Tag Archives: 38 Degrees

a vote of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn — sign the 38 Degrees petition

After Thursday’s vote for Brexit, it is now vitally important that the political left is able to find cohesion and to mobilise. Fortunately, the British Labour movement has an exceptional leader. Jeremy Corbyn is a politician of honour and integrity.

However, within 24 hours of Brexit, the knives were out for Corbyn once again when former members of Blair’s cabinet, Dame Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey, submitted a motion calling for a vote of no confidence in a letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party chairman, John Cryer.

But then, Corbyn was always the people’s choice, and still is…

Within just 12 hours, a 38 Degrees petition sending a vote of confidence has already reached more than 120,000 signatures.

I very much encourage others to sign the petition:

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/a-vote-of-confidence-in-jeremy-corbyn-after-brexit

There is a second petition of support released by the Labour campaign group Momentum that I also wish to endorse — the link is here:

http://labourunited.peoplesmomentum.com/

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Angela Smith, Stephen Kinnock, Ben Bradshaw, Siobhain McDonagh, Helen Goodman along with the reliably treacherous Chuka Umunna have since jumped on board the anti-Corbyn bandwagon. Peter Mandelson is also prowling in the wings.

On the other hand, a joint statement from 12 union leaders, including the general secretaries of Unite, Unison and GMB, is warning of “a manufactured leadership row” and correctly asserting that this is “the last thing Labour needs”:

The Prime Minister’s resignation has triggered a Tory leadership crisis. At the very time we need politicians to come together for the common good, the Tory party is plunging into a period of argument and infighting. In the absence of a government that puts the people first Labour must unite as a source of national stability and unity.

It should focus on speaking up for jobs and workers’ rights under threat, and on challenging any attempt to use the referendum result to introduce a more right-wing Tory government by the backdoor.

The last thing Labour needs is a manufactured leadership row of its own in the midst of this crisis and we call upon all Labour MPs not to engage in any such indulgence.

Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite the Union

Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON

Tim Roache, General Secretary, GMB

Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU

Brian Rye, Acting General Secretary, UCATT

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA

Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF

Matt Wrack, General Secretary, FBU

John Smith, General Secretary, Musicians’ Union

Gerry Morrissey, General Secretary, BECTU

Ronnie Draper, General Secretary, BFAWU

Chris Kitchen, General Secretary, NUM

Click here to read the statement at LabourList.org

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Asked if he will resign, Mr Corbyn, who campaigned on the losing Remain side, said: “No, I’m carrying on.

“I’m making the case for unity, I’m making the case of what Labour can offer to Britain, of decent housing for people, of good secure jobs for people, of trade with Europe and of course with other parts of the world.

“Because if we don’t get the trade issue right, we’ve got a real problem in this country,” he told Channel 4 News.

Click here to read more on BBC news.

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Update: London rally in support of Corbyn

On Monday [June 27th], Labour left group Momentum organised an impromptu rally in London in support of Jeremy Corbyn on the eve of a debate tabling a motion of no confidence in his leadership. Many thousands turned out in support, and hundreds more joined similar rallies in Newcastle and Manchester.

Speaking at the rally in London, alongside Corbyn were Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Dennis Skinner.  Corbyn called for a “politics of unity” to fight austerity and said, “We’re absolutely the spirit of hope—not the spirit of despair”.

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Additional: a letter to my own MP

In light of today’s [Tuesday 28th] vote of no confidence, I emailed the following message to Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central — I’m sure you can improve it or write something better, but in any case I would like to encourage as many readers as possible to get in touch with their own constituency MP to express their disappointment regarding the current and repeated undermining of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Here is the letter… (please feel free to reuse it in any form):

I am absolutely sickened and disgusted by the actions of the 170+ Labour MPs who appear determined to tear the party to pieces. And in common with the majority of trade union leaders, I too regard this “manufactured leadership row” and today’s deplorable vote of no confidence as an act of gross negligence. Jeremy Corbyn has the democratic support of the grassroots membership as well as union backing, and given that post-Brexit we now have an absentee government, it is more crucial than ever that the party shows solidarity and functions as an opposition. This is a time for party cohesion and stability, not for squabbling.

If the MPs are unable to support Corbyn at this time then I honestly believe they should act more honourably and step down altogether; resigning from the party and, should they choose an alternative political allegiance, fighting to recapture their old seat in a bielection.

Kind regards,

James Boswell

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Further update: a reply from Paul Blomfield

I have since received a prompt response [Wednesday 29th] in the form of what appears to be a standard letter as follows:

Thanks for writing to me regarding Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. It’s helpful to have people’s views, and they have been very mixed. I’ve received strongly made arguments for and against Jeremy’s leadership, so let me set out mine.

Last Thursday’s referendum was a momentous decision that will have huge consequences for our country and our continent. Responding to it, and acting to heal the divisions that have been created by the way the ‘leave’ campaign used the issue of immigration, must be our top priority. We must also vigorously expose them on the lies that they told – which are already unravelling – as I did today in challenging David Cameron at PMQs.

In this context, I deeply regret that Labour is facing a leadership crisis and am keen that we should resolve it quickly. Although I did not support Jeremy for the leadership last year, I have been consistently loyal to him and served in his front bench team until I lost my job as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn last Sunday, when he was sacked.

I have backed Jeremy publicly from the day of his election, and welcomed the opportunity his leadership provided to develop new policies to address the growing inequality in our country, together with the other challenges we face. I also welcomed his commitment to a new approach to policy-making within the Labour Party, although I regret that little has changed.

Many people who have written to me have criticised Jeremy’s approach to Labour’s campaign to remain in the EU and I do share those concerns. It isn’t the reason we will be leaving the EU; that responsibility lies with the Tories. But Jeremy and his team fell well short of providing the leadership that Labour and the people we represent needed for the biggest decision the country faced in a generation.

