huge, with over 5,000 responses. But the campaign doesn’t end here. Terry and the Save Our Buses campaigners will be keeping a close eye on the council in the run up to their decision in November.

Check out the photos from the day, and of the ‘protest’ van, below:

Photos: James Chisholm

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

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Gagging law: update

October 9th, 2014 by

The gagging law – that horrible law that we fought together to stop – is now in force. I wanted to give you an update about how we’re coping with it.

Even though 38 Degrees is independent of all political parties, we face restrictions on our campaigning between now and the election next May. Inside the office, staff now have to fill in forms and get things checked by lawyers before sending out a campaign email.

There’s no doubt about it, the gagging law is an attack on everyone’s right to campaign together. But I’m approaching the next few months with hope not fear.

38 Degrees members were crystal clear on how to respond to the gagging law. There was no way we wanted to stop campaigning about the issues we care about. Campaigns like protecting our NHS, cracking down on tax dodging or stopping TTIP must continue.

You may have noticed that 38 Degrees has been changing the way it does some things. The aim is to increase the impact of campaigns for a fairer, more democratic UK, without getting trapped by the new law. Here’s a little bit more detail:

  1. The gagging law restricts money spent by the office – not time spent locally by members. So we’re putting more power in 38 Degrees members’ hands. That means:

  • Helping 38 Degrees members get together face to face in their local communities. Sometimes this is for a drink or chat with like minded people. Sometimes this is to campaign on a local issue, or a national issue like the NHS.

    Local 38 Degrees groups are now springing up in towns like Bristol and Glasgow. Imagine what we can do together when there are hundreds more across the    country.

  • Helping 38 Degrees members start their own petitions and run their own campaigns. We’ve expanded the “Campaigns By You” area of the web site, and more 38 Degrees members are running brilliant campaigns like saving local libraries and hospitals.

  1. We are running more campaigns which won’t be caught by the gagging law – for example because they are targeting corporations, quangos, councillors or MEPs rather than Westminster politicians.

    Our campaign to get Matalan to pay the compensation to the Rana Plaza factory workers was an example of this. Targeting members of the European Parliament about TTIP is another.

  1. We are continuing to make every penny we spend go as far as possible. The tight spending restrictions for many tactics make it even more important that each campaign gives us the most bang for our buck.

So that’s the plan as it stands. I think it’s good news, because most of the things we are doing to cope with the gagging law will also make us better at winning campaigns.

These plans have been hugely helped by the 8,000 members of 38 Degrees who make a monthly donation. It’s just so much easier to make ambitious plans like expanding a 38 Degrees local groups if I know how much money is coming in.

If you don’t already donate, I wanted to ask if you were willing to consider chipping in a couple of pounds each week, I’d be hugely grateful – and I can promise you it will make a huge difference. You can set up a secure direct debit by clicking here. 

Thank you for being part of 38 Degrees. There’s no way we’ll let the gagging law stop us –  there are just too many important people-powered campaigns to run.

One final thing: a few 38 Degrees members have been asking, who is responsible if 38 Degrees gets ‘caught’ breaking the gagging law. That would be me, as Executive Director! There’s no risk to individual 38 Degrees members. The lawyers should keep us the right side of the law. But to be be honest, I’d happily defend our campaigns in court if it means we can keep people power powerful.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about all this. Please do comment below and join in on the conversation with other 38 Degrees members.

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What next for Scotland?

October 9th, 2014 by

Before the Referendum, politicians promised to devolve more powers to Scotland. Since the vote, a debate’s been raging about what these powers will be and when they’ll come into force.

But so far the debate has centred on politicians. The focus has been on what political leaders in Westminster want to give Scotland, as they play politics with the promises they made during the referendum.

The Smith Commission – set up after the referendum – is meant to deliver new powers to Scotland. Lord Smith says he wants to hear from the public, the Government and political parties. Politicians have been quick off the mark to make their demands and have already had a huge chunk of air time.

Now Smith is calling for ordinary people to email in their views. So let’s make sure that voice of the public is the loudest voice he hears! Together, we could make this the highest number of submissions a Scottish consultation has ever seen.

