Parliamentary Sketch : I’m on facebook, therefore I am

Posted on: 31st May 2012

Hot foot back from sunny Gateshead I’m in the thick of the final skirmishes on the unloved Health and Social Care Bill. This has made me unpopular with some on my own benches, but the purpose of Parliament and its MPs is to hold the Government to account.

The tragedy of the Westminster Village is that final decisions on crucially important matters like the future of the NHS are often not based on a calm and rational assessment. The testosterone internet climate drives Government to see these matters as a pure virility contest; fearing the “Humiliating Climbdown” style news headlines that would follow if they changed their minds.

As some of you know, I’m still pressing for the Government to drop the Bill and go back to the Coalition Agreement. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m having to get to grips with the social network. For a technophobe like me, it’s a challenge.

I’m told that unless you’re on Facebook you don’t actually exist. So I’m on Facebook. Except that I long for the day I will have the luxury of spare time to enjoy the opportunity to properly engage with it.

So I should come clean and make clear that I am rarely able to use Facebook directly myself. I hope that’s not a scandalous revelation! (I think I still exist…?)

I depend upon a fantastic team of volunteers who keep an eye on it for me, post up information from my website (which they also manage for me) and try to keep the site as open and welcoming as possible.

It won’t come as a surprise to you that MPs attract thousands of calls, letters, emails every week (over 100 emails alone before midday this morning). The vast majority are from people who have real and pressing personal or political needs or concerns which often deserve urgent attention and response. This is my priority.

However, we also attract a very small minority of those who are vexatious and can take up a disproportionate amount of time I’m afraid I just don’t have. This can seriously deflect me and my attention away from the genuine and often very serious personal concerns which the majority of constituents bring to me and which are my top priority.

I’m an MP. I have to make decisions on matters of often intense dispute. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me all of the time.

Please feel free to condemn me. After all what are MPs for if not objects on to whom anyone can unburden themselves of all of their opinions, frustrations and event vitriol.

I just plead with the small minority to bear in mind that I’m merely trying to provide a reasonable and balanced forum for others (not I) to express themselves on the issues of the day.

13th March 2012