Tuesday, 16 March 2010

MPs And An Example Of Their View Of 'Democracy'

The Albion Alliance - and their supporters - have been contacting all candidates standing in the forthcoming general election, asking them them to pledge to initiate - and/or support - a Bill, within the first year of the new parliament, for a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union whilst at the same time also asking for them to place country before party.

It is possible to view all correspondence that has been sent to and received from candidates on the Albion Alliance website. In order to provide a sample of the replies that have been received from candidates representing the three main parties I can do no better than to quote correspondence, to date, exchanged with Grant Shapps, Conservative MP for the constituency of Welwyn Hatfield. This correspondence is available to view here, however to save readers the trouble of linking, it is reproduced.

The initial email sent to Schapps read:

"From: maileer@albionalliance.org.uk
Sent: 14 March 2010 7:22 PM
To: grant@shapps.com 

Subject: Albion Alliance

Dear Grant Shapps,

This year will see a General Election, one in which you have indicated that you will be standing for election and campaigning on behalf of your party.

Our research has shown us that high on the public agenda of important items they want their politicians to address is the question of the UK's  relationship with the EU. The public realise the democratic deficit that exists and wish to have that redressed. As such, the Albion Alliance has been formed to campaign on behalf of those voters who feel that they have no say in the political agenda with regards to this issue, and to call for a referendum.

The Albion Alliance is totally neutral on whether the UK should remain in the EU or not, and does not campaign either way, but concentrates solely on the democratic deficit and the need for the public to have such a vote. We are not aligned to, or have the support of, any political party, nor do we seek any such support.

We note that in the past 40 years no party has ever put to the public a manifesto item saying that they will be working for closer political union, but in contrast all have put forward manifesto promises at one time or another to have a referendum on this issue, which all have subsequently withdrawn for a variety of reasons, and the public are rightly angered that we now find ourselves in such a union without any reference back to them, or without them being able to have the final say.

We are therefore writing to you on behalf of those democratically excluded voters, to ask that you sign a pledge (the wording of the pledge may be found here
http://albionalliance.org.uk), promising that should you be elected and take up your seat as an MP, you will work tirelessly on behalf of the public to make such a referendum a reality.

We are not asking any candidate to abandon his or her own party, nor to set up a party in opposition, but to simply put the people whose votes they are asking for before all else, irrespective of the Party Whip.

When a candidate agrees to become a signatory to the Albion Alliance pledge, they are pledging to their constituency voters to force this referendum, they will be asked to carry the Albion Alliance logo on their campaign website and literature, so that voters will know that if they vote for a candidate carrying the pledge logo, they have pledged to granting the public that all important voice.

Since the Albion Alliance was formed in November 2009, many candidates have willingly signed up to the pledge, but others have informed us of pressures from their central offices, which have unfortunately included the threat of deselection should they sign such a pledge, therefore making them fearful for their own positions if they do so.

In order to counter such an anti democratic move by some political parties, the Albion Alliance has agreed to include a facility which will allow candidates to sign up to the pledge in secret, with that pledge being held in abayance until the candidate nomination process with returning officers has closed. We will publish those secret pledges on the following day, making the threat of deselection somewhat hollow, yet still giving time for the candidates to show their potential voters they hold their democratic rights above party whips threats.

Please note that the Albion Alliance does publish all correspondence with candidates on its website, with the exception of a delay as described above for those who choose to take the secret pledge option, and carries no view or comments from ourselves. It is perhaps opportune to mention here that we are not seeking your views on the EU, but to look for your commitment to your potential voters, their views and their democratic wishes.

We encourage you to be seen standing up for the rights of those whose votes you seek, and look foward to hearing from you shortly indicating whether or not you would be willing to sign such a pledge to your voters with a simple yes or no please, or indicate your commitment by using The Albion Alliance online system.

Thank You.

Yours sincerely,

James Higham

David Phipps
Ian Parker-Joseph
for The Albion Alliance"

The response received read:

"from Grant Shapps MP
date15 March 2010 22:23
subjectRE: Albion Alliance
22:23 (1 hour ago)

Thanks for your email and message. There's a strict convention that MPs must only deal with their own constituents. Could you confirm your home address and telephone number in order that I can properly deal with your enquiry."

The reply from Albion Alliance read:
"fromDavid Phipps
toGrant Shapps MP
date15 March 2010 23:32
subjectRe: Albion Alliance
hide details 23:32 (47 minutes ago)

Dear Mr Shapps,

With the utmost respect, for you to invoke parliamentary privilege in response to the email you have received from the Albion Alliance can only be classified as disingenuousness on your part, to say the least. You have not been asked about any matter affecting your constituency; you have been asked about a basic point affecting the governance of this country. As an example of the disingenuousness to which I refer, allow me to put a question to you. Were you to appear on a programme such as Question Time, would you inquire whether the questioner was a constituent of yours; and if not, decline to answer? And the difference, Mr Shapps, is.......? In fact, were MPs to invoke 'Parliamentary Privilege' not one MP, appearing on a programme such as Question Time, would be able to speak - something which a number of the electorate would consider a 'blessing in disguise'.

As a member of what will, presumably, constitute the next government of this country - and in your case, a minister in that government - you have an obligation, nay a duty, to respond to any query put to you, whether by one of your constituents or not, so that the electorate may be aware of your and your party's views.

On more than one occasion you have authored articles on Conservative Home and you air your views and comments on Twitter. If you can air your views on Twitter, unasked, on whatever subject 'catches your eye', then surely you can respond to questions that are asked, whether from a constituent of yours, or not. You are, after all, a shadow minister and as such are asked by the media to give an opinion on many subjects, not necessarily within your brief. It is logical to presume therefore, if you can respond to questions from the media who may not necessarily live within your constituency, then you can respond to questions from a member of the electorate who may not live within your constituency. All things considered, it is the electorate, wherever they may live, who contribute to payment of your salary and expenses, do they not - and as such are entitled to a response from you.

On that point, it is worth asking you to categorically state whether you consider your allegiance is to your country, or to your party. If to the former, then you cannot but respond to our email, as it is your country to whom you swore an oath of allegiance on entering the House of Commons, not to your party or its doctrine. If you consider your allegiance lay with your party, then your Oath of Allegiance on entering the House of Commons can only be considered a lie.

I have to say that, were you to deign us with a response to our email, it would be appreciated if this is done without recourse to the 'proforma' which has so obviously been supplied by CCHQ. In this regard it is worth noting that almost every reply that has been received by the Albion Alliance has been virtually 'word perfect', a fact that is only too evident, if a perusal of the replies from Conservative candidates and MPs, published on the Albion Alliance website, is undertaken.

Please note that all correspondence is published on the Albion Alliance website and, as a result, will be visible to not only your constituents but the whole country, who will, no doubt, form their own opinions of your attitude, and those of other candidates and sitting MPs, towards them.

Liable to be accused of digression admittedly, but need I remind you that when writing to someone it is normal courtesy to firstly address and lastly to sign, any correspondence.

Yours sincerely,

David Phipps
Albion Alliance

If anything demonstrated the disconnnection between elected and electors, then the example quoted above must be it. The practice of denial, prevaricaton and obfuscation, on the part of those we elect, to discuss with us subjects we wish to discuss, rather than those they wish to discuss, must cease and cease forthwith. In any event, it should be remembered that once Parliament is dissolved, current MPs become ordinary members of the public and can no longer rely on 'Parliamentary Privilege', so they might just as well answer the bloody question now!


Anonymous said...

Well no ones going to admit to beinbg a Traitor ,are they ?

James Higham said...

Yep, to them it's a great get-out clause. That's our job - to name and show who they are.