Push-button Emails 6th April 2016
It is a feature of developed parliamentary democracies that the Government of the day will not have the support of a substantial minority of the voting population. There will be occasions, also, when some of those who did vote for - in the present case the Conservative Party - will not, on an individual policy, support the Government either. There are also instances (Sunday Trading was one such) where even Members of the governing party will reject a measure and join with the Opposition to defeat it. That is all understood and is one of the facts of political life: we are going to annoy or upset a lot of the people a lot of the time and on my side of the House we have to accept that there are indeed people who believe that we are on the wrong track and are prepared to support Mr. Jeremy Corbyn in his apparent ambition to drag the United Kingdom back down the road towards increased public spending, increased national debt and, ultimately, the bankruptcy that UK limited was heading for when the Coalition took over in 2010.
Members of Parliament do not, either, know everything about everything (there are some who are unkind enough to say that we know nothing about anything!) and we therefore rely heavily upon other, often professionally qualified, sources of opinion for information relating to the likely impact of legislation. If, therefore, I want to know about matters concerning the NHS then I will turn to the Consultants, the GPs, the nurses or the ancillary staff working locally that I know and trust to help to inform my opinion. If I need to know more about matters relevant to education then I know teachers at every level of the profession who will not tell me what I want to hear but what I need to hear and who will do so knowing that, at the end of the day, I will exercise my own judgement. Contrary to popular belief in the “you are all out of touch” theory most MPs, ,who hold regular advice surgeries and meet lots of people on a daily basis, do listen to the individual and personally held views of constituents.
When people say that “you are not listening” what they tend to mean is “you do not agree with me , which takes us back to the starting point that you cannot please all of the people all of the time. My personal approach is not to try to be all things to all people but to say, openly and honestly and why, when I do not share a view that has been expressed to me.
Into this equation is now injected the partisan e-mail protest group known as “38 degrees”. The pedigree of the organisation and its outright opposition to any and all government policy seemingly at whim, is well-known within Westminster. It has harnessed to its cause a database of mainly but not exclusively political opponents of the current Government who seem to be prepared to endorse any and every circular that is drafted for them. This pressure group, in tandem with some others, is unrepresentative and unaccountable. It conveys not the individual opinions of those who forward its missives but stereotyped “opposition” to policies often without reason or clarification. Not entirely surprisingly I, in common with many of my colleagues, regard this as an abuse of the parliamentary system, counter-productive and, arguably, actually damaging to the very causes that some wish to espouse.
The most recent of these campaigns, which has generated a handful of virtually identical items in my mailbox, is undefined opposition to the proposals put forward by the Secretary of State for Education to require all schools to become Academies.
Now, while I know of no good reason to maintain local authority control of over schools and many benefits accrued to those that have already become Academies, I am aware that, within the teaching professions, there are some concerns about the fine-tuning and implementation of the proposals. Adopting my usual procedure, therefore, I am seeking the views of those informed practitioners that I trust and, in the light of their views, I will make any necessary representations in the appropriate manner.
What I will not do, over this or any other issue, is submit to a push-button circular approach taken by those who have clearly given a matter little or no thought, have not taken the time and trouble to set out their personal opinions in any form, and are simply prepared to allow their names to be used to oppose the democratically elected Government of the day by those with a very clearly-defined alternative agenda.