Monday, August 09, 2010

Would 38 Degrees Like To Apologise?

Further to the story below, I interviewed both Dominic Raab and the Executive Director of 38 Degrees, David Babb on my LBC show this evening. Mr Babb rather took the wind out of my sails when he maintained that the emails Dominic Raab were all different and that they weren't cloned. A neat interview trick. It's also totally untrue. Raab texted me later to say that every email he had received via the 38 Degrees website was identical.

Perhaps Mr Babb would like to get in touch to apologise for, no doubt unintentionally, telling an outright fib.

16 comments:

mark.cfc1 said...

Sorry Iain but I totally disagree. I live in Esher and Walton and if relevant, use sites such as 38 degrees to get my point of view across to my MP, the previous incumbent, Sir Iain Taylor replied to the majority of my mails - Raab has not replied to one - I feel disenfranchised - surely Raab should apologise and stand down for letting down his constituents.

Kristofer Keane said...

To be fair, the 38 Degrees site usually provides a standard letter and asks users to personalise it (I myself do). If some users prefer just to send it as-is, I suppose it's predictable, but it's not 38 Degrees' fault.

Mr John Cooper said...

Can you provide a weblink so we can all listen again to that part of the show? I suspect what was being said was that each person gets the chance to customise their email to their MP. Granted, most people don't, but some do - therefore each email (as it is generated by an individual) is unique...

But let's here what the audio says...

Glyn Davies said...

I take a different approach to this problem Ian. Where a telephone number is appended to the 'standard' email, I ring them. Can't do it with every one of course. Had a huge number about protecting the BBC from some unspecified 'cuts' and even more about opposition to the practice of de-beaking chickens. Some are genuine, but most are completely floored when I tell them its their MP ringing up to discuss their email. Two have been rather rude, maintaining I was abusing their privacy by ringing them! Unfortunately, its reached such a scale that I'll have to resort to 'standard' replies - with an invitation to ring me. Just not enough hours in a day. While I have no regard for 'lobby groups' I could never bring myself to 'junk box' correspondence from a constituent.

Iain Dale said...

John, you can download it on the LBC website but they charge £2 a month for their listen again facility I am afraid.

Crusty Foo said...

Raab, Babb and dangerous to know?

korenwolf said...

Ok, 38deg can apologise for being accurate but misleading, could the MP whining about this apologise for also misleading the listening public by implying they're a lobbying company?

simon said...

I used one of these services to contact my MP, Kate Hoey, re an issue that concerned me (the libel laws).

A few days later I received a letter addressing the issue and setting out what she planned to do. A few weeks later she wrote again, explaining what had been done. No doubt she'd had several emails from other constituents raising the same point and replied to them all.

With a well-organised office, this sort of thing is perfectly possible and it raised Kate Hoey several notches in my esteem.

Lady Finchley said...

All the e-mails from 38 Degrees are indeed identical. However we do answer every constituent who writes in and would never consider removing our e-mail address. I will say though that computer generated e-mails, while all answered, are not priorty. This is reserved for casework - i.e. constituents with real problems.

George said...

The man, Babb, is truly the son of Goebbels, and the spawn of agitprop.

Steve Tierney said...

I've seen some of these insidious emails on many occasions and they are not all identical. Many promoters use software to make variations in the text in order that they look different. In content, though, they all say the same thing - but with paragraphs and key points in slightly different order.

They're absolute spam rubbish and If I were an MP I'd set up a spam filter and have them go straight in the bin. If somebody cares enough about an issue they can surely write their own brief email?

This is just lobby groups using emotive phrasing talking their gullible members into clicking a button to send a prefabricated email. It detracts from the time and money available for people who actually do take the genuine trouble to write.

David_Babbs said...

I didn't didn't tell an “outright fib”. All emails sent to Mr Raab via our site are not “identical”, as Mr Raab now claims. As I said on the radio last night, around 85% of emails sent via the 38 Degrees web site are personalised by the sender. That includes emails sent to Mr Raab – I've checked.