As well as campaigning relentlessly in Sheffield, I was a member of the national ‘Labour Remain’ campaign team, chaired by Alan Johnson. This was Labour’s official campaign, but Jeremy’s office failed to attend our fortnightly meetings and obstructed the campaign on many occasions. I was also angry when MPs were sent a post-referendum briefing from Jeremy, which asked us in press interviews to recognise the contribution of Gisela Stuart and Kate Hoey (who uncritically worked alongside Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage) as “prominent campaigners” on the EU.

But the concerns go beyond the referendum and they are not about Jeremy’s politics – indeed our policies are broadly unchanged from those on which we fought the last election under Ed Miliband. They are about his ability to lead the Party effectively and they come from across the Party, including from many of those who supported him – as you can see from this for example.

Jeremy is a decent man with strongly held values. I share many of his ambitions for the sort of country we want. However I cannot honestly say that I believe he is the best person to achieve those ambitions, and to lead the Labour Party into Government. Jeremy has opened up debate, but the Party was founded to win power for working people. That means convincing the country that our leader could be the next Prime Minister in an election that we may face very soon. I simply don’t believe that Jeremy could do this.  So when faced with yesterday’s vote of confidence, I could not support him continuing in the role. I think that we need a fresh leader who can unite the Party and the country for the difficult times ahead.

Thanks again for getting in touch.

Best wishes,

Paul

The trouble is that Paul Blomfield and the rest of these Labour rebels appear to be under the delusion that they own the party. So rather than working on behalf of the members and the unions who back the party, all of whom overwhelming support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, they have instead taken it upon themselves to disregard the democratic mandate and behave as a thoroughly undisciplined rabble. Here then is my own rather terse response to Blomfield’s automated reply:

Dear Paul,
 
Given the circumstances facing the country I regard your position as entirely reckless and incomprehensible. If the Conservatives, a broken party, are gifted the next election then it will be thanks to you.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
James Boswell
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stop the gagging law — campaign update

On August 30th, I received a message from the campaign group 38 Degrees about another major government assault on our civil liberties and right to protest. Click here to read more and watch a video about the proposed gagging law.

Since this time the legislation has passed through the House of Commons and reached The Lords. On January 10th, I received an update concerning progress of the bill and the continuing 38 Degrees campaign. The message read as follows:

Finally we’re getting somewhere. Yesterday the government announced plans to water down key parts of their gagging law. [1] It’s not enough, but it is progress. If we keep the pressure up now, there’s a real chance we can get further big changes.

Lords gather for one of their last debates to vote on the gagging law on Wednesday. Lord Harries – one of the key Lords trying to stop this threat to democracy – is tabling amendments which would help protect freedom of speech. [2] We need to help him win those votes.

A big petition will help Lord Harries win. He will carry it into the debating chamber – and announce the total signatures – right before the debate starts. Our signatures will prove to wavering peers that the public is against this threat to democracy.

The vote is on Wednesday [Jan 15th], so please sign now:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/gagging-law-vote

Yesterday’s breakthrough shows that it’s worth us keeping on campaigning. People-powered pressure, together with the actions in parliament of some sympathetic Lords, are forcing the government to back down bit by bit. [3]

The risk is that the government will use these partial changes to avoid making bigger improvements. But that’s a risk we can see off. If enough of us sign the petition we can prove to the Lords that we still expect them to vote to protect democracy.

Over 50 charities and campaigning groups, including Hope Not Hate, Friends of the Earth, The Countryside Alliance and Oxfam have already signed up in support of this petition. [4]

Please now help it grow further by adding your signature too:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/gagging-law-vote

PS: Here’s a bit more detail on the concessions made by the government yesterday. They announced that:

  • Certain campaign costs, including translation and accessibility for the deaf or blind people, won’t be restricted.
  • The time period which the gagging law would apply for the 2015 election will be reduced from 12 months to 7.5 months
  • Some really small campaign groups who don’t spend much money will be exempted.
  • The government will have to carry out a review of the law after the 2015 election.

But while these are important there are still some much bigger problems:

  • The amount of time that staff working for charities or campaigning groups will be allowed to spend campaigning will still be severely limited.
  • There are still big new restrictions on what campaigners can do in a single constituency.
  • The rules could prevent different charities and campaign groups from working together in coalition, threatening initiatives like Make Poverty History and Stop Climate Chaos.

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NOTES:

[1] BBC News – Lobbying Bill: Ministers offer concessions after criticism from charities http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25671064
The government amendments http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/2013-2014/0050/amend/ml050-R-I.htm
NCVO – Lobbying bill – significant steps forward http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2014/01/09/lobbying-bill-significant-steps-forward/
[2] NACVA Government makes Lobbying Bill concessions http://www.navca.org.uk/news/view-article/government-makes-lobbying-bill-concessions
[3] Most notably the efforts of cross-bencher Lord Harries and the Commission for Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, concerned Lib Dems such as Lord Tyler, and opposition parties including Labour.
[4] The Commission for Civil Society and Democratic Engagement – Petition http://civilsocietycommission.info/petition/

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Today [Jan 13th] I received the following update from 38 Degrees

Great news, the petition to ask the House of Lords to protect freedom of speech has already got 100,000 signatures. Thank you for signing. In less than 48 hours an influential Lord and former bishop, Lord Harries, will carry all our names into the House of Lords.

The total number of signatures will be announced just before the key votes. Please forward this email to your friends and family so they can make sure their names are there to be counted too.

This Wednesday’s vote could be one of our last chances to fix this controversial gagging law. It’s a law that could drastically reduce what charities and campaign groups can do. The campaign against it is working, and the government have started to backtrack on the severity of the law. But there are still big problems for us to fix.

Lord Harries has now proposed a series of changes that could protect our freedom to campaign on the issues that are important to us all. But we need to persuade other peers to vote for these changes this Wednesday.

