Supporters of 38 Degrees have been told to send me standard emails complaining about comments I made in the House of Commons last week.
I stand by everything I said and wish only to make clear that my criticisms are directed entirely at the funders and paid organisers, not the many members of the public who sign their petitions.
38 Degrees purports to be an independent campaign group representing the views of the general public. Emails and articles from the organisers are written in a friendly informal style designed to give the impression of a group of well meaning student types, independent of politics, and trying to make the world a better place.
In reality, the organisation was set up by a group of very wealthy socialists with strong links to the Labour Party. Co-Founder and Director of 38 Degrees, Henry Tinsley, funded the Labour Party through the firm Betterworld. Betterworld has given at least £125,250 to the Labour Party and £5,000 to Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign. Tinsley also gave a four figure sum to the left wing blog “Left Foot Forward”. Co-Founder and Director, Paul Hilder, put himself forward as General Secretary of the Labour Party in 2011 and writes papers for the Fabian Society. Director, Ben Brandzel, described himself in 2009 as “dedicated to the Labour cause” The “independent” legal advice on the NHS campaign came from former Labour MP David Lock QC, who remains Chair of the West Midlands Labour Finance and Industry Group.
Of course we live in a democracy and I welcome opinions from everyone, including wealthy metropolitan socialists. However, I find it objectionable that 38 Degrees dupe members of the public who back their campaigns into thinking they are in some way "non-political". If they are really happy to promote any campaign which has widespread public support then they would be spending a lot of time calling for the UK to pull out of the EU, far stricter immigration laws, and the immediate deportation of foreign nationals who commit crimes or get involved in terrorist activity - regardless of the impact on their human rights. Of course despite the fact these would be hugely popular causes, 38 Degrees would never take them up. As I said in the Commons, they are a LEFT WING organisation.
They use scare stories to whip up public anger against the Conservative Party. For example, a few years ago they ran a huge campaign suggesting the government was about to pass a bill that would "privatise" the NHS. They did so in spite of receiving legal advice making clear the government was doing no such thing. The bill has now passed and of course the NHS has not been privatised and sold off and nor will it be.
A similar campaign was mounted last year in respect of the lobbying bill. 38 Degrees became even more hysterical claiming it would be the end of free speech and groups like theirs would be gagged. The bill passed and of course 38 Degrees are still happily campaigning away.
Without the slightest sense of irony - having just wrongly claimed that free speech in Britain was about to end if the bill passed - the very next campaign I saw was to demand that newspapers and the TV silence anyone who doubts the "consensus" on global warming. Hypocrisy is the word that springs to mind.
Worst of all is the pretence by organisers that they care about public services. As a resident of Wales, I am acutely aware that by any impartial measurement health and education standards are far poorer here than in England. I know you won’t take my word for it, so here is a link from the BBC. If that isn't good enough here is the Welsh Labour Education Minister himself apologising: As far as the NHS is concerned, it is a disaster in Wales. We have longer waiting lists, targets are rarely met and there is less access to life-prolonging and life-saving cancer drugs than in England. It is so bad that people are campaigning for the right to opt out of treatment in the Labour run NHS and be treated by the far better one in England - the one which 38 Degrees constantly complain about. There is so much information online about this that I don’t know where to start posting links. Here is just one - from a Welsh Labour MP:
38 Degrees have not said a WORD about poor standards of health and education in Wales. If they really care about public services more than politics WHY IS THIS? Presumably because the NHS and education are run in Wales by their friends in the Labour Party.
If anybody reading this genuinely believes 38 Degrees are a truly independent campaign group then ask them why they have never said anything about the far worse health and education system in Wales.
I have no axe to grind with people who sign petitions by 38 Degrees. If you want to send me generic emails, I will happily send a generic reply. However, please do not waste time trying to convince me that the organisers are anything other than a left wing campaign group with strong links to the Labour Party.
My priority as an MP is to represent my constituents and help them to receive the same standards of healthcare and education which are being delivered in England. I am therefore unable to reply to people sending me emails who do not live in the constituency.