Friday, 25 November 2011

Whiny zombies

Thin skinned 38 Degrees activists have taken offence at being called zombies by Tory MP Simon Burns earlier this week. Another word would be humourless. Their professional activist (get a life) executive director, David Babbs, was grumbling in the Huffington Post this week. Huff being the operative word.

I have another word for them: whiny. 85,000 38 Degrees zombies have written this whiny e-mail to Burns:

Dear Simon Burns,

We’re citizens, not zombies.

We have a right to be treated with respect by our MPs and to expect a reply when we get in touch.

Every British citizen has a right to be heard in our democracy. Thousands of us write to our MPs, because we care. Because we value democracy. Because the decisions you take affect us.

It’s your job to listen.

They also have the right to be ignored. I don’t suppose that many of these are Tory voters so I don’t suppose that Burns will be unduly worried. Hopefully his staff have the technology to send an automated reply so that not too much taxpayers’ money is wasted on this nonsense.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

38 Degrees blind to BBC hegemony

38 Degrees’ anti-democratic twitter zombies are trying to influence Ofcom’s consideration of what criteria should be used to measure media plurality. Ofcom's consultation closes on November 18th so they are going a little crazy.

38 Degrees is so befuddled by its hatred of Rupert Murdoch it has totally lost any objectivity. 38 Degrees has set up a page to allow it zombie army to bombard Ofcom’s consultation with pre-prepared answers. 38 Degrees’ suggested wording is:

Dear Ofcom,

Re- consultation on measuring media plurality

I am calling for:

-no single person or corporation to be able to own more than 20% of the UK's newspapers, radio and TV stations

-details of any meetings between media corporations, government bodies and politicians to be made public

Please note that the BBC is a public institution and should not be treated in the same way as commercial broadcasters.

Hilariously 38 Degrees suggests a 20% rule but wants the BBC to be treated as a special case.

The BBC’s mullti-channel domination of news is truly awesome. Just so you know the numbers look at this Ofcom paper. TV has a 73% share of where people get their news from and the BBC owns a 70% share of that.

In addition to the 70% share of TV, the BBC has a 54% share of radio news and 40% share of page views of the top 50 news websites. Sky only has a 6% share of TV news. NI is big in papers, about 35%, but radio and online are almost as big as the newspaper segment. The BBC has a bigger share of radio and online than NI has of newspapers and the BBC’s share of TV news is double NI share of newspapers and a 12 times bigger share than Sky of the TV segment. The real news media plurality story in this country is the vast preponderance of the BBC.

If you want to make a real contribution to the consultation follow this link.

I told Ofcom:

The BBC as a corporate body should be treated identically to any other corporate body.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

38 Degrees backs suicidal Robin Hood Tax – 100% of nothing is nothing

38 Degrees seems to be hedging its bets on the Robin Hood Tax. It has set a petitions page but it does not mention it on its home page, on its news page or its official twitter feed. I guess they want to focus on their NHS campaign and they want to be current without stealing the limelight from British charity Oxfam which is behind the rebranding of the Tobin tax as the Robin Hood Tax. Nice job but not what a charity should be about.

Lots of “progressive”, haven’t-a-clue about money or the way of the world types are retweeting their mini campaign. Various other charities and unions are also pushing this campaign. The 38 Degrees campaign did not come up through their public voting system. Yet another example of the 38 Degrees activists being a law unto themselves.

38 Degrees is still ignoring their most popular request for a campaign to give EU resident UK pensioners the same pensions as UK resident UK pensioners. It has 7,559 signatures to-date but the young activists who run 38 Degrees clearly don’t think that it is sexy enough.

If you want to understand why a Tobin tax would be very expensive and stupid for the UK take a look at this video by Professor Philip Booth of the Cass Business School in London.

The Robin Hood Tax (Oxfam campaign) started off asking for 5 basis points (0.05%) and hoped to raise £20 billion a year in the UK alone.

