By 999callfornhs, Aug 28 2017 02:28PM
Simon Maginn ponders the pros and cons of writing to your MP.
I’ve always been the kind of person who writes to public figures. I used to have a special pot of green ink and a venomous quill specially for these letters, though of course now it’s emails instead and the green ink is mostly used for dying the cat.*
Is there any point writing to an MP? Is it worth it? Don’t MPs just do whatever they like, and do they pay any attention to these letters? These are questions that rarely trouble me greatly, I have to confess.
I write to my MP because I’ve got a head full of steam about whatever it is and I need a way of discharging it that saves the cat from any further cruelty. So a letter to an MP can be a form of therapy, a way of releasing tension. That alone would be reason enough to do it. But there’s more.
MPs vary hugely, of course, as to how they respond to constituents’ letters.
Some will simply append a death threat and then run weeping to the press about the wickedness of the world (yes, I’m looking at you, Lucy Allan, Con, Telford, majority 720).
Others will take a more dignified approach and wittily tell the writer to “f**k off back to Scotland” (take a bow, James Heappey, Conservative, Wells, majority 7,582). But in my experience, an MP will always try to answer a polite and sensible email with a polite and sensible reply.
It may not be the reply you want, but it will be a reply. You will have made contact with your representative on a subject which is important to you, and they will have read it and been forced to consider it, if only for the length of time required to decide which of their five stock answers it deserves. Even though you may not get that reply that reveals the big secret - knowing that your words have injected a drop of guilty conscience or interrupted the lobbyist's narrative that is forming an MPs opinion makes it worthwhile (Dont forget corporate lobbyists are inside Parliament and our letters are there to combat their poison).
And on rare, joyous occasions, you may even get a reply which answers your question.
Those are gala days, to be celebrated with fireworks and hot air balloons and displays of athletic prowess. Most letters will fail to achieve anything concrete. MPs are in receipt of a staggering quantity of mail, and much of it will be some winning combination of the incoherent, the abusive, the repetitious, the vexatious, and the just plain mental.
But if you can craft a letter which is none of these things, which raises a concern which you feel deeply about and have taken some trouble to research, which is polite and businesslike in tone, which asks for something which can be delivered and doesn’t demand impossible instant solutions to complex and intractable problems, and which is succinct and - ideally - written in comprehensible English, you are immediately ahead of the pack.
Your letter will shine in comparison to the garrulous maundering that are its fellows, and will demand - demand! - a considered reply. This is the very essence of democracy, the essential bargain: MPs are representatives, neither gods nor servants, but people who owe you an obligation to at least pretend to care about whatever it is you care about. So write to them. Be polite, be clear, be reasonable, be accurate, and be brief.
And have the hot air balloon and the fireworks on stand-by. Because you never know…
*The ink/cat is obviously intended as a sort of joke, but do please feel free to inundate me with emails complaining about the senseless cruelty of my ink/cat related activities. All such communications will of course be ignored, unless they’re particularly indignant, in which case they will be pitilessly mocked.