Can you forward this email and ask your friends to sign the petition and help push it to over 150,000 signatures before the big vote?
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/gagging-law-vote

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Update:

On Wednesday 22nd, I received the following message from 38 Degrees:

Here’s a quick update on how it went today, with MPs voting again on the gagging law.

I’m afraid it’s bad news. Most Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs chose to follow party orders. They reversed the main improvements made in the House of Lords.

This means they voted:
— to remove new rules limiting secret lobbying by big business
— to put back in key limits on what campaigners, charities, and voluntary groups can do to speak up on issues of the day [1]

It’s pretty depressing. But it’s not over. The House of Lords will now get another vote – probably next week. They have the option to refuse to back down, and force MPs to vote yet again.

The votes were quite close. A number of government MPs did rebel – thanks in no small part to all the petitions, leaflets, emails and events which 38 Degrees members like you made happen.

If 17 more Conservative or Lib Dem MPs had voted differently, we would have won. Maybe we can get some more to change their minds next time around?

Details of how each MP voted will be posted on the 38 Degrees website, as soon as they are published (probably tomorrow morning).

All of us will need to think quickly about what we do next to stand up for democracy and freedom of speech. Options could include:
– a fresh push to encourage the Lords to hold firm next week

– naming and shaming MPs who voted to make the gagging law worse again today and pushing them to change their minds
– looking at options for legal challenges to the gagging law’s provisions
– thinking through ways we can keep campaigning and speaking up on the issues that matter despite the gagging law

Today, there’s lots to feel fed up about. Yet again we’ve seen MPs push through a law which the public have never voted for, and which has been heavily criticised by everyone from the United Nations to the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Women’s Institute to the Royal British Legion. [2]

But there are reasons to feel hopeful too. This campaign has brought together so many different organisations and so many people from all walks of life. [3] Together we’re proving that whilst faith in politicians is at an all time low, passion for real democracy is alive and kicking.

If you have thoughts or suggestions on what we should do together next, or just want to share how you’re feeling, you can join the conversation on the 38 Degrees Facebook page, here:
https://www.facebook.com/peoplepowerchange

Thanks for everything you do,

David
38 Degrees Executive Director

PS: On the subject of MPs wanting to shut us up, here’s the story of the MP who called the police when 38 Degrees members visited him to deliver a petition!
http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/MP-dubbed-bit-cowardly-calling-police-petitioners/story-20467776-detail/story.html

And here’s an MP saying it’s “stupid” to email your MP!
http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/Policy_and_Politics/article/1228234/tory-mp-brands-38-degrees-campaign-stupid/

PPS: MPs let us down today, but it isn’t quite over yet – so please do share your ideas for what we could do next. Either by replying here or by posting on the 38 Degrees Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/peoplepowerchange

NOTES
[1] There were 3 big votes in the Commons today:
— On the vote to require Ministers’ special advisors to record their meetings with lobbyists 311 MPs voted to reject the change, and 258 voted to accept them.
— On the vote to reject Lords’ changes to how much staff costs count towards total spending limits, amendment 108: 310 MPs voted to reject the changes, and 278 MPs to accept them into the Bill
— On the vote to reject Lords’ changes to the scope of what activity counts towards constituency spending limits, amendments 26 and 27: 314 MPs voted to reject the changes, and 274 MPs to accept them

[2] The Guardian: Lobbying bill will tarnish Britain, says UN official:
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jan/12/lobbying-bill-tarnish-britain-un-official
National Federation of Women’s Institutes: Briefing page on the Lobbying Bill:
http://www.thewi.org.uk/media-centre/latest-press-releases-and-statements/lobbying-bill
Citizens Advice Bureau: Lobbying Bill briefings:
http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/campaigns/latest_parliamentary_briefings.htm
The Royal British Legion: Lobbying Bill: Why asking politicians to back our troops could be stopped under this sloppy law:
http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/news-events/news/campaigning/lobbying-bill-why-asking-politicians-to-back-our-troops-could-be-stopped-under-this-sloppy-law

[3] Over 130 NGOs, including 38 Degrees, and over 160,000 people signed a petition against the gagging law: http://civilsocietycommission.info/petition/

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two important campaigns aiming to protect our civil liberties: stop the gagging law & review Schedule 7

On August 30th I received a message from the campaign group 38 Degrees about another major government assault on our civil liberties and right to protest. The message began as follows:

I’ve just got back from my summer holiday. I read last week’s email, “38 Degrees under threat”, whilst I was away camping. [1] Not exactly what you want to see when you’re trying to relax!

I must admit I hoped I’d get back in the office and find my colleagues had been guilty of some exaggeration. I’ve spent the last couple of days speaking to lawyers and other experts, to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

I’m afraid it’s really bad. The proposed gagging law would have a chilling effect on British democracy and our right to speak up on issues that matter to us.

The draft law could effectively stop organisations like 38 Degrees from speaking out for the whole year before a general election. From May 2014, we would be banned from holding politicians and political parties to account in ways we do all the time at present. [2]

Community groups, charities and campaigning organisations would all be hit. On the big issues of the day – whether or not to go to war, the future of our NHS, the environment, welfare, immigration, etc – we’d all be gagged.

Why are they proposing this? It’s hard to say for sure. Maybe it’s an unintended consequence of a badly written draft law. Or maybe it’s a deliberate attempt by politicians to silence their critics.