It's possible in making this new claim that Dominic Raab may be telling “an outright fib” himself – I am a bit disappointed that you've simply taken his latest claim at face value without contacting 38 Degrees to check. But it's also possible that Mr Raab is making an honest mistake – in many cases the emails he's receiving may be so far from identical that he's not aware they are coming via the 38 Degrees site.

As I explained on your radio show, 38 Degrees aims to make it easy for people to engage with MPs, which includes offering suggested text for emails which we encourage them to personalise. Most do choose to amend and adapt it, but about 15% choose to quickly send the standard text on. Mr Raab seems to be arguing that his voters need to earn the right to contact him by composing original prose. A lot of our members have expressed the view that this is a dubious position for their local MP to be taking, and that if a constituent is contacting their local MP about an important matter then the originality of the copy is neither here nor there.

Adam said...

Can he really be reciving that many emails? And, if he is, can he really afford not to reply to that many constituents?

Then again, I suppose, he's sitting on an 18,500-vote majority... viva FPTP!

Dom Raab said...

I wonder whether David is splitting hairs - by implying they have been tailored, when they were tweaked or the name/ address changed.

On his estimate, I am getting 2 per week on average since the election. But realistically they come in a splurge all at once - 200 in total on his numbers.

It is a classic example of clone emails orchestrated by a lobby group. What does it achieve that a single email with a list of supporters, other than seek to absorb an MP's time? I would be more sympathetic to 38 Degrees if they had not falsely and maliciously claimed I had said my constituents - rather than they - were a nuisance. But, this is not just about 38 Degrees. It is about the much wider practice - and what we want MPs doing with their finite time, resources and capacity.

Btw, on the IT side, spam can filter emails from one source - but it is more difficult, the more lobbyists there are.

Of course, I have had messages from 38 Degrees supporters expressing their indignation. That's what effective lobby groups are good at. But I have had more from constituents saying that I am right to take a stand on this - and that they are pleased I am prioritising those in real need, and not letting special interests use mass marketing devices to crowd out the voice of residents raising issues affecting their lives.

People can still email me direct via my website. And I will take a view on putting my email address back up, which I would much prefer, once I have had a steer from the ICO. Their initial advice was that if I 'published' my email, I could not request that lobbyists stop using it - the only reason I recently took it off the HoC site.

longrun2 said...

@David_Babbs
If Iain wanted to check whether or not all the e-mails from the 38 Degrees site *received by Mr Raab* were identical, he would have inspected Mr Raab's inbox.
May I, with all due respect, suggest that you should apologise to Mr Dale?
As for Mr Raab not being aware that the e-mails are coming from 38 degrees? Are you joking? If Mr Raab thought that he was getting 3 emails from 38 Degrees for every 17 non-associated e-mails making a case in favour of a proposal you support, would he be making a fuss about it? Pull the other leg, it has bells on.
I find your post disingenuous - the suggestio falsi in your first paragraph is that you have personally checked all the emails sent to Mr Raab and counted how many were personalised whereas you have merely asked your computer whether those sent to Mr Raab were included in a global total within which you claim 85% were "personalised" in some way.

moniclare said...

the main point of concern for me personally is - that many members of the public have signed a letter or petition via 38degrees - because they are alarmed or upset by one or several matters connected with the MP and /or conservative party. There is not a jot of difference between signing ones name to a petition which the 'Statement of concern' attached - thousands of people do not continuosly add to the sgnature statment - by signing they are stating that they are agreeing with the statement and want that noted by the MP etc. I think the MP involved knows this and is using any means possible to mitigate his responsibility of acknowledging each constituent in person. But then again (in my and several colleagues opinions)that does seem to be a symptom shared by the majority of conservatives holding offices of responsibility. Of course Raab could have acknowledged that numerous people had been concerned enough to go through to the site and put in their details and press send - to his address . However he does not seem to be committed taking on his constituents concerns enough to even open the emails or reply personally. If this is the case then he is getting paid for a job he is not prepared to do.