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. 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:

    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.

  2. Shamik Das

    RT @leftfootfwd: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOurForests

  3. shamikdas

    RT @leftfootfwd: How many people does it take to change a government's mind? @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOurForests

  4. 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.

  5. Nicola Gilbert

    RT @leftfootfwd How many people does it take to change a govt's mind? by @38_Degrees's @J_Chatterton #SaveOurForests

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