Either way, they’re trying to rush it through. MPs have their first chance to debate it this coming Tuesday, with crunch votes lined up for soon after that. [3]

Please can you help stand up for democracy and send an urgent email to your MP now?
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/gagging-bill-MPs

Notes:

[1] 38 Degrees Blog: 38 Degrees under threat http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2013/08/22/38-degrees-under-threat/
[2] BWB legal opinion http://www.bwbllp.com/knowledge/2013/08/29/bwb-warns-new-laws-on-non-party-campaigners-pose-a-serious-threat/
[3] Bill documents — Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14 http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/transparencyoflobbyingnonpartycampaigningandtradeunionadministration/documents.html

38 Degrees also produced their own short film with contributions from Guido Fawkes, Friends of the Earth, Baston Legal & HOPE not hate, which is entitled “What is the Gagging Law?” and embedded below:

And here is further information about the bill with links

News Coverage:

BBC – Lobbying bill could silence us, say charities
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23808996
Charity lawyer warns new lobbying bill poses ‘existential threat to charity campaigning
http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance/news/content/15918/charity_lawyer_warns_new_lobbying_bill_poses_existential_threat_to_charity_campaigning
The Independent View: Concerns about lobbying bill are not alarmist
http://www.libdemvoice.org/the-independent-view-its-not-alarmist-to-raise-concerns-about-government-plans-for-nonparty-campaigning-35927.html

Reports from experts:

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has made a statement on the bill:
Transparency of Lobbying Bill – unintended consequences or Trojan horse?
http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2013/08/18/transparency-of-lobbying-bill-unintended-consequences-or-trojan-horse/

And here is a full briefing on the bill from the NCVO:
http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/our-briefing-on-the-Transparency-of-lobbying-bill.pdf

The Electoral Commission has said it has “significant concerns” about the bill and that it “may be unenforceable”.
http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/156580/Transparency-of-Lobbying-Non-Party-Campaigning-and-Trade-Union-Administration-Bill-Second-Reading-Briefing.pdf

Then, Thursday [Sept 19th], I received the following update from 38 Degrees which includes a very detailed breakdown regarding the various claims now being made by the government in its response to opponents of the proposed legislation:

In three weeks, MPs have their final vote on the gagging law – a law that would mean ordinary people, campaigning groups and charities would be severely restricted in how they can campaign in the year leading up to an election.

The most recent debate was last Tuesday, and we lost a key vote by only a whisker – if just 16 more government MPs had switched sides, a key part of the gagging law would have been defeated. [1]

The growing MP rebellion was in part thanks to you – tens of thousands of 38 Degrees members flooded MPs with emails, phone calls and tweets. 80 local groups of 38 Degrees members went to see their MP face-to-face. Together, we proved that ordinary people are prepared to fight for their right to campaign on important issues.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs are clearly feeling the heat: a growing number of them have started trying to fob us off. They’ve started making all sorts of claims about what the law will and won’t do. They say we have nothing to worry about.

Ros Baston, an independent political law and election solicitor, has taken a look at some of the most common lines MPs have been using when responding to 38 Degrees members and written a detailed document. [2] Here’s 38 Degrees take on that document and why we still think we have something to worry about.

Myth 1: The new law will stop “big money” buying / influencing elections.
The government claims that this law is needed to stop US-style “super-PACs”, run by millionaires, flooding the airwaves with negative political advertising. But they can’t point to any examples of millionaire-backed “super-PACS” in the UK actually existing. Perhaps that’s because we already have laws banning big money radio and TV advertising.

The way “big money” actually influences elections in the UK is through massive donations to political parties. That’s a huge problem, with wealthy donors basically buying influence and peerages. The gagging law does nothing to stop this – millionaire party donors like Lord Ashcroft or Lord Sainsbury can continue to funnel as much cash into their chosen party as they like.

If the government really wanted to stop “big money” influencing politics, they could introduce a maximum donation limit for both political parties and independent groups. That would tackle the current problem and prevent any future rise in “super-PACs”, and it’s a measure 38 Degrees members would certainly support. Why are they instead targeting charities, community groups and campaigners?

Myth 2. Civil society will still be allowed to talk about issues – as long as they don’t get involved in party politics.
Important issues which ordinary people care about, like trying to protect the NHS, will be a key election issue for most of the political parties. The gagging law would apply to campaigning on most issues that are being contested by different political parties – i.e. any big issue of the day! For example, if one political party made privatising NHS services a key part of its manifesto, then a 38 Degrees campaign against privatising the NHS would be considered ‘for election purposes’ and be subject to the gagging law. [3]

Myth 3. £390,000 is a lot of money. Why should organisations be allowed to spend more?
In a free society, charities, local groups and ordinary people should be able to come together and campaign effectively. £390,000 is only 2% of what political parties are allowed to spend. Also, the new law says that charities and campaign groups will have to include core staff costs in this limit – something political parties aren’t expected to do.

Groups like 38 Degrees don’t need as much money as political parties – we rely on people power rather than expensive advertising agencies. But organising people power does cost some money. 38 Degrees currently costs around £1.1 million per year to run – money spent on maintaining a powerful and secure web site, a small office, a staff team of 15, printing leaflets and posters, hiring church halls for member meetings, and so on. That’s all funded by small donations (average donation £10.78) and reported in full in the annual audited accounts. [4]

Banning 38 Degrees from spending more than £390,000 would mean big people powered campaigns like Save our NHS or Save our Forests would be impossible to run.

Myth 4. Charities are happy now that some concessions have been promised
This isn’t true. A wide range of organisations including NCVO, Oxfam, Christian Aid, Countryside Alliance and Friends of the Earth are still warning that the gagging law will have a huge impact on what they can campaign on. [5]

MPs have been claiming that NCVO are now happy with the amendments the government has committed to drafting. In fact the NCVO wrote a piece in The Guardian last week highlighting the problems they still think need solving [6]:

“NCVO and the wider voluntary sector have made it clear that the legislation remains ambiguous and potentially damaging in a number of places. In particular:

  • The proposed list of activities that could count towards controlled expenditure remains neither clear nor workable
  • The expenditure thresholds proposed in the new bill, both for registration with the Electoral Commission and as a maximum cap allowed, will be damaging
  • The question of how to sensibly regulate groups working in coalition remains to be addressed.”

