Thursday, 8 August 2013

An Open Letter to David Cameron

Dear Mr Cameron

I believe that some Conservative politicians simply do not understand why the old ‘We’re all in this together’ routine is regarded with a degree of scepticism by so many of us voters. Perhaps I can help with that understanding by suggesting to you that politicians should give a little more thought than they do to those they are supposed to represent.

I can’t speak for everyone of course, but I can compare my experiences now with those of a few years ago. In those days, my MP was a Liberal Democrat. I went to him with a problem, and to my surprise and delight he obtained a worthwhile solution by putting in some work and communicating. And that was before communicating became as easy as it is today.

Recently I wanted to raise some concerns with my elected representatives in both the British and the European Parliaments. For context, I should say that my concerns were aggravated by a speech made by Mr Owen Paterson, (whose record on understanding and believing science has recently lost some credibility). I have grave concerns about the use of genetic engineering in food production and I wanted my representatives to hear them, and respond constructively.

I certainly don’t expect that my views will be shared universally. I do expect them to be treated with respect, particularly because my views are widely held across national and European boundaries. I spent some time composing what I thought was a comprehensive summary of my doubts and fears in the letter I sent to my MP, asking her to pass them on to Mr Paterson.

I posted my letter to my MP, Mrs Sarah Newton, by Royal Mail on 21st June. I also emailed a copy of the letter, with covering messages, to all my MEPs. As yet, after six weeks I have not had the courtesy of an acknowledgement from Mrs Newton, let alone a comment.

The most constructive and helpful response (in relative terms) came from Mr Ashley Fox MEP. I followed up with another email to him, giving further evidence to substantiate my concerns.

I received a letter from Mr Giles Chichester. It was polite, but dismissive, stating that he had ‘seen studies and heard presentations from respectable research organisations in the UK which give a more positive interpretation’. I replied inviting him to give me the opportunity to read those positive interpretations, as I wished to keep an open mind. As yet I have had no further communication from Mr Chichester.

I received an acknowledgement from the PA to Ms Girling, promising a reply in due course, but nothing further.

I have exchanged communications with Mrs Newton on other occasions, and have found her helpful where we have common ground, but otherwise she seems to prefer not to communicate. From this and the experiences detailed above, I am forced to conclude that Conservative politicians are only prepared to engage constructively with those who clearly agree with them (whereas an opposite approach might win you more converts!). Mr Fox evidently found some points of agreement between us, responding courteously and helpfully. Mr Chichester appears uninterested in explaining his position to someone with whom he disagrees. Ms Girling is as yet an unknown quantity – I can only assume she is too busy to respond (although not to tweet!).

Most newly elected politicians (including you, Mr Cameron, I venture to suggest!) are inclined to claim that they represent all their electorate, not just those who voted for them. Would that this was true! In general, MEPs seem to have no contact or engagement with their constituents. I doubt that anyone in my community would be able to name their European representatives. And while I would never suggest that communicating at that level in such a large constituency is easy, I would certainly claim that here lies one reason for so much disillusionment with the European project.

I must tell you that with the exception of Mr Fox, I found the lack of helpful response from Conservative politicians offensive. There seems to be an arrogance not only in the lack of response from some but particularly by the dismissive attitude taken by Mr Chichester. MEPs are well enough paid (although not excessively). However the expenses they are able to claim can be very high. Those expenses should at least enable them to communicate constructively with their constituents, even if through a well qualified assistant.

And by the way, on the subject of my original concerns regarding GM crops, I would like to say this; new evidence, much of it peer reviewed and most of it credible, is emerging almost daily, which militates against the use of GM techniques in food. To hitch your party and its policies to this particular science before all the evidence is in may turn out to have been a grave mistake, not just for politicians, but for all of us. There is a widely accepted opinion that the Government’s association with the pro-GM lobby is manifested for two reasons. The first reason is that it is pivotal to trade negotiations with the USA, and the second is that big international corporations have more influence on Government policy (on this matter, via Rothamsted Research) than the population at large. Whether or not that opinion is justified, it should be a matter of concern for you. The widely held views amongst most European countries are contrary to that of your Government, and those views are not held on the basis of a whim!

As for Europe, I think we would all be more enthusiastic about the project if our elected representatives could be seen to offer a two-way channel for significant and sensible communication. On the one hand, their lack of engagement seems like a good reason for Britain to make an exit from the project. On the other, the European Union seems to be all that stands between us and your Government's negative policies on the environment (including GM crops), climate change and a somewhat overbearing relationship with the USA.

I live in hope that the General and European elections, when they arrive, will bring us representatives who are able to engage fully with their constituents, and who will help us to feel that we are, genuinely, represented. Those are the criteria which will influence my votes.

Yours sincerely

Tim Thomson

No comments: