Why do I bother writing to my MP?

I’ve written to my MP, the Conservative Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) quite a few times in the last few years, on many different subjects. (I use the “Write to Them” site.)


And to give him credit, I have nearly always received a reply — in the post, printed on nice, heavy parchment-style paper.

The problem is, the reply is always an explanation of why I am wrong.

I write about the need to shut down tax havens and get back what seems very much like a pre-composed letter saying “It is wrong to suggest that the UK is anything other than at the global forefront of tackling tax avoidance”. I write with my concern about creeping surveillance, and I get back what seems very much like a pre-composed letter about how important it is to catch Teh Terrorists and how safe from abuse the proposed legislation is. And so it goes on.


(The last paragraph of that particular response is especially galling in retrospect, given how the Snooper’s Charter has been slipped past all usual scrutiny while the Brexit and Trump catastrophes have been engaging everyone’s attention.)

Anyway, back in April I wrote to him about the plans the Government then had to convert all schools into academies:

Like many, many parents, I do not see that it’s the Government’s role to compel schools to adopt the Academy model whether it is best for them or not. Instead, the decision to convert or not to convert should be left to those best positioned to make the choice for each individual school — that is, the parents and governors.

I ask you then please to oppose the Government’s plan to turn all schools into academies, rejecting this Labour-style “big government” approach, and instead adhering to the more typically Conservative approach of delegating power to where it belongs.

Thank you.

P.S. When I write to you, it’s with the hope of influencing your actions as my supposed representative. Instead, you seem to interpret my letters as an invitation to parrot back to me current government policy about the subject I mentioned, with no regard at all to what I actually wrote. I would really appreciate it if you would represent me, instead.

Here’s the letter I got back:


For those who don’t want to read the scan, the key point here is “That is why the Government is committed to every school becoming an academy.” In other words, once more, the response is “Here is why you’re wrong”.

As far as I can tell, there is no evidence that Harper, or his underlings, even read the heartfelt PS., let alone responded to it.

So I am left with this question: what actually is the point of writing to my MP? I try to do my bit to function in a parliamentary democracy, but I just can’t see that it has any effect at all, other than wasting my time and Mark Harper’s stationery supplies.


10 responses to “Why do I bother writing to my MP?

  1. and of course you, as a taxpayer, pay for his stationery supplies and postage

  2. I’ve found that the first letter on a subject to my MP gets a standard response.

    The second letter, replying to points in the standard response, and making clear why I disagree – that’s the one that gets a personal reply (still, usually, “I disagree with you”, but I’ve had useful replies, especially when the point wasn’t a party-political one).

  3. Thanks, Richard, that is an interesting thought and one that I may pursue.

  4. Ditto my experiences with my local MP, the placiest of placeman lobby meat, Robert Goodwill. Ses. We are responding to iur constituents.Not actually listening (God, no), but responding all the same.

  5. If they replied personally to every letter, I suspect the queues would rival the old USSR’s ;) But even if you don’t get an individual response, they may still be keeping track of volume of dissent.

  6. Chris, I would like to think you’re right.

  7. I have found that lately the only thin you can count on politicians doing is what the lobbyists want. Bills that are obviously good for all the people just don’t get passed without making sure special interests get more or sometimes all of he benefits.

  8. I really want to avoid becoming cynical enough to believe that.

    But I don’t think I am going to manage it.

  9. When it comes to matters of local import your letters might have some discernible influence, even if you don’t get a personal response (though I imagine you’d be well advised to take a less inflammatory tone than you do on your blog- no criticism intended btw, as I am also sometimes quite inflammatory.)

    Elected officials do tally up the positions of letter writers (aside from those who are too inflammatory, or write too often, who are dismissed as cranks) because someone who takes the time to write is almost certainly going to take the time to vote, and might well take the time to evangelize certain positions within their community to other people likely to vote.

    That said, I wouldn’t expect a politician to take your sophisticated argument on board, and change his position because of it. He just wants to know how you would vote, based on his decisions, and is not very interested in why you would do so. So he generally has a staffer put you down in one column or another, and move on.

  10. (For the record — I only became inflammatory in my letters to my MP after numerous episodes of having polite, respectful letters effectively ignored. That wasn’t my opening strategy.)

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