38 Degrees

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38 Degrees
Founded May 2009
Focus political activism
  • United Kingdom
Method petitions, lobbying MPs, newspaper advertising campaigns, meetings[citation needed]
2.5 million.[1][non-primary source needed]
Key people
David Babbs (executive director), Blanche Jones (campaigns director), Maddy Carroll (campaigns director), Laura Townshend (communications director)
Website 38degrees.org.uk

38 Degrees is a British not-for-profit political-activism organisation. It describes itself as "progressive" and claims to "campaign for fairness, defend rights, promote peace, preserve the planet and deepen democracy in the UK".[2] In October 2013, it was reported to claim 1.9 million UK members.[3][needs update]

38 Degrees takes its name from the critical angle at which the incidence of a human-triggered avalanche is greatest.[2]


The organisation launched on 26 May 2009.[4] The 38 Degrees website states: "38 Degrees was founded by a group of activists and funders concerned about the state of our democracy and determined to try something different. Founders include Gordon Roddick, Henry Tinsley, Pete Myers and Paul Hilder. The project was developed by Ben Brandzel, Nina Kowalska, David Babbs and Warren Puckett. 38 Degrees was founded in memory of Anita Roddick, a lifetime champion of the power of ordinary people to make a difference."[5] Gordon Roddick, was previously co-founder of The Body Shop and Henry Tinsley was ex-chairman of Green & Black's chocolate.[6] The organisation launched during the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal, and this formed the backdrop to early campaigns demanding voters were given more powers to sack MPs.

The Executive Director since launch has been David Babbs. Babbs was formerly Head of Activism at Friends of the Earth where he was responsible for the Big Ask Campaign. Babbs also previously worked at People & Planet. Other early staff included Hannah Lownsborough and Johnny Chatterton.

At launch 38 Degrees said it was inspired by groups like MoveOn in the United States, GetUp! in Australia and Avaaz globally. These organisations all use the internet to mobilise people and connect them and their governments. 38 Degrees says that an organisation based on a similar model was needed in the UK.[2]


38 Degrees is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. It was previously registered as Progressive Majority.[7] It has a decentralised and informal structure, with management above a flat-line membership structure. 38 Degrees also claims its campaigns are selected by its members under its "Campaigns by You".[8]


David Babbs is Executive Director. He signs off some emails, appears in the media and frequently speaks at local 38 Degrees events. He has also represented 38 Degrees in front of parliamentary select committees.[9] Babbs describes his motivation for campaigning as coming from "a gut feeling that things could be better, politically, socially, and environmentally and that the reason they’re not is largely due to the conscious actions of powerful people rather than due to bad luck or any sort of natural order. Campaigning together is how we work together to challenge that and change things.".[10]

The Chair of the Board is Gordon Roddick, who is best known as co-founder of The Body Shop along with his wife, Anita Roddick. Gordon Roddick is also associated with a number of other causes including the Big Issue.[11]

Other senior staff include Blanche Jones (Campaigns Director, joined 2013), Maddy Carroll (Campaigns Director, joined 2013) and Laura Townshend (Communications Director, joined 2014).[9]


38 Degrees describes itself as a people-powered and multi-issue movement. It aims to empower UK citizens by providing easy ways for them to take action on the issues they care about, e.g., climate change, human rights and poverty. It claims "it’s 38 Degrees members who set priorities and we decide on what we campaign on together". They publish the results of their membership polls on their website.[12] While 38 Degrees refers to 'members', there is no formal membership and these are simply people on its email mailing list.[13]

Each week 50,000 members, chosen at random, are asked to vote for their top priorities; only ones where there is a strong consensus will be pushed forward. On occasion the whole membership is invited to take part in votes to decide the organisation's position on a newsworthy issue. For example, a poll in September 2014 found that members were evenly split on whether to support or oppose military action targeting ISIS in Iraq. As a result, 38 Degrees took no position.[14]

Funding comes from small individual donations.[15] The average donation is about £10 but a plea to fund a legal challenge to zero hours contracts asked for just £1 and received 11,000 responses within 48 hours. Part of its success comes from the speed with which 38 Degrees can launch a campaign or find out members' views.[16]

Campaigning techniques include both online methods, such as mass email, social media, blogs[8] and online petitions, and offline methods, such as calling an MP or visiting a surgery. 38 Degrees has also fundraised from its membership to commission legal advice[17] and to run advertising campaigns.[18]

Offline methods[edit]

38 Degrees have diversified their campaign methods and encouraged members to meet up with each other in different venues around the UK.[19] The NHS CCG campaign,[20] for example, has seen members meet up to discuss and plan local campaign actions with a view to meet Clinical Commissioning Groups representatives.[21]

38 Degrees has also started[when?] organising public meetings in various locations[vague] around the UK. The local MP and 38 Degrees director David Babbs sometimes speak at these meetings alongside local 38 Degrees members. During this campaign members organised 200 meetings.[16]

Campaigns By You[edit]

38 Degrees have an experimental platform where campaign ideas are chosen, refined and managed by a particular 38 Degrees member. The member acts as the contact and executor of the campaign. The platform can be used by any member and the prerequisite is a clear idea, which often has a local issue as a focal point. The 38 Degrees member gets to choose the issue and then use Campaigns By You platform (CBY) to collect signatures on a digital petition. CBY was developed to give members an opportunity to kick start a campaign in addition to shaping and participating in a preexisting one.[22]


