Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP

Filed Under Rants

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown is the local MP where a friend of mine lives. My friend has being trying to get some straight, simple answers on The Communications Data Bill since December 2012.

If there is any wonder why people get disenfranchised by attempting to engage their local politicians on subjects, only to be fobbed off by bland, empty rhetoric and then ignored when daring to question those elected to represent them, then this is a perfect example.

In December 2012, my friend wrote to Geoffrey Clifton-Brown asking for his position on the draft Communications Data Bill and the reasons for that position using the very popular WriteToThem website. In due course he received a reply from Mr Clifton-Brown which was, shall we say, less than satisfactory. Not only did the reply instantly fall back on the old ‘we must stop the pedophiles and terrorists’ it contained a standard, boiler plate bunch of statistics indicating how vital it was that we get this new law rushed through as soon as possible.

My friend took the time to reply asking for some sources on the statistics quoted by Mr Clifton-Brown as he had located the same statistics on other websites (including one about Indian policing!) and wondered if Mr Clifton-Brown had done any checking on these statistics. As well all know, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

Several further emails, sent directly to Mr Clifton-Brown went unanswered. Finally at the beginning of February 2013 after spotting an article quoting the head of MI5 stating that the statistics quoted by Mr Clifton-Brown in his initial reply, rested on ‘some pretty heroic assumptions’ my friend attempted to contact him again via the WriteToThem website.

My friend received a reply from an intern stating that “The information you require in response to your comments is detailed in nature and Mr Clifton-Brown MP will require a few more days to reply.”. Awesome! Hopefully he will actually get an actual response. An actual response was forthcoming, eventually.

In this reply Mr Clifton-Brown appears to genuinely believe that his opinion of the bill is enough to justify his support for it. Let’s not bother with trifling details such as doing your damn job which is to represent the views of those who elected you. Being an MP sometimes means that you have to go against your personal beliefs rather than use the position as a vehicle to further your personal agenda. Apparently being an MP also means you get to duck awkward issues like where you got these statistics from, what research you have done about a bill, checking to see what your constituents feel about issues. Simples.

Committee chair Bernard Jenkin (Public Administration Committee) has recently come out and stated that,

“Good statistics underpin good policy and proper scrutiny of it. Public confidence in the information produced by government is vitally important to an effective democracy.
Without it there can be no confidence in the transparency and accountability of government, which in turn can only fuel public apathy and disengagement from the democratic process.”

Shame Mr Clifton-Brown appears to feel differently.

Undeterred, my friend, who at this time is showing the patience of a saint, again replied to Mr Clifton-Brown via WriteToThem. Since Mr Clifton-Brown was struggling with reading comprehension, he concisely summarised his questions as follows :

1. Could you please provide justification and sources for the statistics you are using to justify your support of the proposed bill?

2. Could you please provide details of what polling and research you have done a) within your constituency and b) to verify the statistics used, and results of that research (if any), to justify your support for this bill

3. Finally, could you please provide details of what preventative measures will be put in place to prevent ‘scope creep’ of the bill.

As of the date I make this post – he has yet to receive a reply. Quelle suprise

How the hell does government expect to engage people when the duck even slightly complicated issues? Voter turnout is at an all time low. People have little or no respect for politicians. And yet they wonder why? I feel terribly sorry for Mr Clifton-Brown who, on a comfy £65k+ tax payer funded salary, has to take time out of his day to instruct an intern to justify the data he mindlessly spews at his constituents as justification for the way he votes in Parliament. This is your job bozo! You get elected to represent the views of your constituents. This is not rocket science. They speak, you listen! It should not take months and repeated attempts to contact you for you to actually be able to justify your position. Having looked at all of the correspondence between you two, you have ducked, squirmed and downright avoided answering the questions posed to you. Grow a spine you feckless cunswup and answer the damn questions.

I know it sounds odd but the man who pays your wages deserves to be able to ask you what you are doing and why you are doing it. And if your answer is lacking in detail, cites, sources or anything concrete, do not be surprised when you are asked for more information. And when you are – provide it. Don’t just avoid the issue. In other words DO YOUR FUCKING JOB.