Yesterday, Simon Burns MP, Minister of State for Health, said 38 Degrees members were "almost zombie-like" when they emailed MPs about the government's NHS plans. It didn't take long for 38 Degrees members to respond. On the 38 Degrees Facebook page, one member, Samiha, said, "This contempt for the concerns of the people is staggering - shows just how patronising some politicians are."
Burns' main complaint seems to be that it's annoying when his voters get in touch about issues they care about (something most MPs see as part of the job description - some of them even say they enjoy it!). But he's also accused 38 Degrees members of spreading "misinformation" about the government's NHS reforms.
That's a bit rich coming from a Department of Health minister, jointly responsible for the decision to delay the release of the government's NHS risk review until the last possible moment (and there's still a chance they could appeal, and delay further).
38 Degrees members couldn't be further from zombies when it comes to choosing and backing campaigns. Take this most recent NHS campaign for an example. 38 Degrees members raised tens of thousands of pounds to commission legal opinions to make sure we had the best possible advice on the bill.
Hundreds of us have shared our MPs' responses to the letters they're written. Nearly half a million of us have signed the petition, urging the government to rethink the changes. We've chipped in to pay for adverts in national newspapers. And now the bill is in the House of Lords, thousands of us have been emailing them to explain why we're worried about the changes.
There are over 950,000 of us involved with 38 Degrees. Among us are thousands of doctors, nurses and countless other professionals who've devoted their lives to making our health service effective. Many others can tell inspiring stories about the NHS saving or improving our lives. Others are lawyers or students, who made it their business to go through the legal opinions we paid for with a fine-toothed comb. We're not zombies. We're the people the NHS was created to serve.
Perhaps the most striking thing about 38 Degrees members' responses to this has been the sense that getting in touch with our MPs isn't a privilege, reserved for a small group of people.
38 Degrees members believe that contacting our MPs and telling them what we think is what living in a democracy is all about. It's not only for certain sorts of people, from one or other end of the political spectrum. It's for all of us.
When he suggests anything else, Simon Burns MP is undermining values that politicians of all parties should hold dear.
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