The government is rushing the gagging law through parliament, but we now have just over two weeks to try to convince MPs to vote the right way. The office team are working hard to pull together some ideas of ways to beat this law and you’ll get an email about this soon. But if you want to get back in touch with your MP and ask him or her about some of these myths, please click the link below:

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/gagging-law-email-mp

If your MP has replied to your email about the gagging law and sent through a different claim you’d like help answering, or if you have some ideas on what we should do next in the campaign, then please get in touch at emailtheteam@38degrees.org.uk.

Notes:
[1] The Public Whip: Clause 27 – changes to existing limits: vote breakdown: http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2013-09-10&number=82
Twitter: Labour Whips twitter posts, 10 Sept: https://twitter.com/labourwhips
[2] Mythbuster document written by Ros Baston, independent political law and election solicitor, and was formerly Lead Adviser on Party and Election Finance at the Electoral Commission: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/-/Ros%20Baston%20MP%20replies%20mythbuster.pdf
[3] Daily Mirror: Lobby bill: Doctors face being gagged from concerns about NHS privatisation:http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/lobby-bill-doctors-face-being-2263099#.UjiWppM9XMo.facebook
[4] Read our donations policy and see our accounts here: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/pages/donations-to-38-degrees
[5] Oxfam: Lobbying Bill represents a real threat to quality of debate in this country: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/blogs/2013/09/lobbying-bill-represents-a-real-threat-to-quality-of-debate-in-this-country-says-oxfam
Christian Aid: Christian Aid remains deeply concerned at Lobbying Bill: http://www.christianaid.org.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/september-2013/christian-aid-remains-deeply-concerned-at-lobbying-bill.aspx
Countryside Alliance: The Alliance’s concerns over the Lobbying Bill: http://www.countryside-alliance.org/ca/communities/the-alliances-concerns-over-the-lobbying-bill
Friends of the Earth: U-turn? Nope, the Gagging Bill still gags us: http://www.foe.co.uk/news/gagging_bill_41124.html
[6] The Guardian: The problems posed by the lobbying bill are not completely solved: http://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2013/sep/13/charities-lobbying-bill-problems-not-solved

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Meanwhile, another campaign is underway to challenge the increasing use of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which UK human rights group Liberty describes “as a breathtakingly broad and intrusive power to stop, search and hold individuals at ports, airports and international rail stations”:

It can be exercised without the need for any grounds of suspecting the person has any involvement in terrorism – or any other criminal activity. This means it can be used against anyone a police, immigration or customs officer chooses. Powers like this are ripe for overuse and abuse. They are invariably used in discriminatory fashion, with stops based on stereotype rather than genuine suspicion.

Click here to read more about Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 on Liberty‘s website.

A petition calling for a government review of the use of Schedule 7 has been launched by Adeel Akhtar – Akhtar, a stage and screen actor, being perhaps best known for a starring role in the black comedy “Four Lions”, Chris Morris’ satire about a group of Sheffield-based would-be jihadi terrorists.

So far Akhtar’s petition has attracted signatures from over 70,000 supporters. And following the detainment of David Miranda – partner of a Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald – Akhtar’s campaign also received a further boost when he was interviewed on the subject by the Huffington Post, Channel 4 News and BBC Breakfast.

MPs are due to review Schedule 7 in October, and Akhtar believes that his change.org campaign may prove crucial in getting the law changed. Before then, he says, he would like the petition to reach 100,000 signatures so that when the time comes, the government will see just how many people are calling for their human rights to be protected.

Click here if you would like to add your own name to this change.org petition calling for the government to review the use of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act.

*

Update:

On Thursday 10th October I received a follow-up email from 38 degrees. It informed me that sadly, though hardly surprisingly, the government yesterday voted in favour of the new legislation. So it has passed the Commons and now awaits progress through the Lords. Here is part of the message I received:

Yesterday evening, MPs narrowly voted in favour of the gagging law. It now moves to the House of Lords, where it will start being debated in two weeks.

So we haven’t yet seen off this threat to democracy. This is disappointing – I’d love to be emailing today to let you know we’d stopped it once and for all. But it’s in no sense the end. By making the vote so close, we’ve got a strong chance of reversing it in the House of Lords.

I wanted to update you on what’s happened and what happens next. And I wanted to ask for your feedback on what we should do next. But above all I wanted to say THANK YOU, for everything that 38 Degrees members have done so far. It’s been truly amazing and has had a huge impact. […]

There was a fiery debate and a big rebellion in parliament yesterday. Only Lib Dem and Conservative MPs voted in favour. In total, across three crunch votes, it looks like 19 coalition MPs rebelled. [1]

To get 19 Lib Dem and Conservative MPs to vote against the gagging law was in no small part down to the amazing efforts of 38 Degrees members. Working together with some of Britain’s most loved voluntary organisations, we made sure every MP felt under pressure.

Several more Lib Dem MPs rebelled compared to previous votes on the gagging law – after 38 Degrees members and many other organisations ramped up the pressure on them. The leaflets, posters, and meetings we organised made a clear difference. […]

So, what will happen next?

In the coming weeks, the gagging law will be voted on by the House of Lords. We need to try to persuade the Lords to get stuck in and block it. I think we can do it. There are reasons why convincing the Lords won’t be that easy:

  • The Lords are unelected. So we can’t try to influence them “as their voters” in the way we can with MPs.
  • A large number of peers are Lib Dems or Conservatives – and they will be under pressure from their party bosses to toe the government line.

But there are also some reasons to be optimistic:

  • Lords tend to be more willing to challenge government legislation when it has been rushed through and where there hasn’t been proper consultation. That definitely applies this time!
  • Many peers are patrons and board members of voluntary organisations and charities which would be hit by the gagging law. This means they should have reason to be concerned.
  • An independent “commission on civil society and democracy” has been set up with the support of dozens of voluntary organisations – and will provide the Lords with serious recommendations. It is chaired by an influential, nonparty Lord – Richard Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford. [2]
  • 38 Degrees members learnt a lot about how to influence members of the House of Lords from our NHS campaign last year. [3]

NOTES:
[1] There were three vital votes in Parliament last night on the gagging law. The first (amendment 101) was a vote on what sort of expenditure would fall within the law, whilst the second (amendment 102) was a vote to raise the spending limits imposed by the law on non-party organisations. The third important vote was the “Third Reading”, which was a vote on the whole gagging law.

