The British Left’s capacity to drive itself into a frenzy online is well-known – as is its willingness to cook up untrue claims about Baroness Thatcher. The two hobbies combined recently around a 38 Degrees petition demanding “No taxpayer funding for ‘Margaret Thatcher Memorial Museum and Library'”.
The petition is a year old, but for some reason the bulk of its 69,987 signatories have been accumulated in the last few days – driven by tweets of the link and the #ThatcherMuseum hashtag.
So far, an evidently successful campaign on its own terms. Except for one thing – the whole “scandal” is founded on a fiction.
As one of the Trustees of the Margaret Thatcher Centre, Conor Burns MP, confirms:
— Conor Burns MP (@Conor_BurnsMP) February 8, 2015
It wouldn’t have been that hard for 38 Degrees, the author of the petition or any one of the people promoting it to have simply checked before pushing a false claim – but as ever, it seems they’d rather engage in a panic regardless of the facts.
Looking back at the genesis of the petition, it seems to have been sparked by this Telegraph story that David Cameron has “given his backing” to the project. Nowhere in the article is there a reference to taxpayers’ money, and indeed it specifically talks about the Margaret Thatcher Centre’s fundraising efforts – and the way in which the support of Cameron and others will help those efforts.
It says a lot about the attitudes of the Left that when they see a report that a politician is backing something, they immediately assume that must mean the spending of taxpayers’ money.
One effect of the petition, of course, is that almost 70,000 lefties have wasted their time – misled yet again by their own hatred. That’s no great loss. But it’s clearly wrong that 38 Degrees, with a high profile and the support of various prominent figures, has facilitated the spreading of yet another outright untruth about the conservative movement.
Numerous MPs have become frustrated in recent years to receive endless emails from people whipped up by petitions which are misleading at best. I’ve flagged this petition as inappropriate due to its false basis – it will be interesting to see if they can be bothered to act on it.
More broadly, it’s an interesting question as to why the Right hasn’t developed a counterweight to 38 Degrees. Perhaps the Tory worldview, focussing more on what you can do to make the nation better than on demanding “something must be done” by others, simply doesn’t lend itself to foot-stamping. Perhaps an unwillingness to engage in the same kind of gutter politics limits its appeal in the Twitter age.
Or perhaps rightists simply have better things to do with their time. Whatever the reason, it’s surely worth exploring whether we could produce a sensible, and more truthful, equivalent.
In the meantime, you can donate to the Margaret Thatcher Centre here – voluntarily, as she would have wanted.