38 Degrees members have identifies the future of the NHS as their top concern, and are mobilising to challenge Andrew Lansley's plans as their top priority.
David Babbs is the executive director of 38 Degrees
38 Degrees is a member driven organisation – that means our members play the key role both in how we campaign and in how we decide what we campaign about. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been having an extended conversation about our campaign priorities for the next couple of months. This culminated in hundreds of thousands of votes being cast this week on a shortlist of the most popular options.
For those, for example in political parties, who are sceptical about the benefits of being driven by what the members want to do, the quality of the discussion and decisions among 38 Degrees members should offer some food for thought.
Key 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 identified and planned with input from thousands of 38 Degrees members.
Listening to our members isn’t only good because it’s what our members want and expect – it also tends to produce very sensible decisions about which issues are most significant and where people-powered campaigning could have the most impact. So when our members identify the future of the NHS as their top concern, and mobilise to challenge Andrew Lansley’s plans as their top priority, there is every reason to think they might be onto something.
38 Degrees has been exploring the implications of Mr Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill for some time. Since the proposals were published, 38 Degrees members have organised more than 50 get-togethers around England. We’ve been meeting up in front rooms, cafes, pubs and community centres to hear from health professionals, and discuss where we stand and what we could do. We have been discussing newspaper articles (and the odd Left Foot Forward blog post) among our 27,000-strong Facebook community.
Now we will need to shift from discussion and exploration to a more targeted campaign push to stop or significantly amend the proposals.
The focus of our campaign, for at least as long as the health bill is still going through the Commons, will have to be MPs, particularly coalition MPs who will be being whipped to support the measures. Right now we’re looking at those MPs currently sitting on the health bill committee – 38 Degrees members who live in their constituencies are gearing up to deliver the first batch of signatures to our new petition in the next couple of weeks.
None of those MPs now pushing these “reforms” through was up front about them when they went before voters last May; now they can expect their voters to be coming to them to ask some tough questions.
For progressives of all political parties and none – and definitely including those Lib Dems who are gearing up to challenge their party leadership over the NHS plans this weekend – 38 Degrees members’ decision should provide them with some timely encouragement. 38 Degrees members (that’s over half a million UK citizens) don’t see this as a done deal. Those working within parliament and within their parties to challenge Mr Lansley’s plans can expect thousands of us to get behind them.
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