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.

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