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Rochester and Strood by election: Open primary choices

October 17th, 2014 by

Everyone in Rochester and Strood is allowed to vote to choose the Conservative candidate for the upcoming by-election. The deadline to vote is Wednesday.

We’ve got a few days left to find out where they stand on the issues that matter to us. A flood of emails from us now will pressure them to respond and help us decide if either is worth voting for. It could also push them to make promises we can hold them to later.

It is easy to send them both an email using the 38 Degrees website. Click here to ask them a question – and compare their responses.

The two Conservative candidates

What do you want to know the candidates’ views on? Local schools? The NHS? Tax dodging? The candidates are keen for your vote, so an email now could force them to say plainly what they think. Whoever wins might go on to be your MP. Their responses will give us something to hold them to after the election.

Hundreds of 38 Degrees members have been sharing their thoughts on what this by-election should really be about. The NHS, education, TTIP, and jobs are all top priorities for 38 Degrees members in Rochester and Strood. [3] Here’s our chance to press the Conservative candidates on these issues.

Ask your question, or pick one of the template questions, here.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

Campaign for the power to sack bad-apple MPs

October 17th, 2014 by

It’s on a knife edge. MPs are about to vote on a new law that would give people the power to sack bad MPs. We’ll lose unless we can persuade enough MPs to vote the right way.

Our political system just isn’t working. Too many of us have lost faith in our MPs – we’re sick of them taking us for granted. This new law would change that. Voters would be able to punish bad MPs – without having to wait years for a general election.

It’s the threat of voters being able to sack MPs that’ll really make them listen to us. This new law – it’s called recall – wouldn’t mean MPs being sacked every day. But it would put us back in charge when an MP is really letting us down.

Can you email your MP now and ask them to vote for recall?

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

ROCHESTER AND STROOD BY-ELECTION: MEMBERS MEET-UP

October 17th, 2014 by

The NHS, education, fracking, housing and privatisation. That’s just a some of the topics 38 Degrees members covered at a meet-up in Rochester last night.

They were coming together to plan how they wanted to get involved in the upcoming Rochester and Strood by-election. Ten 38 Degrees members chatted about the issues that affect the Medway area and why they’re not being talked about by the election candidates.

Using the preliminary results of a poll of hundreds of people in the area, we discussed local developments like Lodge Hill and the effect of cuts on the Medway Maritime Hospital. There was a lot of healthy debate and it’s clear that people feel that the current debate isn’t filling people with confidence of change – that’s why we want to get involved.

We’ll be meeting up again next week. If you want to join us or have any ideas for how 38 Degrees members in Rochester and Strood can get involved in the by-election email rochesterstrood@38degrees.org.uk with your ideas.

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Hepworth sculpture campaign victory

October 16th, 2014 by

We’re celebrating today after an announcement by RBS that they will return Barbara Hepworth’s multi-million pound sculpture to the public.

The sculpture was donated to Wolverhampton’s shopping complex in 1968 for public enjoyment. But it was removed last year when the centre was put up for sale by its owners, Delancey and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Richard, a 38 Degrees member, set up a petition on Campaigns by You for the sculpture to be returned. He presented nearly 3,000 signatures to the petition to RBS, Delancey and the Mander Centre earlier this month.

Here’s what petition starter Richard said about the announcement:
“This is a fantastic win. Whatever they may say now, we do know for sure that Delancey and RBS certainly considered seriously the option of selling off the sculpture at one point. The campaign to save it forced them to re-think, and this petition has been a powerful element in the campaign, giving voice to the views of thousands of ordinary folk, and giving a real mandate to the efforts of the councillors and MPs who talked to RBS on our behalf.

As our supporter Antony Gormley has said: “There is, in this monetarist time, an assumption that ‘common good’ can be trumped by the values of a liberalised economy; let us hope you can change that assumption here.”

Well, in a small way, we have, and we hope that this may give encouragement to other communities fighting to keep their own public art from being asset stripped.”

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Scotland devolution petition hand-in

October 16th, 2014 by

Today, our voices are echoing inside the House of Commons as politicians debate powers for Scotland.

Over 100,000 of us signed the petition calling for Westminster party leaders to keep their promises of new powers to Scotland. And yesterday 38 Degrees members travelled down to London to hand in the petition to 10 Downing Street.

38 Degrees members Aaron from Glasgow and Julie and Richard from Edinburgh.

Julie said: “What an experience, and not nearly as intimidating as I’d expected. I just wish we could have let the nice policeman from Edinburgh sign the petition in front of the big black door.”

