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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

MP in denial on e-mail

The Left Foot Forward blog reports on the bizarre case of the Tory MP for Esher and Walton, Dominic Raab, who is threatening legal action against campaign group 38 Degrees for having the temerity to publish his publicly available email address – dominic.raab.mp@parliament.uk – on their ‘contact your MP’ system.

This is despite the fact that when seeking the Tory nomination, Raab, an ‘international lawyer’, claimed to be “ready to serve every community…”:

Executive director David Babbs today told Left Foot Forward:

“Over the last 12 months, 38 Degrees members have worked together to make all MPs more accountable to us, their voters. Tens of thousands of us have come together to clean up lobbying in Westminster and to call for a new recall law that would mean people could call a fresh vote if their MP wasn’t doing their job properly.

“Now, an MP has got in touch to tell us he doesn’t want his constituents to be able to get in touch by e-mail. As far as we know, he didn’t ask his constituents what they thought before he made that decision. So now, we’re going to ask 38 Degrees members in his constituency what they think, so we can work together to make a change if they’re not happy about it.”

On their website 38 Degrees explain:

“We’ve been in touch with the Information Commissioner and they’ve reassured us that because he is an MP and his e-mail address is in the public domain, he has no grounds to report us. We let Mr Raab know this and he responded by having the House of Commons remove his e-mail address from their website.

“We spoke to the Information Commisioner’s office and again they reassured us that because he is an MP and because his email address is in the public domain we’re in the right by letting his constituents get in touch with him…

“When Mr Raab was an election candidate he gave out his personal email address to use. Now he’s an MP, with an official parliament email address paid for by the taxpayer, he’s telling us to stop people using it and making threats. No other MP anywhere in the UK has ever threatened 38 Degrees in this way.

This is one step removed from messing up on social networking, it is deliberately cutting oneself off from part of the electorate. As elected politicians we are public property and should be available to engage with a wide range of constituents and organisations. That is what we are paid for.

There are of course occasions when it becomes difficult to continue communications with a constituent, such as when the correspondence is racist or offensive but that is very rare. I do not believe that this is the case here.
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