Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Consultation and Kerry

A couple of weeks ago, our Bristol East MP, blogger and Twitterer Kerry McCarthy was invited onto a BBC 'Beyond Westminster' panel exploring the growth of 'direct democracy'. I know this, because she told us on her blog. We might have expected that she'd be proposing innovative ways of using the internet in the cause of grass roots democracy.

Far from it (unless, of course, the good bits were edited out!). Our Kerry, ever loyal to the party, was up there defending the status quo. On public consultation, she had this to say:

" I was Chair of Housing (I used to be a councillor) and consultation in principle is an excellent idea. Lets go out and consult with tenants, lets go out and consult with stakeholders. But what I found happened was it meant it took absolutely ages to make decisions..... "

Hmm... I wonder how she feels about the Water Act 2003, which allows the NHS quangos to decide to fluoridate our drinking water if they choose - subject only to the safeguard that they've 'consulted' consumers first. Note that the first regional health authority to do this (South Central) did exactly that, and is going ahead even though the public was, demonstrably, overwhelmingly opposed to it. Now our South West Regional Health Authority is starting down the same road. Maybe the problem is that people just don't have any faith in consultation.

Kerry's a bit uncomfortable about taking what her constituents tell her as any reflection of true public opinion, too. When the discussion turned to The Great Repeal Bill wiki, she was more than a little sceptical:

"How do you ensure that those people are reflective of... if I look at my constituency, I know the sort of people that write to their MPs, that send emails, come from a particular viewpoint, most of the people in my constituency won't do that, won't go online, won't take part in your wiki Bill procedure. Isn't there a danger of giving undue weight to the people who do participate?"

So there you have it. If you don't contact your MP, how can you expect them to represent you? And if you do, you're regarded by definition as unrepresentative and therefore you should be ignored. Catch 22.

Far easier to forget your constituents take your advice from the party whips. Or even actually become one, as Kerry has. And doesn't it show in her voting record.

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