It will only take 2 minutes. Click here to email in your views now.

Devolution of powers to Scotland should be about what people in Scotland want. So let’s make sure the voices of ordinary people are heard loud and clear above the politicians. We’ve got until the end of October. Let’s make sure for each demand made by the Government, there’s a thousand more from the public.

You don’t need to be a political or legal expert, you just need to tell them what you think – even if that’s simply to keep the promise from the Referendum to give Scotland more power. There’s some tips to help you write your email on the web page.

Here’s a few links where you can read more about devolved powers in Scotland:

  • The Scottish Parliament: Devolved and reserved matters explained
  • The Smith Commission: Guidelines for submission
  • Common Weal: The Key Ideas
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    Riverford Hunting Campaign

    October 8th, 2014 by

    UPDATE: THIS PETITION IS NOW CLOSED

    For 48 hours, 38 Degrees member Ama ran a campaign on Campaigns by You calling on Riverford Organics and the Watson Family to stop all hunting on Riverford land.  After an amazing number of people signed her petition the campaign reached local and national news.

    She has now decided to end it, here’s a message from Ama:

    “In 48 hours 4,500 people, many of them Riverford customers, or potential Riverford customers, have made their point that Riverford need to STOP HUNTING NOW, on ALL their farms. The voice of Riverfords’ customers have been heard, let us see if the Watson family rise to the challenge, adopt more customer focused polices, respond to their public, become far more ethical, and refuse to take produce from any farm, including their own, where blood sports are practiced.

    After all, if their competitors can do this, why can’t they? The British public are against blood sports, and those who buy organic even more so, we won’t except anything less than cruelty free organic produce.”

    Here is the text of the petition:

    To: Guy Watson of Riverford Organics & The Watson Family

    Immediately stop any form of hunting on Riverford owned land and stop sponsoring the South Devon Hunt.

    Why is this important?

    Riverford Organic Farms Ltd prides itself publicly on its ethics and its high animal welfare standards – a major reason why consumers, across the UK, support it. But away from the public’s eyes, Riverford Farm has, in fact, been actively allowing fox hunting on its lands, and worse still, potentially the cruel atrocity that is cub-hunting.

    In the early hours of Wednesday the 1st October a fox hunt was spotted on Riverford Farm land, consisting of a large number of hounds of differing colours, which stayed on Riverford land for many hours, and are likely to be the South Devon Hunt. The fact they were hunting a full month before the official start of the fox hunting season suggests they were out ‘cubbing.’

    This particularly cruel and sadistic practice involves hunters going after newborn fox cubs, literally digging them out of their holes with spades, with the desperate vixen completely unable to protect her young. The cubs are then ripped apart and mutilated by a pack of hounds; the hunters using this horrible ‘opportunity’ with vulnerable animals to teach their younger hounds how to kill. Those dogs who don’t immediately show enthusiasm for mutilating their fellow beings are shot as “useless” to the hunt.

    Riverford Farm has, additionally, been actively sponsoring the cruel South Devon Hunt.

    Riverford Organics customers pay a premium for their vegetables and consumables because they are humane, conscious people who are trying in their own, personal way to live more ethically and sustainably. This betrayal by Riverford Farm abuses both animal and customer.

    In a democratic society the very notion of selectively policing the laws of the land is dangerous and unacceptable. Riverford is fully aware that it is engaging with an unethical and potentially illegal activity, (and that it has been doing so for many years, in secret.)

    This petition asks that customers demand answers, transparency – and change – from Riverford Farm, and refrain from supporting Riverford Organics further, while it remains connected to cruel and potentially illegal blood ‘sports.’ We do not wish to be complicit. And it is high time the whole of the Watson family lived up to its own ethical spin.

    For more information on the terrible realities of cub hunting, see: What is Cub Hunting? – League Against Cruel Sports see:
    http://www.league.org.uk/our-campaigns/hunting/what-is-cub-hunting


    Riverford Organics responded to the campaign in this facebook post.


    Is there an issue close to your heart? What would you like to see change in the UK? You can start your campaign here.

    Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts, Campaigns by You

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