Shortly after publishing Friday's blog, a friend tweeted and pointed out that disabled people had actually won the previous campaign vote, but that 38 Degrees had then shelved that vote and staged another at which the NHS won. Obviously that's a very serious allegation, the problem is that the facts seem to back it up.
If you go to 38 Degree's Campaign Suggestion forum, and order all suggestions by popularity, which this link will do, you'll find a list of the most popular campaign ideas.
Sitting at number 6 is "A campaign to stop the abolition of Disability Living Allowance - the measure of civilised society."
Sitting at number 9 is "The coalition "are considering" assessing children in their DLA shake up." But attached to that is this note:
- "We're looking into a technical problem with the suggest a campaigns system. Last night we merged this with another DLA campaign after being asked to by the people who had originally created the suggestions. This follows on from previous problems we had with merging campaigns. Unfortunately last night there was a problem with the system and when we merged the campaigns thousands of votes were removed from the total. I'm really sorry this happened. We're looking into this and trying to sort it out."
But 'that's okay' you say, 'the problem just happened last night, 38 Degrees will fix it on Monday'. Which would be fine if it was true, but I know for a fact - having seen it myself - that that message has been there for months with no action being taken, and all but a handful of the comments attached to it are 8 months or more old. Months with no action, months of wasted inactivity during which the Welfare Reform Bill has been trekking through Parliament side by side with the NHS Bill. Look at everything 38 Degrees have achieved in trying to stop the NHS Bill, look at everything 38 Degrees haven't done to stop the Welfare Reform Bill. The suspicion that disabled people, and the votes and activities of the 38 Degrees membership, have been sacrificed to concentrate on the NHS Bill is impossible to shake. In fact I can't find any sign that 38 Degrees have lifted a finger to oppose the Welfare Reform Bill or defend disabled people.
There's a word for treating disabled people as second class citizens, that word is disablism, or two words if you aren't familiar with the one, disability discrimination.
I don't want to believe that of 38 Degrees, but their own polls show opposing the disability related provisions of the Welfare Reform Bill at numbers 4 and 6 in their own members lists of suggested priorities, combine them together and they are the 2nd most popular suggestion with a minimum of 7,243 votes, within 350 votes of the most popular suggestion and nearly 1,500 votes ahead of the 3rd most popular suggestion.
Sitting down at number 18 is opposing badger culling, and yet that's currently splashed all over the 38 Degrees front page as one of their successful campaigns?! I can't help wondering if the problem is 38 Degrees HQ thinks crips aren't as cuddly as badgers.
So, opposing DLA changes has got more votes on the 38 Degrees website than any idea but fairness and equality for pensioners (and we all know the strength of the pensioners lobby), but when 38 Degrees put out 17 suggested campaigns, including issues as diverse as powerstations, tax avoidance, the Murdochs, and benefits for pensioners living abroad, disability issues don't feature at all? Forgive me, but something's not just rotten in the state of Denmark, but stinking to high heaven of disablist discrimination.
If you think I'm writing this to shine a light on 38 Degrees and shame them into treating disabled people as the equals this government is determined to ensure we aren't, then you're damned right I am.
So what's it to be, 38 Degrees? Do you really believe in democracy and equality, or is it just a sham to trick people into campaigning for your own hobbyhorses? Are you for disabled people, or against us?