A guest blog: Tax credits petition hand-in to Zac Goldsmith

Below is a guest blog from Andree, a 38 Degrees member from Richmond Park who organised a tax credits petition hand-in to Zac Goldsmith:

It was with some trepidation that I decided to arrange to meet my MP to hand in the Say NO to tax credits cuts petition. It’s not as if I haven’t signed enough petitions, or, met my MP before. I have, in fact I stood against him in Richmond Park as the last General Election. No doubt you’ve heard of him – Zac Goldsmith the conservative candidate for London Mayor. Despite all that I was nervous. But then I thought, what’s the worst that can happen, it’s only 15 minutes and there will be other people there, too.

So, I called his constituency office, followed up by an email and was given the only appointment he had available between then and 25th November. It was way too soon, just five days later. Would enough people come? How many signatures were on the petition? Could 38 Degrees get me the action pack in time?

I quickly set up the event on the 38 Degrees website, located my local Richmond Park group on there, put up a shout out about it and then went on to social media to advertise the meeting. I had a moment of panic when I searched for the petition on the internet and found a hyper-local one with just 12 signatures on it! But then, the 38 Degrees team got in touch, pointed me in the right direction and there they were – all glorious 426 of them! 

That’s when I found out my pack would be delivered between 5pm and 7pm the night before my appointment. A bit tight, but I put faith in the courier, which was rewarded. Until then, it was a waiting game to see how many local members would sign up to the event. Initially there was two – me and someone I already knew – plus a friend I dragged with me when I said I was doing this instead of going to our regular Pilates class (!). Then another person signed up and I felt better. Four of us was a decent enough number.

Wednesday morning came and I wrote the latest figure on the box and certificates – 457. Spreading the word on social media and a few emails to choice friends had pushed it up. Off we went. First timers, all of us, we were definitely nervous. We met the third signer-up outside Zac’s offices and headed in, despite being 10 minutes early.

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And halt. He wasn’t there. His staff told us he’d been called away. Zac was deeply apologetic but had an education meeting to go to. Disappointment and confusion all round. I ploughed on, gabbling my rehearsed speech to this disinterested staffer – “2,000 people use food banks in Richmond, 5,000 in Kingston over half of which are children, Richmond is in the four worst boroughs in London for inequality, TB is making a comeback in Kingston, it’s low-paid people not the employed who go to food banks, Kingston has over 500 homeless people on its streets.” It was like talking to a mannequin.

We traipsed outside and decided to take a picture anyway. We got the box and Cllr Peter Buckwell., who happened to be in the office while all this happening and heard my garbled speech, agreed to have his picture taken with us. So it wasn’t all lost.

As we finished up, another 38 Degrees member joined us. He must have signed up online at the last minute as I hadn’t realised he was coming. Such a shame, if only we’d waited, but our nervous excitement had got the better of us. It would help if the 38 Degrees website could automatically email event organiser when someone signs up, but I guess there are data protection issues to consider.

Still, we’d handed the petition in – I can only hope the number of signatures from Zac’s own constituency have some sway – and then we went for well-deserved coffee afterwards and a get-to-know-each-other session.

And, if Zac’s reading this, the number of signatures now stands at 463 – and rising.

Andree Frieze, 38 Degrees member, Richmond Park

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