On amendment 101, ten Coalition MPs rebelled (7 Conservative and 3 Liberal Democrats). On amendment 102, fourteen Coalition MPs rebelled (10 Conservative and 4 Liberal Democrats). On the Third Reading, eleven Coalition MPs rebelled (4 Conservative and 7 Liberal Democrats).

In total, it looks like nineteen Coalition MPs rebelled on at least one of the important votes (10 Conservatives and 9 Liberal Democrats). The office team will crunch together the data on the various votes over the next few days and send you info on how your MP voted as soon as we’re confident it’s 100% accurate.
[2] Civil Society Commission website: http://civilsocietycommission.info/

[3] Save our NHS action centre: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/pages/save_our_nhs_action_centre

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campaign to stop secret courts in UK — MPs may vote as soon as February 25th

The following message from the 38 Degrees team was received earlier today. It encourages people to urgently lobby their MPs to vote against the introduction of secret trials in the UK:

Is this the end of the principle that no one is above the law? The government are currently pushing drastic changes to our justice system through parliament, which would allow trials to take place in secret. If they’re successful, it could mean serious abuses like torture, or detention without trial, never come to light. [1] This would make government cover ups much easier, and make it much harder to get a truly fair trial.

Your MP could be voting on secret courts as early as the 25th February. And it looks like the vote could be very close.

There’s already been a massive rebellion in the House of Lords, key Liberal Democrats, Labour and top Conservatives have all spoken out against the government’s plans. [2] With some pressure from us, their voters, we might just persuade enough MPs to stop this attack on British justice.

Time is running out to stop these changes. Click here to email your MP to stand up for justice and vote against secret courts now:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/secret-courts

Of course, the state has an interest in keeping the cases against it quiet. From Iraqi torture claims against the Ministry of Defence to the long-running cover-up of the Hillsborough disaster, and from the silence over the Jimmy Savile abuse allegations to phone-hacking at News International, it’s clear that when things aren’t out in the open abuse is more likely. [3]

But the government’s proposals are more than simply a way to dodge responsibility. Our British legal system isn’t flawless – but these new measures are an attack on its founding principles.

Secret courts have no place in a truly just legal system. Email your MP now to make sure they vote the right way:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/secret-courts

Thanks for being involved,

Belinda, Becky, Hannah and the 38 Degrees team

PS: Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy at Liberty, said: “This Bill would overturn 400 proud years of open justice and equality before the law in Britain and allow for grave state errors and abuses to be covered up for good.

“Opposition to secret courts is growing and MPs will soon vote on the plans – now is the time to apply real pressure and 38 Degrees members can make all the difference by coming together and taking action.”

NOTES
[1] Liberty – For their eyes only campaign briefing: http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/campaigns/for-their-eyes-only/for-their-eyes-only.php
The Guardian – The justice and security bill is a chilling affront to British Justice: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/17/justice-security-bill-secret-courts
[2] The Telegraph – Secret courts suffer humiliating defeat in the House of Lords: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9694776/Secret-courts-suffer-humiliating-defeat-in-House-of-Lords.html
[3] Liberty – What kind of cases would this Bill help hide: http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/campaigns/for-their-eyes-only/justice-and-security-bill-case-studies.php

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campaign to save the NHS — petition as Lords vote on Lansley’s bill

Two votes of no confidence in the government’s NHS reforms have been comfortably defeated but other developments mean that ministers face at least two further major challenges to the legislation in the final week before the bill is due to be passed.

MPs voted twice on Tuesday on motions to drop the health and social care bill after Labour held a three-hour opposition day debate inspired by a public e-petition signed by more than 174,000 people calling for the government to abandon the legislation.1

According to campaign group 38 degrees, their own petition has now been endorsed by more then half a million people, but they are still asking for more signatures before the final vote in the House of Lords on Monday 19th March:

As the Lords gather to decide whether or not to press on with changing the NHS without knowing all the risks, let’s send them a reminder. Let’s remind them that across the UK, hundreds of thousands of us know what it feels like to arrive at a hospital or a doctor’s surgery, tired, sick or frightened for someone you love. And that we know how much we rely on our NHS in those situations to give us the care we need.

Each name on our petition [standing at more than 520,000 as I write] is a reason for the Lords to think twice before gambling with the future of our NHS. It will show them that although we all know the NHS isn’t perfect, we know that it’s pretty amazing. It will remind them that when we talk about risk registers, we’re talking about threats to a health service which is the envy of the world.

This could be the final opportunity for your friends, workmates and family to stand up for the NHS before the key votes happen. So please can you forward this email and ask them to sign the petition?

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/Save-our-NHS

Apparently Lord David Owen is delivering the petition just before the debate begins. Lord Owen has also tabled the following motion:

Lord Owen to move to resolve that the Health and Social Care Bill be not read a third time until either the House has had an opportunity to consider the detailed reasons for the first-tier tribunal decision that the transitional risk register be disclosed and the Government’s response thereto, or until the last practical opportunity which would allow the bill to receive Royal Assent before prorogation.

If the Government table a motion for Third Reading on Monday 19 March it will be moved as an amendment to Earl Howe’s motion as follows but it is essentially the same motion.

To read the full motion please click here

Here’s more from Tuesday’s Guardian article:

Writing last week after the tribunal ruled that the risk register should be published, Lord Owen urged peers to vote for his amendment on Monday. “To go ahead with legislation, while appealing to the high court, would be the third constitutional outrage associated with this legislation,” he wrote. “The first was to legislate within months of the prime minister promising in the general election that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS. The second was to implement large parts of the legislation without parliamentary authority. The attempt to railroad this legislation through both Houses of Parliament has raised very serious questions about the legitimacy of this coalition government. Now at the last moment parliament has a chance to assert its democratic rights and the many Liberal Democrat peers, who know in their heart of hearts that this legislative procedure is fundamentally wrong, have the opportunity to stand by their principles.”