Today, Westminster is debating the future of Scotland and our voices have been delivered straight into the debate. Gordon Brown has the petition with him – so the beautiful orange box hasn’t just gone straight to storage!

Before the Referendum, Westminster promised Scotland more powers on a clear timetable. But as soon as the vote was over, David Cameron suddenly said powers for Scotland should be linked to changes in the rest of the UK.

We’ll be watching the debate with our fingers crossed for some positive developments.

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Rochester and Strood by-election: Last night at the Conservative public meeting

October 16th, 2014 by

Last night 38 Degrees members went along to a public meeting in Rochester. Together, we questioned the Conservative election candidates on the issues we care about. It was part of the ‘open primary’ process – to meet the candidates. Next everyone in Rochester and Strood is getting a chance to vote on the Conservative candidate who stands in the election.

Regardless of which party 38 Degrees members are planning to vote for, it was a great opportunity to make sure the candidates know the issues we care about.

Rochester Conservative hustings

Together, we decided on questions to ask the candidates before hand. We’d written them down on post-it notes to give us confidence when we stood up in the room.

One 38 Degrees member asked a question about the treatment of disabled people. She asked what the candidates planned to do to make sure disabled people were respected in the community – after Lord Freud’s comments earlier that day.

Another member wanted to know where the candidates stood on Guantanamo bay. It all got a bit heated when the chairperson tried to stop him asking his question. When the candidates did respond, one said they hadn’t followed the issue closely, while the other said America had dealt with Guantanamo badly.

All in all it was a great evening – and the first meet-up of 38 Degrees members in Rochester. Everyone was really happy to meet each other and keen to plan next steps.

You can read about what the candidates said on the 38 Degrees Twitter – where the whole meeting was ‘live tweeted’.

What do you think 38 Degrees members should do next to get more involved in the ‘open primary’ vote for a Conservative candidate? Email rochesterstrood@38degrees.org.uk with you ideas.

The next meet-up of 38 Degrees members in Rochester and Strood is happening tonight! We’ll be meeting at the King’s Head pub on the High Street at 7pm. Everyone is welcome! It would be helpful if you could RSVP here if you’re planning on coming along, so the staff team has a rough idea of number.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

Briefing for MPs: Amendments to the Recall of MPs Bill

October 16th, 2014 by

Creating Real, Voter-Driven Recall

Our democracy is in crisis. People’s trust in politicians and the political process is at an all- time low. Over 75% of people feel they have little or no power between elections and over half of people feel they have no influence over what the government does.

A recent report by the Committee for Standards in Public Life showed that:
• 26% of people have confidence in MPs, a new low and a 20% drop since 2008,
• 26% of people believe most MPs are competent, a 10% drop since 2008, and
• 14% of people think MPs are in touch with public concerns.

Introducing the power of recall will help reverse this and re-engage people in democracy. We cannot afford to have things stay as they are.

But, as it stands, the Recall of MPs Bill will do nothing more than enhance the internal disciplinary procedures of the House of Commons. This runs the terrible risk of causing more cynicism, disillusionment and disengagement in our democracy, not less. When the next scandal happens, and voters realise that they don’t have the power to recall their MP, things will only get worse.

Real recall must empower voters, not Westminster. It must give constituents the right to decide whether and the reasons why to attempt to recall their MP.

This briefing explains how the amendments to the Recall of MPs Bill will create a voter-driven recall process. It has checks and balances that would ensure that it is used very rarely and not subject to abuse. The aim is not for MPs to face frequent recall challenges but to improve dialogue between constituents and MPs that would help re-engage voters and rebuild trust in democracy.

38 Degrees members and the public at large want this. These amendments came about following input from 30,000 people. 173,000 people have signed the petition calling for real recall, 38 Degrees members have been holding meetings with their MPs across the country and 79% of British people support the right to recall MPs.

These amendments are being put down by Zac Goldsmith MP and a cross-party group of over 35 MPs.

The Aim

These amendments aim to create a real recall process that would

enhance the democratic process by improving dialogue between constituents and MPs and not create environment where MPs face regular recalls,

be used very rarely – it would be very difficult, but not impossible, for a recall to occur,

be safe from abuse – strong checks and balances with high thresholds so that powerful interests, campaign groups, unions etc could not abuse it,

be voter driven – constituents decide whether to attempt to recall their MP and the reasons why,

only be successful when the behaviour of a ‘bad apple’ MP had created a huge outcry in their constituency, and

not be a mere enhancement of the disciplinary procedures of the House of Commons.

