Apr 1st, 2015
Update: Bristol West Lib Dem leaflets
By Rebecca Falcon
Lawyers representing Bristol West MP, Stephen Williams, have been in touch about the petition asking him to apologise for delivering misleading leaflets claiming credit for “saving our forests from privatisation”. They have threatened legal action if we do not remove the petition and other references to it on the 38 Degrees website.
We aren’t going to remove the petition. We believe it’s reasonable to question whether Lib Dems in Bristol West deserve credit for “saving our forests from privatisation”. Local voters are entitled to challenge Stephen Williams about this statement and to demand an accurate election debate.
However, we have made some changes to the information on the petition page, and we have taken down a previous blog post about this campaign. And we do need to make an apology.
1) Stephen Williams’ voting record
Stephen Williams voted against a motion which, amongst other points, called on the government to “rethink its decision on the sale of England’s public forest estate in order to protect it for future generations”. And he voted in favour of a government motion welcoming proposed access and conservation arrangements that would follow the sell-off of England’s forests.
We need to clarify, however, that these votes were part of an “Opposition Day Debate”. These are real votes, and are treated as important by MPs, but they were not the final votes. Thankfully the government cancelled the privatisation plans before the final votes on legislation took place.
In the original version of the petition, and elsewhere in the 38 Degrees web site, we repeated the verdict of independent website theyworkforyou.com that these votes meant Williams had “voted very strongly for selling England’s state owned forests”. We accept that this was an oversimplification. We should have included more detail about the precise nature of these votes and have updated the petition page accordingly.
2) Stephen Williams’ honesty
We apologise unreservedly for suggesting that Stephen Williams was guilty of telling lies and withdraw that suggestion.
3) Small change to the petition text
We have amended the petition text to read:
Apologise for Lib Dems delivering misleading election leaflets in Bristol West and take personal responsibility for making sure no more of the leaflets are delivered to residents. (Adding in the words “Lib Dems”).
This is to make it clear that Stephen Williams did not personally deliver these leaflets – rather they were delivered on behalf of the Lib Dems to households within the Bristol West constituency.
4) 38 Degrees’ commitment to accuracy
We are sorry that it’s been necessary to issue this clarification. 38 Degrees is committed to getting all the facts right – we’re sorry that on this occasion the information we presented you with was not as thoroughly checked as it should have been.
If having read this, you would like to take your name off the petition to Stephen Williams asking him to apologise for misleading leaflets, then please click email the team at email@example.com