Click here to read the full article published in the Guardian.

Click here to find more information about the progress of Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill.

1 From an article entitled “Commons revolt against NHS reforms defeated: Government survives two votes of no confidence in health and social care bill but faces at least two further major challenges”, written by the Guardian‘s political correspondent, Juliette Jowit, published on March 13, 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/mar/13/commons-revolt-nhs-reforms-defeated

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campaign to save the NHS — MPs to vote on the release of hidden report

The following message from the 38 Degrees team was received earlier today. It again encourages people to urgently lobby their MPs to demand the release of a hidden civil service report:

This Wednesday, there’s a crunch NHS vote in Parliament. MPs will vote on whether to demand the publication of a secret government report into the risks facing the NHS. That could be another nail in the coffin of Andrew Lansley’s plans — so let’s pile the pressure on our MPs to vote the right way.

Right now, Andrew Lansley is in a tricky position to defend. He wants MPs and Lords to back his plans for the NHS. But he’s refusing to let them find out what the risks are. If we work together to put our MPs under pressure, there’s a decent chance they’ll refuse to do Lansley’s dirty work for him.

This vote could go either way — send your MP an email asking them to back publishing the secret report — it takes two minutes:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/nhs-risk-report

The vote will take place on Wednesday afternoon. That means we’ve got just over 48 hours to convince enough MPs to vote to publish the secret report. The more of us that email our MPs right now, the more likely we are to succeed.

38 Degrees members, doctors, nurses and academics have all been warning for ages that Lansley’s plans put our health service at risk. We know there’s a secret report that could prove that we’re right — so let’s work together to get this report published before it’s too late.

Write to your MP and tell them to vote the right way at the risk report debate on Wednesday:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/nhs-risk-report

Thanks for being involved,

David, Johnny, Hannah, Marie, Cian, Becky and the 38 Degrees team

38 degrees first campaigned on the same issue back in November.

Click here to learn more about their initial call for its release and for more details about the secret report itself.

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campaign to save the NHS — what should we do next?

The following message from the 38 Degrees team was received earlier today. It points out that leading medical organisations are already calling for the government plans to be scrapped, and asks supporters of their ‘campaign to save the NHS’ to vote on which forms of protest we feel will be most effective.

Is our NHS still in danger? Andrew Lansley’s NHS plans are due to become law within three months. So we need to vote now to decide what we should do together to keep our NHS safe.

Our campaign has made real progress. We have just heard that under pressure from us, the House of Lords has watered down Lansley’s plan to scrap his responsibility to provide a National Health Service. [1] That’s a huge success and shows that our campaign can work.

But there’s still plenty to worry about. Leading medical organisations like the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Nurses are now calling outright for Lansley’s plans to be dropped. They warn that – even with the changes we’ve campaigned so hard for – the plans are “a mess” and the future of the NHS is still under threat. [2]

Can you fill in a quick online poll to help decide what we do next? Then we can spring back into action next week.
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/saving-our-nhs

It’s no surprise 38 Degrees members keep making protecting the NHS a priority. We all know that it’s a national treasure. We can’t afford to lose it. So in the past year half a million of us have got involved with this campaign — emailing and visiting MPs, signing petitions, donating money, buying ads and even hiring a team of expert lawyers to cut through Lansley’s spin. [3]

What should we do now? Is it time to zoom in on the parts of Lansley’s plan which would introduce more competition and privatisation to the NHS? Or should we step back from the details and join with the doctors and nurses demanding the entire plan is withdrawn? Or something else? [4]

Thanks for getting involved,

Johnny, David, Marie, Hannah, Cian, Becky and the 38 Degrees team

PS. Nearly 45,000 of us have now signed up to join The Big Switch, our attempt to drive down gas and electricity prices by bargaining with the power companies as a group. That’s got to be a record! If you haven’t joined in yet, you can do so here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/the-big-switch

NOTES:
[1] An alliance of Lib Dem, Labour and cross-bench peers forced major concessions from the government over the “duty to provide” and “hands-off clause”. See for example: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jan/28/andrew-lansley-nhs-health-reform-climbdown
[2] “NHS reform: GPs and physiotherapists urges scrapping”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16861672
[3] Watch a video highlighting some of the things 38 Degrees members have done together here: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/pages/save_our_nhs_action_centre
[4] Obviously to some extent we can do both. But we will have more impact if we prioritise. And it may prove harder to influence Lords over specific amendments if they see the starting point for our campaign being that we want to scrap the bill altogether.

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Mr Burns bares his teeth at 38 Degrees campaign to save the NHS

Yesterday, Health Minister Simon Burns described those who have pledged support for the 38 Degrees campaign against proposed NHS ‘reform’ as zombies, which only goes to prove that the campaign is having some effect. He would like us all just to sit down, shut up and trust in our loving government, like good little, what’s the word…?

In response, 38 Degrees have put together an open letter rebuking the callous disregard Mr Burns and his government clearly have for us:

Let’s stand together to show Mr Burns that we’re citizens, not zombies. If thousands of us sign an open letter standing up for our right to be heard, we can publish it as an advert in a national newspaper and deliver it to Mr Burns personally in his constituency.

Add your name to the open letter to Mr Burns now:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/im-not-a-zombie

It shouldn’t matter who you vote for or what opinion you hold. It’s still an MP’s job to listen to their voters. Our taxes pay their wages, after all!