The EU proposal asks for 10 basis points and hopes to raise £50 billion. They don’t mention quite so loudly that £40 billion or 80% would come out of the UK in theory.

The activists behind Occupy Wall Street,, are now asking for 1% and trying to make today a big day for the Occupy campaigns. Expect some facile coverage of this facile event on the news this evening.

Of course this is all fantasy. 100% of nothing is nothing. When Sweden introduced a financial transactions tax the transactions fled the country and they raised 3% of what they were expecting. Doh! Don’t expect Australia, Russia or Singapore to go for this. They would happily take our financial services industry.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Listen to Murphy not 38 Degrees

38 Degrees is being typically dishonest with its latest online petition (complete with "Sign or the baby gets it" photo).

Dear Members of the House of Lords,

Please make sure the Health and Social Care Bill doesn’t put our NHS in danger. Please support Lord Owen’s motion for more scrutiny of the new laws when you vote on Wednesday.

  • These changes weren't in any manifestos and the public has never had a chance to vote on them.

  • These changes weren't given proper scrutiny in the House of Commons so we need the House of Lords to look at them properly.

  • Unfortunately they have managed to dupe 116,042 people into signing up as of this morning.

    The opponents of the bill keep trying to suggest that the Coalition has no mandate for the bill and this is reflected in 38 Degrees' petition. The Tories said in their manifesto:

    Give patients more choice

    We understand the pressures the NHS faces, so we will increase health spending in real terms every year. But on its own this will not be enough to deliver the rising standards of care that people expect. We need to allow patients to choose the best care available, giving healthcare providers the incentives they need to drive up quality.

    So we will give every patient the power to choose any healthcare provider that meets NHS standards, within NHS prices. This includes independent, voluntary and community sector providers. We will make patients’ choices meaningful by:

    • putting patients in charge of making decisions about their care, including control of their health records;
    • spreading the use of the NHS tariff, so funding follows patients’ choices; and,
    • making sure good performance is rewarded by implementing a payment by results system, improving quality.

    We will strengthen the power of GPs as patients’ expert guides through the health system by:

    • giving them the power to hold patients’ budgets and commission care on their behalf;
    • linking their pay to the quality of their results; and,
    • putting them in charge of commissioning local health services.

    So choice, any willing provider and GP commissioning are all there in black and white.

    The LibDems approach was slightly different but implied equally radical change and the idea of any willing provider which was also in Labour’s own plans.

    • Empowering local communities to improve health services through elected Local Health Boards, which will take over the role of Primary Care Trust boards in commissioning care for local people, working in co-operation with local councils. Over time, Local Health Boards should be able to take on greater responsibility for revenue and resources to allow local people to fund local services which need extra money.
    • Giving Local Health Boards the freedom to commission services for local people from a range of different types of provider, including for example staff co-operatives, on the basis of a level playing field in any competitive tendering – ending any current bias in favour of private providers.

    Lord Owen's motion is essentially a blocking motion as it demands open ended scrutiny. The House of Lords is a revising chamber and it will exceed its powers if it succeeds in frustrating the House of Commons in this matter.

    Yesterday cross bench (non-aligned) peer Baroness Murphy said in the debate:

    Seldom have so many health policy folk fought so many pre-Bill skirmishes over what in the end has proved to be rather modest changes intended to preserve and improve the NHS based on the principles of the NHS constitution, and rarely have I received so much misinformed lobbying about a Bill. I hear that the Bill heralds the end of the NHS as we know it; I read that armies of evil capitalists from the United States and the Middle East are geared up to zoom into the UK like the hordes of Genghis Khan to hoover up our favourite hospitals and services. It is twaddle. In fact, this Bill contains no privatisation at all, it does not transfer any assets to the independent sector and, if we build on the contribution of the independent sector of 1 to 2 per cent per annum, we shall be doing quite well. We have been building on the expansion of existing policies that have been in place and developing slowly over the past 20 years and introducing a new level playing field for providers from all sectors.