Global Lessons

Recall is growing quickly in democracies around the world. It exists in 30 countries across 5 continents including Canada, Germany, Poland, Japan, India, South Korea, Costa Rica, Taiwan, Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Ecuador.

The USA has had recall for over 100 years and Switzerland for even longer.

In the USA it is used very rarely – only 40 times in over one hundred years despite it being applicable to many thousands of representatives over that period.

Restricting recall renders it ineffective – in US states where recall is not voter driven it has only ever been used on one occasion in over a hundred years.

The Process and the Checks and Balances

These amendments set up the following steps – or hurdles – required for a recall. The thresholds that must be met at each step are checks and balances in the process. These thresholds are deliberately high and will ensure recall happens very rarely.

Step 1 – Notice of Intent
If a ‘notice of intent’ to recall an MP is signed by 5% of voters in a constituency within 28 days then a recall petition is made available. Signatures can be gathered electronically or in person.

Step 2 – Recall Petition
If a recall petition is signed by 20% of voters in a constituency within 8 weeks then a recall referendum will be held. The petition must be signed in person and there will be at least four places in the constituency where this can be done.

Step 3 – Recall Referendum
If the majority of constituents vote for their MP to be recalled at the referendum, a by-election will be held where a new MP will be chosen. The referendum has to happen no less than 21 days, and no more than 27 days, after the issue of notice has been given. A referendum cannot happen within the 6 months leading up to a general election.

Common concerns and how these amendments address them

Frequent recall challenges – “MPs could face persistent recall challenges. MPs should be able to carry out their jobs without facing frequent recall campaigns.”

These amendments establish strong checks and balances (see above) to ensure that recall occurs very rarely.

In the dozens of democracies around the world that have recall it is used extremely rarely. In the USA where recall has existed for over one hundred years it has only ever been used 40 times despite the thousands and thousands of politicians who have served there and could have been recalled over this period.

Abuse by big money, powerful interests, political opponents, campaign groups etc -
“MPs with unpopular views could be recalled by a campaign backed by wealthy individuals. It must not be open to abuse by powerful vested interests or political opponents.”

The checks and balances mean that only in the very rare event where there is very strong and broad local support amongst constituents would a recall attempt succeed. The petition thresholds of 5% and then of 20% and then the need to win a referendum would mean that a private group attempting to influence it would have to commit massive resources on just a single constituency for months, with no guarantee of success and high risks of popular and political consequences against them.

If a wealthy individual or private organisation did try to influence a recall – even of just one single MP – it would cost huge resources and have no guarantee of success. There would also be the risk of a backlash like that seen in the Winchester constituency in 1997: following Mark Oaten’s two vote majority win, a successful electoral petition triggered a by election where Mr Oaten then won by a 21,556 majority.

The evidence from the USA shows that despite recall being used there for over 100 years , ‘big money’ does not influence or misuse the process. 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. Every recall in the USA has been about a local issue, such as grave mismanagement of public finances.

MPs would be vulnerable to people who disagree with them – “MPs should be able to speak freely and express their opinions without fear of losing their seat before a General Election.”

The process these amendments establish sets up safety mechanisms with high thresholds (see above). This process has three hurdles that ensure that only when the behaviour of a ‘bad apple’ MP has created a huge outcry in their constituency would there be a chance that they could be recalled.

It would take several months for a successful recall to potentially happen, during which time there would be extensive dialogue and debate. The proposer/s of the recall would have to include a statement giving their reasons. Constituents would have ample opportunity to consider these reasons and decide whether to support the recall or not. Voters have the right to do this at election time so there is no good reason why we cannot trust them to do it in between elections too.

The difficulty presented by the three steps of the process and their high thresholds would mean a better culture of dialogue and discussion between MPs and their constituents. Improved constituency dialogue is the aim here: time and again, after interacting with their MP, people often come away with more understanding, acceptance and respect of their MP’s views.

Cost – “One real recall petition per constituency per Parliament could cost £100m.”

This is an unexplained figure put forward by the Liberal Democrats and makes the outlandish assumption that every single one of the 650 constituencies in the UK would seek to recall their MP at the same time. To meet the recall petition threshold alone this would mean over 10 million people signing local recall petitions across the UK – bear in mind that the biggest UK petition ever raised was on Post Office closures in 2006 which collected 4 million signatures.

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Rochester & Strood by-election: Conservative party hustings

October 15th, 2014 by

Tonight, there’s a big public meeting in Rochester. Some of the people who want to be the new MP will be answering questions. So 38 Degrees members are going along to take part.