Thanks for being involved,

David, Marie, Becky, Hannah, Johnny, Cian and the 38 Degrees team

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campaign to save the NHS — urgent call for release of hidden report

The following message from the 38 Degrees team was received earlier today. It outlines the latest twist of events in their campaign to save the NHS and encourages people to urgently lobby their MPs to demand the release of a hidden civil service report:

What’s he trying to hide? For a year health minister Andrew Lansley has been refusing to publish a civil service report on the risks he’s taking with the NHS. Now the Information Commissioner has ordered him to publish it. [1] But he could still keep it hidden for another month – until after more key votes have taken place. [2]

We can’t afford to wait that long. The House of Lords is debating the NHS plans right now. If the report on risks to the NHS is released immediately, it could persuade key members of the House of Lords to stand up to the government.

Let’s raise an uproar in Parliament and force Lansley’s hand. Email your MP now and tell them to demand this secret NHS report is made public immediately:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/nhs-secret-report

Pressure from MPs could force Lansley to publish this report. If enough of us contact them now, we can get it out in the open before it’s too late. MPs won’t want to find themselves back under fire because of Lansley’s cover-up. So let’s all email our MPs now and tell them they have to force Lansley to publish his secret NHS risks report.

The Information Commissioner’s ruling lists Andrew Lansley’s arguments for why he wants this report kept secret. Lansley argued that releasing the report “would have jeopardised the success of the policy”! [3] He’s kept us, MPs, and members of the Lords in the dark deliberately because he’s worried that making these risks public could derail his plans.

Please take two minutes to ask your MP to demand the NHS risks report is made public immediately:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/nhs-secret-report

The NHS belongs to all of us. We all pay for it, and we all rely on it to care for us and our loved ones. We don’t want it put at risk – that’s exactly why we’ve been campaigning together all these months. We have a right to see what this report says.

Let’s work together to get our MPs to force Lansley to publish the secret NHS risk report:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/nhs-secret-report

Thanks for being involved,

Johnny, Becky, Marie, Hannah, Cian, David and the 38 Degrees team

PS: The Evening Standard reports that the “Department of Health twice breached the freedom of information law” to keep this report secret. Why is Lansley going to such lengths to keep it secret from us? Email your MP and demand it’s published immediately:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/nhs-secret-report

NOTES
[1] http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/politics/article-24008861-lansley-ordered-to-reveal-secret-health-report.do
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/nov/11/lansley-reveal-nhs-risk?cat=politics&type=article
[2] The Information Commissioner has ordered Lansley to release the report within 35 calendar days. But Lansley could even appeal to drag things out even longer.
[3] You can read the full Information Commissioner judgement here: http://t.co/h3mfnl0N

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campaign to save the NHS — the battle goes on

The following message from the 38 Degrees team was received earlier today. It gives the latest news on their campaign and encourages people who have not done so already, to sign their “Save our NHS” petition before they speak with Lib Dem members of the House of Lords (and to forward it for friends to sign). They are aiming to get over half a million signatures before the meeting on Thursday:

It’s a moment to seize. This Thursday at 2pm, 38 Degrees will meet with key Lib Dem members of the House of Lords. [1] They’ve asked us to bring along our independent legal experts to discuss the alarming impact the government’s plans could have on the NHS.

But that’s not all we will bring to the meeting. We will hand in a copy of the Save our NHS petition to make them realise how many of us expect them to act to protect our health service. It’s the numbers of us involved with the campaign that forces politicians to listen.

Can you help grow this petition right now, by forwarding this email to friends and family? Ask them to click below to add their signature by 2pm Thursday:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/Save-our-NHS

Thursday’s meeting could be crucial. If we can persuade senior Lib Dems to demand big changes to Andrew Lansley’s plans, we could stop some of the worst damage to our health service. [2] The legal experts we paid for together will set out the legal details. But what will really convince the politicians on Thursday is the huge tidal wave of public support.

Our job is to let the senior Lib Dems know this isn’t a technical issue to be left to lawyers alone. There are hundreds of thousands of us determined to protect the future of our NHS. We all rely on the NHS. We can show the Lib Dem Lords we will work together to defend it as long as it is under threat.

It’s the numbers in this campaign that compel them to sit up and listen. So let’s present them with a petition bigger than they’ve ever seen. We’ve already got 443,251 signatures. Will your friends and family join in and help take it over half a million?
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/Save-our-NHS

We had a disappointing result in the first round of voting in the House of Lords last week, when the government’s plans scraped through to the next stage. [3] But a 38 Degrees member named Richard summed it up when he said, “It is not yet over and any opportunity that presents itself must be used to pressure and attack Lansley’s plan for the NHS.

Suzie, another 38 Degrees member, added, “This is just another skirmish. We may have lost this one but now we need to re-group and go forward again!”

So many of us have already signed this petition, because we know the NHS is worth defending. Together generations of British people have built and maintained a health service that looks after all of us – rich or poor, whenever we need it. The NHS isn’t perfect, but it does an incredible job. We can’t afford to let it be damaged or destroyed.

Please forward this message to family and friends and ask them to sign the petition right now, before 2pm Thursday:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/Save-our-NHS

If you use Facebook you could also share the petition on your profile:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/NHS-facebook-share

If you are on Twitter you could also send a tweet:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/NHS-twitter-share

Thanks for being involved,

Johnny, Hannah, David, Becky, Marie, Cian and the 38 Degrees team

P.S. Let’s show the senior Lib Dem Lords that there isn’t just independent legal evidence behind our worries. Nearly half a million petition signers have put their name to concerns such as increasing competition from private health companies and scrapping the Secretary of State’s “duty to provide” health services too. Please press forward on this email and ask your friends and family to add their voice:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/Save-our-NHS

NOTES

[1] The meeting will be with Baroness Jolly (the Lib Dem health spokesperson in the Lords), Lord Marks QC (a leading Lib Dem legal expert) and their political adviser.

[2] The plans go into committee stage in the House of Lords, a chance for ‘line by line examination’ and detailed changes, next week: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/healthandsocialcare.html

[3] You can read more about what happened last week, and 38 Degrees members’ reactions to it, here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/nhs-lords-vote-result

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