    As another noble Lord said, this is a vast improvement on favouring the independent sector treatment centres. I quite understand why that had to be done in the early days, but this puts everybody on a favourable, equal footing. It will sharpen NHS commissioners to get the quality of care improved and, crucially, will improve productivity, which has fallen quite catastrophically as investment has risen in the past decade. This Bill improves the contribution of clinicians to the planning and management of services and shifts a hospital system chained to central diktat towards a regulated emancipation to manage their own affairs. In my view, the most important aspect of this Bill is the introduction of the independent regulatory framework for providers, with the tools to promote a sharpening of competition and co-operation that will promote the kind of integrated care across primary community and specialist services that we all want.

    Those of us who were at the meeting last night heard Sir David Nicholson repeat what the NHS Confederation has constantly stressed: that any delay will be profoundly depressing to the service, which now wants a clear steer and direction of travel. We have had two years of delay already. Almost all the features of this Bill are familiar to us: clinical commissioning; foundation trusts; a regulatory system; competition and collaboration between qualified providers; and patient choice. They have all gone before, so the new Bill builds on what has been learnt, especially by ensuring that competition is based on quality not price. There seems to be a widespread misunderstanding that we are basing these new proposals around price. That is absolutely not the case, and I would not support this Bill if it did.

    Some people talk nostalgically about the demise of PCTs and SHAs, but the demise is in an orderly fashion, and as a former chair of a strategic health authority, I can only say "Hurrah". In fact, clinical commissioning groups are what primary care trusts were supposed to be in the first place. For those who can recall primary care groups, those were also what clinical commissioning groups were meant to be. The difference is that we have a national framework to support and empower them that will not be diverted into the provider system.

    Murphy is one of those rare creatures an experienced doctor and administrator. Maybe we should listen to her and not 38 Degrees who are playing politics and do not have a viable alternative.

    Wednesday, 14 September 2011

    38 Degrees ignores Commonwealth pensioners' campaign

    I have described 38 Degrees as “unaccountable activists”. It does not take too much time looking around their website to find the evidence.

    If you click here you go to their suggestions system. At first sight (as of tonight) the “Save Our Badgers!” campaign is the most popular campaign idea with 1,286 votes. But, on closer inspection this is merely a “hot idea” randomly thrown up by the system.

    Again looking closely there is a “top” tab. Click on that.

    The picture changes. The most popular idea is now “fairness, justice and equality for all British state pensioners” with 7,535 votes. Apparently 3,003 people have voted on this proposal (members get up to ten votes so can vote more than once for a particular proposal). Looking more closely the proposal says:

    All people contribute towards the National Insurance scheme under exactly the same rules. All people qualify for their state pension under exactly the same rules, based on years of NI contributions. When it comes time to pay the state pension different rules are applied depending on where you happen to live.

    If you live in the UK and in 40 overseas countries, your state pension is uprated for inflation each year. If you live in mainly Commonwealth countries your state pension is frozen at the rate at which it is first paid, or as at the date of migration. This means that over time the real purchasing power of the state pension in Commonwealth countries declines over the years, so that after, say, 25 years, it may be about a quarter of the current pension level.

    To rectify this problem it would cost less than 1% of the total state pension bill. Apparently there is an unwritten cross political party agreement not to fix this problem. Pensioners who have chosen to go overseas to be with their children and grand children in retirement in Commonwealth countries are penalised for doing so, or disouraged from seeing their children and grand children again.

    Overseas pensioners have been fighting this discrimination, based on country of residence, for over 25 years. They could really do with a hand from people living in the UK to help them, to lobby on their behalf and to try to over turn this unfair, injust and inequal practice, which is based on historical accident and which even government ministers have admitted, has no logic to it.

