Wednesday, 28 January 2009

They work for you

I've been contacted by a confused constituent from Easton who has received a personally addressed newsletter/ survey from someone purporting to be "your local MP". The newsletter, addressed to "the people of Bristol West" proclaims that the MP in question is "working for you" and "working hard for local people all year round". The MP urges people to "get in touch today", and gives out parliamentary contact details.

Easton is in Bristol East. I am the MP for Bristol East. Easton will be in Bristol West after the next election, when there are boundary changes, but if there has been an election recently someone forgot to tell me. The MP in question is therefore not working hard for anyone in Easton, and is not supposed to use parliamentary facilities (e.g. giving out the number of his Commons office, which he does) to have dealings with them. The MP in question has been reported to the Speaker for doing this once before. And now he's going to be reported again.

The MP in question is of course entitled to present himself to the good people of Lawrence Hill and Easton as their future candidate, but not as their MP. And if Paul Smith - Labour candidate for Bristol West - has his way, that's as close as he'll ever get.

The MP in question also says in his mailing - "only the Lib Dems want to strengthen the Climate Change Bill to commit to an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050". So I must have entirely imagined Ed Miliband's statement in October and voting for the subsequent Bill.

23 comments:

Guthrum said...

Turf wars, how exciting !

Steven_L said...

Go on girl!

Jon Rogers said...

Morning Kerry

While on the subject of climate change, remind me, how did you vote on Wednesday on the proposal for a third runway at Heathrow?

Jon

Kerry said...

Nice try, Jon, but the subject here is why the holier-than-thou party is so dishonest (or shall we be charitable and say 'confused'?) in its communications with the electorate? And isn't it a misuse of parliamentary resources to give out a House of Commons phone number on a party political Lib Dem campaign leaflet?

What I'd like to know is - are such 'errors' the result of incompetence - i.e. you have no idea what's actually going on in Parliament or what the parliamentary rules are - or do you know exactly what you're doing but just think that, being a minor party you'll escape the kind of scrutiny that we Labour politicians are suject to, and you'll get away with it?

And while you're here Jon - why don't the Lib Dems want to run the Council?

PS Will blog on the week in Parliament over the weekend. Off campaigning in Bristol East now. Who knows, I might bump into the other 'local MP' while I'm there.

Jon Rogers said...

Nice try yourself! Do you answer questions about Heathrow's Third Runway and your support for it?

Jon Rogers said...

Thank you for asking, "And while you're here Jon - why don't the Lib Dems want to run the Council?"

The Liberal Democrats are very keen to run the Council.

We just have to accept that when the Conservatives voted to put Labour into power in May 2007 that their 13 votes, plus Labour's 25 votes beats our 31 votes.

We have made a little progress since then, winning St George West, but we are still 4 seats short of an overall majority.

I realise that the Tories under Richard Eddy are currently playing games, and suggesting that their explicit support for Labour has come to an end, but frankly I don't believe him.

I am sure you will agree, it is the people of Bristol who should decide who runs this city, not Richard Eddy.

Jon

Kerry said...

Jon - your MP may show a blatant disregard for rules, but on here, my rules are my rules - please read them.

When it comes to correspondence from constituents, they set the agenda, and I reply to that agenda. On here, I set the agenda, and I blog on what I want to, not what other people tell me to.

I'm answerable to my constituents, not to random people on here. And to be frank, if I've spent the week replying to emails/ letters on a topic, I don't really feel inspired to blog on the same subject. There are plenty of other sites covering the topic.

And as for your second response - you had the chance to run the council. You bottled it.

As Tony Blair used to say, when you're in Opposition you wake up and think 'what am I going to say today?'. When you're in Government you wake up and think 'what am I going to do today?' The first is easy, you can play to the public gallery and be totally inconsistent from one moment to the next, particularly when you're Lib Dems and no-one subjects you to proper scrutiny. The second is hard; it involves tough choices about competing priorities, making difficult decisions and being held accountable for them. And you're running scared.

Paul said...

