As an MEP, I seem to spend rather a lot of time in correspondence with constituents, and generally speaking I find them remarkably reasonable and courteous, even when they are disagreeing with me. I enjoy the correspondence, and try as far as possible to reply in the same vein.
However just occasionally I get communications from constituents who appear to think that a tirade of invective is a good substitute for rational debate. These communications usually come as e-mails, but had they come by old-fashioned snail mail, I feel sure they would have been written in green ink.
One such example comes from a Mr. Beardsley. Normally I treat constituency correspondence as confidential, but as a colleague of Mr. Beardsley has forwarded this correspondence to the Lincolnshire Echo (with the clear but doomed objective of trying to embarrass me), I feel entitled to disregard confidentiality. Mr. Beardsley’s point (so far as he has one) is that he doesn’t like devolution, which he feels is unfair to England; he blames the Conservative Party for allowing devolution in the first place (which shows a curious ignorance of recent political history); and he further blames the Conservative Party for failing to do anything to resolve his concerns (though he has no practical suggestions as to what a Party in Opposition might do).
But Mr. Beardsley is a classic example of invective used in place of argument. Indeed his tirade of abuse was so colourful that I feel moved to share a part of it with you: “You are all sycophantic, scurrilous, spinless (sic), corrupt, self centred, pompous, greedy baffoons (sic). Vote Conservative ???? Not on your nelly (sic). You (sic) arrogance betrays you Mr Helmer but thankyou (sic) greatly for giving me the opportunity to finally see you (sic) and your party in your true colours; YELLOW”.
His tone reflects rather poorly on his courtesy and general demeanour, while his spelling and punctuation leave a lot to be desired. I particularly liked his use of “spinless”. I presume he meant “spineless”, but in these days where politicians are frequently accused of spin, perhaps to be called spinless is a back-handed compliment.
Facing this insult and provocation, I felt fully entitled to reply in robust and spirited terms, which appears to have offended the gentleman.
He is of course quite right to criticise the Labour government’s half-baked and unfinished constitutional settlement, which causes both democratic and economic distortions between England and Scotland. I think that politicians in all major parties now recognise these difficulties, and are looking for ways to resolve them. We in the Conservative Party have proposed what I think is the best solution: that within the Westminster parliament, only English and Welsh MPs should be able to vote on English and Welsh laws. This is the so-called “Grand Committee” proposal put forward by William Hague and others, and it would go a long way to solving the famous West Lothian Question at a stroke.
Mr. Beardsley’s demand is that we should have an English parliament, by which I take him to mean a whole new institution with some hundreds of new politicians, which would cost many millions of pounds. But then as John Major famously put it, “If the answer is more politicians, you’re asking the wrong question”. And clearly he was right.
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