    There are 3,200 comments attached to this proposal. If you start to read through them you will find that this has been the most popular proposal on the 38 Degrees site for six months but somehow the unaccountable activists are just not interested.

    It is a great campaign. A clear injustice. It has already achieved real resonance but somehow the young activists at 38 Degrees are just not interested. Is it not sexy enough for them? No fluffy bunnies to protect? What is going on?

    What is clear is that 38 Degrees is not what it purports to be. In their FAQ section they say:

    How do you decide on campaigns?

    Campaigns are chosen by members. Members often take part in votes to choose which campaigns to make our highest priorities. 38 Degrees members can also suggest campaigns on the 38 Degrees website , as well as by sharing ideas on the Facebook page, blog, or by tweeting their idea to @38_degrees. Staff and volunteers in the 38 Degrees office then work together to identify the issues most important to members.

    Clearly this is nonsense. They are have consistently ignored the most popular campaign idea offered to them. Nonsense. Like so much of what 38 Degrees says.

    Saturday, 10 September 2011

    Ben Brandzel: 38 Degrees director and ... senior Democratic party organiser, veteran of three presidential campaigns

    Remember that fatuous claim made by 38 Degrees:

    Is 38 Degrees connected to a political party?

    Definitely not. We are not connected with any political parties, and are funded by donations from members. Our independence means that we can campaign on issues that we feel passionately about and that we decide on together. We are driven by issues and outcomes, and judge all politicians by the same standards.

    The truth is that they are left of centre and only support positions that are compatible with that starting point. In a BBC-ish way they think this makes them independent.

    Maybe from a European perspective the American Democrats seem quite middle of the road but 38 Degrees director Ben Brandzel is clearly a Democrat and not non-aligned as many Americans are. The tweet below asks people to donate to the Democrats.

    In his Huffington post biog Brandzel describes himself as “progressive”. In the UK this means a leftie and definitely not New Labour, and encompasses the Green Party (where all the real left-wingers are now), non-Orange book LibDems and the Milibandite, deficit-denying Labour party. Ken Livingstone is happy to be called a progressive which gives you some kind of calibration.

    Ben Brandzel is a leading international practitioner, trainer and writer in the field of progressive online organizing. Currently the Director of Incubation and International Programs at Citizen Engagement Lab, he's served as Advocacy Director for and Director of New Media Campaigns and Fundraising for Barack Obama's Organizing for America. He's a founding board member and former Senior Campaigner at and the Chief Founding Advisor for UK's 38 His writing has appeared in the American Prospect and The Nation magazines, amongst others. Ben is an avid biker and aspiring guitarist who lives in Berkeley and Washington DC.

    He also identifies himself as a senior Democrat party organiser. He is a veteran of three presidential campaigns.

    Brandzel is a senior Democrat operator and a most political of creatures.

    Whatever 38 Degree is or isn’t it is political and ... dishonest.

    Thursday, 8 September 2011

    Henry Tinsley: 38 Degrees founder and ... £250K political donor

    I haven’t been able to find a picture of 38 Degrees’ founding benefactor, Henry Tinsley, on the web. As a result of him using the company Betterworld as a tax efficient vehicle for his political and campaign giving I have been able to find his home address. I don’t want to publish it obviously but I figured I would use this image from Streetview of his four storey, double fronted Notting Hill mansion to illustrate this post.

    Tinsley is a massive political donor. In the last five years he has given £128,250 to the Labour party as the report below from the Electoral Commission donors database shows.

    £5,000 was given towards Ed Milibands’ leadership campaign. £2,250 went to Karen Buck’s marginal Westminster North constituency. £121,000 went to Labour party central funds.

    Tinsley is a bit of a political cross dresser so he is also a big Liberal Democrat donor giving them £114,250. Of this £61,750 went to the Liberal Democrat party central funds. £52,500 went to individual marginal LibDem constituencies. Bizarrely Tinsley hankers for another Lib-Lab pact.