Tuesday 11 September 2012

Interaction with a British Member of Parliament

[Image description: Wikipedia photo of Tim Farron; reproduced on the understanding that the copyright owner does not necessarily endorse my views.]

On August 15th 2012 I was involved in a discussion on Twitter between @blindmike47 and @timfarron (timfarron.co.uk). The latter is a Liberal Democrat MP and also President of said party. From what I have seen and heard of him in the Media, an honourable chap. After some discussion, he asked Mike and myself to email him. So I took him up on his offer and emailed the following letter:

Dear Tim (hope that's not too informal!),

Many thanks for engaging with Mike and myself on Twitter and allowing us to contact you. During the last local election coverage I enjoyed your contributions on BBC.

I have never been desperately political and have never belonged to a political party (as I do not agree with whipping). However, I do admit to having distributed leaflets on behalf of LibDems in the past. I have always attempted to persuade folks to vote, having learned about how we plebs became enfranchised in Politics lessons at secondary school. The last election was the first time I considered not voting (having only ever missed one - European - election after a bout of hospitalisation). I have never trusted Mr. Clegg. Indeed when he first took over as leader, I switched my vote to the local [Green] candidate. My instinctive distrust of him seems to have been corroborated by his in/actions in government.

This past few years I have become politically active like never before. I am petrified, as are many other disabled folk, that we are heading towards some kind of Nazi-type solution for the chronically sick & disabled. I have been on my first ever political demonstration and - health willing - should be attending another in a couple of weeks or so.

The media, even C4 news on occasion, have portrayed a very slanted view of the disabled and other benefit recipients. The BBC is more biased than I have ever known it: for the first time in my life I do not trust it. I suppose because Twitter, facebook, etc. now bring me the news from around the globe, not just UK, of issues ignored by mainstream Media. Being a polyglot I am also able to see similar issues in other countries. This only re-inforces my (and others') sense of anomie, neo-liberal oligarchies and all-pervading sense of despair. Hundreds have committed suicide under this coalition because of their policies, thousands more have attempted or considered suicide.

The only LibDem voice I have consistently heard decrying the situation is George [W] Potter. And to me at least, and many disabled folk, their relatives, friends, neighbours & carers, this is just not good enough. We need to hear a distinctive LibDem voice, arguing vociferously for social justice: not simply for the chronically sick & disabled, but for the unemployed, for young folk (who get a terribly raw deal in British society) etc. If the LibDems are not the voice of the 'disenfranchised', then someone else will be. Or we will descend into 'apathy' and leave the way open to an unchallenged plutocracy.



Well, despite a couple of reminders to Tim via Twitter, I only received a response yesterday, 10th September. Here it is:

Dear Colin,

Thank you very much for your email and I apologise for the delay in responding to you. Unfortunately given economic crisis and the extreme financial constraints in which we are currently operating, decision have been made surrounding changes to welfare benefits that no Lib Dem would make if any other viable alternative were an option. I completely agree with you that the Liberal Democrats need to be the voice of the vulnerable and disenfranchised and we are fighting tooth and nail in Government to ensure the best deal possible for those groups. However our choices have been incredibly limited.

Thank you again for emailing and I hope I can assure you that the Lib Dems are trying to do the best we can for the disabled and vulnerable.

Best wishes,

Make up your own minds whether or not he answered my points.

However, given how much effort it takes for me to write, I do not think I shall waste my time responding. That probably gives you an idea of my thoughts.

It seems quite odd to me that someone would solicit comments and opinions in order to continue a discussion and then so completely close it down. I am left feeling I wasted my time and energy. And furthermore, did Tim simply ask to continue the discussion away from Twitter so he made himself appear to be interested in disabled folks' views whilst in reality not really giving a hoot? Or to remove a hot topic from his public Twitterfeed? His feeble response belies any real engagement.


  1. My gratitude to @timfarron for supporting the LibDem Equal Citizenship policy motion via http://thepotterblogger.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/lib-dem-mps-back-equal-citizenship.html

  2. Colin, thanks for this.

    Reading Farron's response my guess is that, because he's the party president, regardless of his personal views, he won't say anything or agree with anything that could be construed as a criticism of the government or of the direction of the Liberal Democrats because he doesn't want to do anything that could be seen to damage the party.

    That's probably the reason why his reply is what it is. It's bitterly disappointing but I'm afraid you're rather unlikely to get anything publicly other than sympathy and general agreement with broad principles rather than principled stands on actual concrete policies.

    Sorry :S

  3. Thanks very much for responding George. I, and I know for certain, many other disabled folk appreciate you taking a vociferous stance on our behalf.

    In some ways, I wish you had not written the above, as it would therefore appear that politicos put party ahead of real people who are suffering, let alone those who have died, due to ineptitude or malfeasance - which has yet to be ascertained - but certainly not due to not-knowing. Honour and integrity appear to be fast diminishing assets in all political parties and government departments.

    Actions speak louder than words: I doubt somehow that many disabled and/or chronically sick folk will find it within themselves to vote LibDem again. Turkeys voting for Christmas comes to mind! Though given Labour is in the same Neo-Liberal category as LibDems & Tories, it will be difficult to decide for whom to vote.

    Nonetheless, it is good to know you yourself are working within the party to try to ellicit change for the better. That holds out a glimmer of hope, for which I thank you. %)