Kerry Jon is being a bit coy (not like him I admit). the reason they did not take control of the council last year was set out clearly on Alex Woodman's Blog (later amended)

"we feel that at the moment what Bristol needs is stability, not another change which would have left the city with a weak and ineffectual administration"

The lib dems are not a party but a group of disperate individuals who outside of council meetings hate eachother - and of course one of them is living in the USA.

The reason was that they are

Weak and Ineffectual

Northern Lights said...

Jon

Please confirm which one of the following is true:

1. Lib Dem activists are too thick to understand that changes to the boundaries don't come into effect until AFTER the general election, and that Stephen Williams is NOT the MP for Bristol East

2. Lib Dem activists are misleading people in Bristol East to believe that Stephen Williams is their MP, in contravention of the rules, in a pathetic attempt to save his seat (which he is due to lose, along with about half of Lib Dem MPs at the next election)

Regards,

A resident of Bristol West

Kerry said...

So you're a professional northerner who has moved down south? How are you coping with the warmer weather?

Northern Lights said...

It isn't too warm at the moment!

Another one for Jon:

What is Stephen Williams going to do if a resident in Bristol East contacts him for help, after claiming that he is their MP?

I would LOVE to hear the justification for this one Jon...

Jon Rogers said...

Evening all

I sympathise. I can understand that you don't like Liberal Democrats putting leaflets out in Easton.

Most people I meet are more concerned with issues like the economy, Iraq, Gaza, Zimbabwe, Climate Change, poor public transport, Heathrow expansion, ID cards and plans for a mass burn incinerator in Avonmouth.

We will see in June who is "weak and ineffectual". Let the electorate decide!

Sleep well

Jon

Kerry said...

People are also quite rightly concerned about whether politicians are being honest with them, and whether they're using/ misusing public funds. Aren't they?

And perhaps your MP should be putting out leaflets telling people where he stands on issues, rather than four-page surveys? And speaking up in Parliament rather more than he does?

Northern Lights said...

Jon:

I think the electorate will decide that the Lib Dems are both desperate and disingenuous.

You seem incapable of answering a simple question, which is: are Lib Dem activists/Councillors/and their MP incapable of understanding electoral boundaries, or just misleading the public into voting for them?

And as for the bigger issues, I think people will vote for parties who are in a position to make the difficult decisions that come with being in Government, rather than sit on the sidelines making false gestures and opportunistic remarks.

Jon Rogers said...

I can see how this blogging stuff can take over your life!

Northern Lights summarises my shortcomings as "You seem incapable of answering a simple question, which is: are Lib Dem activists/Councillors/and their MP incapable of understanding electoral boundaries, or just misleading the public into voting for them"

Frankly I am not interested in the semantics of whether he described himself as "your MP" or "local MP".

I suspect the people of Easton are also more interested in the issue of Climate Change and what their MP and other local MPs are doing about it.

Do you truly believe that this minor quibble is more important than Kerry's Labour party support for Heathrow's Third runway?

Jon

PS I have many more shortcomings than this!

Paul said...

I notice Jon didn't answer any of the questions just changed the subject.

As a supporter of and worker for the NHS perhaps he can expalin the lib dem policy of offering all treatments not delivered within target times being switched to the private sector

Kerry said...

It's disingenuous in the extreme to pretend that this argument is simply over semantics, i.e. whether he is a 'local MP' or 'your MP', (although the leaflet very clearly says - 'your local MP'.) The issue is - he was sending party political material to people who are not his constituents, but whose votes he needs at the next election, and inviting him to contact him as 'your local MP' using his parliamentary phone number and a parliamentary email address. What happens if someone in Easton or Lawrence Hill responds to this, and calls his Westminster office? Presumably a member of staff, paid for out of public funds, will deal with the enquiry. This is NOT ALLOWED under parliamentary rules. If I was to circulate election material (as opposed to non-party political parliamentary reports) I would have to give a Labour Party contact number/ address and my paid staff wouldn't go near it. The minor charge, if you like, is that he is deliberately misleading voters; the more serious charge is that he is misusing public resources. So - is he, or isn't he?

Northern Lights said...

Jon:

It's not a question of semantics, it's a question of misusing public funds.

Please answer the following questions:

1. Is Easton in Bristol West?

2. Is Stephen Williams the MP for Bristol East?

3. If the answer to the above questions is no, should Stephen Williams apologise for misrepresenting himself in these terms?

Lib Dems are showing no respect for voters in Easton, and the responses on here have been both arrogant and evasive.

Be honest or just don't bother

Northern Lights said...

In the spirit of answering questions that are asked: Yes, because I agree with the Heathrow decision.

Your turn...

Phil said...

So, Kerry, publishing MPs' parliamentary contact details on party political literature is against parliamentary rules, is it?

Perhaps then you had best complain about your Labour colleagues in Bristol South, who have published Dawn Primarolo's contact details on their party political website: http://www.bristolsouthlabourparty.org.uk/0b934f5a-6c87-e914-6d70-d77205c83787

Or how about Sam Townend in Bristol North West, who has published Doug Naysmith's details on his website: http://www.samtownend.com/useful_contacts

In fact, while we're talking about Sam, what about the fact that he recently published a leaflet describing to Henleaze residents how Doug is "their local Labour MP"?

Is that the stench of Labour hypocrisy I smell?

Jon Rogers may not be a Bristol East resident, but I am. So, I would like to know why you ignored his question, and you're using petty little complaints like this to deflect attention from the fact that you effectively voted in favour of a third runway at Heathrow?

You may say that the Tory motion was "brazen" and won't impact at all on the process, but if that's the case, what about the 28 of your colleagues who voted with the Tories, and the two who quit government posts over it?

Did they not understand what they were voting on? Perhaps got confused and went through the wrong lobby?

Or is it the case that you're simply a Labour stooge, willing to vote with the Government to advance your own career instead of speaking up for what is right?

Kerry said...

No, it's perfectly legitimate to circulate MPs' contact details if people are going to actually contact them as their MP - so Paul Smith could put out leaflets in Lawrence Hill and Easton with my name as a useful contact. Provided people were contacting me as their MP, it would be OK for my staff to answer the phones, deal with queries, etc. But when it comes to election time, and I'm presenting myself as a candidate, not as an MP, I wouldn't be able to use that resource.

Stephen is not the MP for Easton, and therefore he is approaching the residents as a candidate - and can't use parliamentary resources. And it is wrong to say he is the local MP. I don't know what happened in Henleaze, but Doug isn't standing at the next election - so it looks like a genuine error to me, whereas SW has already been reported to the Speaker before - he has form on this!

As for the Heathrow issue - the 28 MPs who voted against obviously wanted to be seen to be taking a stand - some did it just because, to be frank, they always do, and others did it to reflect constituency concerns. I'm not a West London MP and I happen to take a different view. If you want to know what that is, email me as a constituent.

Paul said...

Stephen Williams defence in the Evening Post below:

Mr Williams insisted it was clear he was not trying to present himself as the MP for the area.
"I think she is being very silly if she wants to pursues this," he said.
"It clearly states on the leaflet that I'm the MP for Bristol West. There is only one area that is not as tight as it could be and that is the contact box but it is abundantly clear from the rest of the leaflet where I am MP for."


Clearly Mr Williams thinks that everyone is as interested in the location of Parliamentary and ward boundaries as he is. He has admitted he has distributed material promoting himself as the local MP in areas where he isn't. If this has been paid for from his parliamentary allowance he is clearly breaching the rules (the law?).

As the prospective candidate I am not allowed to use public funds to campaign only money donated by members of the public. If Mr Williams is using public money for his campaign he should repay it immediately.

Kerry said...

To be fair, I doubt if this was paid for out of public funds, as it's clearly marked with Liberal Democrat insignia, and we're not allowed to even mention which party we're from in our parliametary reports - so I think it's probably paid for out of campaign funds. However - the email address and phone number given for responses are an @parliament.uk email and his House of Commons phone number - which is not permissible.

The analogy would be, if I was to put out material in Frome Vale and Hillfields - which will form part of Bristol East at the next election - calling myself the MP. I haven't, and wouldn't do that.