How many people does it take to change a government’s mind?

Some people say signing petitions and emailing MPs never changes anything - but it did this time, with the government's u-turn on the forests sell off, writes Johnny Chatterton.

Johnny Chatterton is the Digital Campaigns Manager of 38 Degrees

Victory! The Guardian, BBC and Independent are reporting that the government is about to scrap their plans to sell our forests.

Some people say signing petitions and emailing MPs never changes anything. But it did this time. This is what people power looks like: there are over half a million of us feeling very proud of what we’ve achieved together today.

When the plans were published in October, 38 Degrees members quickly voted that we should launch a campaign. Since then the campaign has grown and grown:

• 532,319 of us signed the petition;

• 100,000 called or emailed their MPs. More than 220,000 38 Degrees members shared the campaign with their friends on Facebook;

• Thousands of people have turned up to local events in forests all around the country and set up local “Save our Forests” groups;

• Hundreds of members donated to fund a people-powered YouGov poll which found that 84 per cent of the public wanted the forests kept in public hands;

• More than £60,000 was raised from thousands of donations to pay for ads in national newspapers to highlight that 84 per cent of the British public opposed the forest sale.

The government has been feeling the pressure from across the country. Celebrities and signatories added to the pressure with their letter to the Sunday Telegraph. Dozens of local groups have been campaigning and some big environmental NGOs like the National Trust, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace got involved too.

For the half a million people who pooled their energy through 38 Degrees today is about celebrating what we all achieved together. Tomorrow we’ll start answering the important question – what do we do next?

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24 Responses to “How many people does it take to change a government’s mind?”

  1. John Gamblin

    RT @leftfootfwd: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? http://bit.ly/gWhMVz by @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOu …

  2. Graham Galloway

    RT @leftfootfwd: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? http://bit.ly/gWhMVz by @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOu …

  3. downinjamaica

    RT @leftfootfwd: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? http://bit.ly/gWhMVz by @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOu …

  4. Johnny Chatterton

    RT @leftfootfwd: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? http://bit.ly/gWhMVz by @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOu …

  5. Double.Karma

    RT @leftfootfwd: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? http://bit.ly/gWhMVz by @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOu …

  6. Tom Chance

    Good to see 38 Degrees organising more real-world events to complement e-spam and acknowledging other organisations and people a bit more, though the authors still credit the organisation with a greater role than is really fair.

    Anthony Barnett picked up on this quickly over at OpenDemocracy:
    http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/victory-but-can-38-degrees-tell-woods-from-trees

    As somebody who went out and did petitions to local MPs on my local high street, this article still grates a little. At least the use of the word “members” (meaning “people who signed a petition”) is a bit less prevalent!

    Sorry for sour grapes, huge congratulations to all involved in this campaign.

  7. Shamik Das

    RT @leftfootfwd: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? http://is.gd/U55lLx @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOurForests

  8. shamikdas

    RT @leftfootfwd: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? http://is.gd/U55lLx @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOurForests

  9. Steve Kelly

    While I obviously congratulate the protest over the sell off the forests (I also signed the petition), but I am concerned that this particular issue is in reality just a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. No just that, I reckon that the major reason for the U turn is the natural Tory vote didn’t like it. How much of that are we going to get over our protest regarding the cuts and even more importantly privatisation of the NHS. I suspect very little.

    Selling off forests is one thing, social issues which directly affect every single person in this country is quite another.

  10. Nicola Gilbert

    RT @leftfootfwd How many people does it take to change a govt's mind? http://bit.ly/gWhMVz by @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOurForests

  11. aktaraja

    RT @leftfootfwd: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? http://bit.ly/gWhMVz by @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOu …

  12. Hens4Freedom

    RT @leftfootfwd: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? http://bit.ly/gWhMVz by @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOu …

  13. Stephen Lintott

    RT @leftfootfwd: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? http://bit.ly/gWhMVz by @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOu …

  14. Mark Stevo

    I tend to, unusually, agree with Tom. e-signatures don’t change anything, this victory (small though it is in the grand scheme of things) came down to a lot more than online petitions. Those responsible deserve a lot more than a self-aggrandising post from yet another social media group.

  15. #SaveOurForest – a campaign reader « thoughtful campaigner

    […] Johnny Chatterton, from 38 degrees writes for Left Foot Forward about the size of the campaign, with his boss, David Babbs, Executive Director saying  ’Forest sell-off U-turn is a […]

  16. Mr. Sensible

    Well done, Johnny.

    Can we get rid of the NHS reform program next?

  17. mike hartley

    Mr Sensible is absolutely right – and, as an excellent letter from a GP to the Guardian said recently: “Why, if thousands are prepared to march against the privatisation of forests, do we not have millions out on the street marching against the privatisation of the NHS?”
    http://etonmess.blogspot.com/2011/02/doctors-strike-on-cards-as-bma-call.html

  18. Broken OfBritain

    How many people does it take to change a government's mind? | Left Foot Forward http://fb.me/RC6V9ULS

  19. Nick H.

    RT @BrokenOfBritain: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? | Left Foot Forward http://fb.me/RC6V9ULS

  20. downinjamaica

    RT @BrokenOfBritain: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? | Left Foot Forward http://fb.me/RC6V9ULS

  21. Government ramps up Trident work despite coalition pledge | Left Foot Forward

    […] the government cracks under pressure on forest sales and housing benefit for the long-term unemployed, further revelations on Trident replacement […]

  22. No frontline cuts? Really, Mr Cameron? | Left Foot Forward

    […] a week of u-turns for the better, over the forests sell-off and housing benefit cut, further evidence today of a u-turn for the worse – the breaking of […]

  23. Daniel Pitt

    How many people does it take to change a government's mind? http://bit.ly/gWhMVz #ConDemNation

  24. 38 Degrees members don't think Lansley's NHS plans are a done deal | Left Foot Forward

    […] recent campaign successes, such as reversing the government’s plan to sell off England’s forests, came not because our three staff members were tactical geniuses, but because the campaign was […]

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