The meeting is part of the “open primary” process to choose the new Conservative election candidate. But it’s not restricted to members of the Conservative Party. However you plan to vote, it’s a chance to put questions to candidates on the issues that matter to us.

A public meeting organised by a political party may isn’t how many of us normally spend an evening! But this meeting could mean a lot for the future of Rochester and Strood. The candidates will be desperate to impress – so it’s a great chance to push them on the issues that matter to 38 Degrees members.

Some 38 Degrees members will be meeting for a coffee beforehand to talk about what questions we most want to ask.

Here are the arrangements:
Where: The Rochester Coffee Company, 89 High Street
When: 6:45pm

Click here to RSVP.

The Conservative event itself starts from 7.30pm at the Corn Exchange.

Westmoreland & Lonsdale gagging law meeting

38 Degrees is independent of all political parties. That means we can try to influence them all on the issues that matter most to us. 38 Degrees members in Rochester and Strood have already been voting on which issues we’d like to push up the agenda. Here’s a flavour of what’s coming top so far:

The NHS       Privatisation of public services        Tax dodging

Jobs in Rochester and Strood       TTIP      Schools in Medway      

Climate change

Tomorrow’s a chance to ask the Conservative candidates where they stand on these kinds of issues.

Here’s what some 38 Degrees members in Rochester and Strood are already saying about the by-election:

“We need politicians who care about ordinary people more than lining their own pockets.”

“I will continue to try to get people to vote as I believe this is an important period in British politics. Until now the choices offered were limited but it seems there may be light at the end of the tunnel and we are long overdue for a change.”

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts

Email your MEP about TTIP

October 15th, 2014 by

It’s been shrouded in secrecy and locked behind closed doors. But this weekend we changed that. Thousands of us took to the streets to show how toxic TTIP - the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership - is. Together we made headline news.

Members of the European Parliament, our representatives in Europe, have the power to stop this deal. This weekend we proved to them just how unpopular this dodgy trade deal is. Now we need to up that pressure - in their inbox. Can you email your MEP and ask them to stop TTIP? Click here!

Together, we’re piling the pressure on MEPs. Their faces and phone numbers have been on thousands of leaflets handed out across the UK. Their phones are now ringing off the hook. Now let’s step it up a gear.

MEPs work for us and we vote them in. They won’t vote for TTIP if we make it politically poisonous.

Can you email your MEP and ask them to say how they’ll vote on TTIP? It’ll take two minutes.

Just a few weeks ago many MEPs hadn’t even heard about TTIP. But now it’s all they’re hearing about. On Saturday, thousands of 38 Degrees members joined with people all over Europe to stand against TTIP.

38 Degrees members were everywhere from Hackney to Halifax. In shopping centres and on street stalls. Together we showed MEPs how hated this deal is. Now let’s show them that we’re not going anywhere!

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Your medical records

October 14th, 2014 by

The government are planning to sneak through the plan that would allow private companies to buy our personal medical data. But together we could stop it.

The scheme’s called Care.data. 38 Degrees members helped block it a few months ago. But now NHS managers are trying again to push through the same, pro-privatisation plan. They’ve not addressed any of the concerns about privatisation. Instead they’re hoping to dodge public concern by doing a stealth roll-out, a few areas at a time.

To stop these plans again, a huge number of us would need to join together. So should we launch a campaign to stop our health data falling into private hands? Click here to vote:
Yes
No

But sadly the current plan offers this valuable data to corporations. That’s a breach of our privacy – private companies could see mental health treatments, if we had cancer, and any medications we’re on.  It’s also a dangerous boost to privatisation – giving corporations data which will help them take over more of the NHS.

Together we can fix their plans now, before it’s too late. And there are two key ways 38 Degrees members could have maximum impact:

  1. Sound the alarm nationally and use our power in numbers to stop these plans in their tracks. We can spread the story to let people know and focus our energy on stopping the scheme in the pilot areas.
  2. Block the rollout on the ground:
    • Enable people who live in the affected areas to opt out of the scheme (it was was this tactic that stopped their plans last time). There’s a website which makes this easy, and is ready to go.
    • Work with 38 Degrees members on the ground to let as many people as possible know about the threat of private companies and spread the news with leafleting, adverts & media attention.

So what do you think? Should we launch a campaign now? If enough 38 Degrees members say ‘YES’ we can launch a campaign straight away.
Yes
No

Allowing private companies, like Serco, to access our data is part of the drip, drip privatisation of our NHS that 38 Degrees members are so keen to stop. That’s why we’ve worked together to keep Care.data out of the hands of the corporations before – and why we could have a big impact together again.

 

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