Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Good Old Boy #61

David Clelland, MP in Gateshead, has been in the news for writing to one of his constituents telling him to 'stick his vote wherever it best pleases him'. His whole letter is here and is Good Old Boy-tastic. I particularly like the phrase 'I suggest you stand for election and test the popularity of your views. I am very relaxed about contesting them and letting the people decide'.

The constituent who received this letter has popped up on the 'Liberal Burblings' blog to explain that he was "annoyed at the fact that he refuses to justify his voting and engage with his constituents on important issues like civil liberties." So here's a tip for anyone who wants to write to their MP and engage with them on the issue of civil liberties, or any other subject.

Don't be a dick about it.

Mr Scott's letter included choice phrases like the following:

There is an old saying "Do not attribute to malice that which can easily be explained by stupidity" which frankly is exactly the view I took for a long time.

"Do you have any principals [sic] that you believe in other than blind loyalty to a supposedly socialist but increasingly fascist like party?

I just do not understand why anybody should have the right to prohibit consensual sexual behaviour at all, least of all a bunch of old puritans in parliament

I hope you start to think for yourself at some point and I will keep an eye on your voting record. If you keep towing the party line on blatant incursions in to our civil liberties then you can kiss my vote goodbye and you can also count on the fact that I will be convincing everybody I know in Gateshead to do the same.

If you write to someone and call them stupid, malicious, increasingly fascistic, an old puritan, someone who doesn't think for themself, and finish up by announcing that unless they do exactly what you want (which you equate against all evidence with being the views of the wider community), you won't vote for them, then you shouldn't expect to get a detailed and thoughtful reply about counter-terrorism and anti-crime legislation. It's not like the constituent's letter included any actual arguments or examples to support his case.

MPs don't mind getting letters which could have been written by the Speak Your Brane comment generator - most of the time it will end up being their bag carriers who answer them anyway, and it is always easy to ignore anyone who writes and claims that everyone in Gateshead is disgusted by the criminalisation of violent pornography or some such.

The kinds of letters which MPs really pay attention to, and find both a delight in one way and an utter pain in another, are either those which ask for help with sorting out problems, or the ones from people where the author has really taken the time to think through their case and support it with evidence, is polite, but which leaves the clear impression that their vote is up for grabs depending on the quality of the answer.

Happily for MPs, they don't get many of that sort of letter.


At 5:30 am , Blogger Jock Coats said...

I got a nice two pager from Andrew explaining how he came to the conclusion that 42 days was the right decision. Of course I disagreed with every word! But it was at least a good thing to get such a reasonably argued letter.

At 11:43 am , Anonymous stephen said...

it is always easy to ignore anyone who writes and claims that everyone in Gateshead is disgusted by the criminalisation of violent pornography or some such

Yes it is easy but Clelland did himself absolutely no favours by dismissing the letter writer in the terms he did. By saying that that his constituent should stick his vote where 'it best pleased him' he is by extension saying that any vestigal liberal who might still consider voting for Labour should do the same. Not a smart move when Labour needs all the votes it can get, even those of despised liberals.

I am sure that for those who think that politics and law making is just a big game, Clelland's response is jolly japes. But the 'extreme pornography' bill is a particularly nasty piece of authoritarian law making. People will go to jail for doing nothing more than taking snaps of consensual 'rough sex' between adults. The law should not be in peoples' bedrooms and Clelland should have had the courtesy to say why he thinks it should.

At 7:05 pm , Blogger donpaskini said...

Hi stephen,

I think that Labour is making a big mistake in antagonising liberal (small 'l') voters with a lot of this sort of authoritarian legislation - more on this perhaps another time.

But liberals who oppose this sort of legislation would do well to stick to good arguments (like the one you make in your comment and no doubt Jock did when writing to Andrew Smith), rather than making ridiculous claims. Any case, no matter how good, can be undermined by bad arguments, after all.

At 10:58 am , Anonymous stephen said...

Any case, no matter how good, can be undermined by bad arguments, after all

Absolutely Don. The letter writer was an arrogant idiot and I do have some sympathy for Clelland for receiving such a letter. My complaint is that Clellandd comes across as an arrogant idiot as well!

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