  • 38 Degrees was accused of using "militarist" language in an email encouraging members to take part in a vote to decide 38 Degrees' position on UK military action against ISIS in Iraq in 2014. The poll resulted in a split vote and 38 Degrees took no position – angering peace campaigners.[14]
  • 38 Degrees has been criticised, particularly by some Members of Parliament, for running campaigns which they consider to be biased and amounting to little more than spam.[23][24][25]
  • Conservative MP Dominic Raab criticised 38 Degrees for allowing members to send "clone emails" to MPs via its website.[26] Raab stated he would lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office about 38 Degrees using his parliamentary email address.[27]
  • A number of government politicians strongly criticised 38 Degrees members for their actions campaigning against changes to the NHS. Lord Tyler, described 38 Degrees members as a "rent a mob".[28] In 2011 Transport Minister Simon Burns described 38 Degrees members as "almost zombie like" for following 38 Degrees without question.[29]
  • 38 Degrees has been accused of "alarmism" and "scaremongering" during the passage of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, which 38 Degrees has claimed is a "gagging law".[30]
  • Some sources have accused 38 Degrees, which claims not to be affiliated to a political party,[31] of being left-wing and of having links to the Labour Party. The blog site 38 Degrees debunked, which is run by a Conservative councillor states that "Although 38 Degrees professes to be 'not connected with any political parties' it is intensely political as are its campaigns. On first sight its position seems to be a mixture of mainstream Social Democratic and Green".[32] Conservative MP Robert Halfon described 38 Degrees as "a mass database of centrist/floating voters, albeit with a sizeable minority from the centre left..[which is]...controlled by leftists".[33] 38 Degrees has strongly denied these claims.[34]
  • 38 Degrees' involvement in the October 2015 public consultation into the renewal of the BBC charter was criticised for generating a very large number of responses. Of the 192,000 submissions it was found that 177,000 resulted from its rallying call to help defend the corporation from political interference, which significantly increased the cost and time required to analyse the responses.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.38degrees.org.uk/pages/members/
  2. ^ a b c "About us". 38 Degrees. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  3. ^ http://civilsocietycommission.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/civil-society-commission-report-WEB.pdf
  4. ^ "A British MoveOn - 38 Degrees - Launches Today". Liberal Conspiracy. Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  5. ^ "FAQs - who started 38 Degrees?". 38 Degrees. Retrieved 3 May 2016. 
  6. ^ "The team". 38 Degrees website. Archived from the original on 3 February 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2015. 
  7. ^ "Companies House (company ID 6642193)". Retrieved 19 September 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "38 Degrees (2014)". academia.edu. Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "People - The Staff Team". Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  10. ^ "Where are they now profile: David Babbs". People & Planet. Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  11. ^ John, Emma (13 June 2010). "Observer Ethical Awards: Gordon Roddick, Lifetime Achievement Award". The Observer. Retrieved 12 April 2014. 
  12. ^ "Future Campaigns". 38 Degrees Blog. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  13. ^ "Join In", 38degrees.org.uk. Retrieved 25 October 2014
  14. ^ a b "Iraq, 38 Degrees and everyday militarism". ekklesia.co.uk.
  15. ^ http://www.38degrees.org.uk/pages/donations-to-38-degrees
  16. ^ a b Moore, Alison (22 August 2014). "A new angle on public involvement". Health Service Journal. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  17. ^ Chatterton, Johnny (30 August 2011). "NHS legal review on Duty to Provide & Competition". 38 Degrees Blog. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  18. ^ Rees, James (28 February 2012). "NHS: huge billboard ads". 38 Degrees. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  19. ^ "Get Together". 38 Degrees. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  20. ^ "Save Your Local NHS". 38 Degrees. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  21. ^ "Meet Your CCG". 38 Degrees. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  22. ^ "Campaigns by You". 38 Degrees. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  23. ^ Gray, James (11 November 2011). "E-lobbying: Stop the spam". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  24. ^ "Guy Opperman MP: The falsehood of the 38 Degrees campaign on health". Conservative Home. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  25. ^ "You'd almost think 38 Degress are trying to bias the answers to this survey…". Mark Pack. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  26. ^ Spence, John (11 August 2010). "Dominic Raab challenges 38 Degrees over removal of e-mail address". The Vibe. Retrieved 14 March 2011. [dead link]
  27. ^ "Tory MP in bid to have email address removed from lobbying websites". Daily Mail. London. 10 August 2010. 
  28. ^ Tyler, Paul (20 October 2011). "Response: The Lords are listening, but not to rent-a-mob email campaigns". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  29. ^ "NHS minister's bombshell: I get emails from dead people". theregister.co.uk.
  30. ^ Brake, Tom (24 August 2013). "Tom Brake on 38 Degrees and the Transparency and Lobbying Bill". Liberal Democrat Voice. 
  31. ^ |38degrees.org.uk. "38 Degrees FAQs". 38degrees.org.uk. Retrieved 26 September 2016. 
  32. ^ Phil Taylor. "38degreesdebunked". 38degreesdebunked.blogspot.com. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  33. ^ Behr, Rafael (26 March 2012). "38 Degrees - the real opposition?". New Statesman. London. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  34. ^ "Why 38 Degrees is independent from political parties". 38 Degrees Blog. 26 March 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  35. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/12117407/BBC-charter-review-consultation-hijacked-by-left-wing-campaign-group.html

External links[edit]