My MP seems to be running ELIZA code from the 1960s

You may remember that eleven days ago I wrote to my MP, Mark Harper:

Whatever your feelings may be about just “getting Brexit done”, you must know that this is no way to do it. I beg you at least to vote to provide Parliament with proper time to analyse the deal documents, to scrutinise an OBR report on the economic implications, and to debate them properly both in the House and in select committees.

Today, in response, I get a letter explaining that what people in the Forest of Dean want is to “get Brexit done”.

But whether that is true or not(*), it bears no relation to the actual subject of my letter, which was about giving a complex bill proper scrutiny. I even explicitly stated that whether or not we want to “get Brexit done” did not bear on my point.

Evidently, he just keyed off the word “Brexit” in my letter, and gave me a canned response. And this of course is how the classic 1960s “artifical intelligence” program ELIZA worked. It takes the role of the therapist. If you type a phrase like “I am visiting my mother tomorrow”, it spots the word “mother” and spits out the canned response “Tell me something about your family.” To those who do not know how the program works it can present a disturbingly realistic facsimile of a real person.

So can my MP.  *rim-shot*

Here’s the whole letter, by the way, for anyone who wants to compare it to my short note that it is supposedly a response to.

So I ask once more, as I have asked before: is there any point at all in writing to my MP? There certainly is no point in actually voting where I live, which is a very safe Tory seat. So is there really any sense in which I can play a part in the democratic process?


(*) It’s not true that people in the Forest of Dean, or in the UK in general, want to “get Brexit done”: polling has consistently shown for 18 months that most people now prefer to remain in the EU (though admittedly only by a small margin). What is true is that people in the Forest of Dean, and in the UK in general, want Brexit to be over — me very much included. But the quickest, simplest way to #JustMakeItStop is of course to revoke Article 50 and never speak of it again. Every trade expert agrees that leaving the EU will result in at least another ten years of neogtiations with Europe, which means that “get Brexit done” is the surefire way of making sure that it goes on forever. None of this is germane to the central point of this post, but it’s the way things are.


3 responses to “My MP seems to be running ELIZA code from the 1960s

  1. Well at least you received a letter. I had a short email exchange where I disagreed with the points and claims being made by my m.p. The response from Mr. Andrew Percy m.p. was to describe me as “one of those people” and tell be that he had added my email address to his spam filter and that he would no longer respond to my emails. So, in answer to one of your questions; no there is no point in writing to your m.p. Mine is only able to parrot the party line and hides when “people like me” start picking holes in the arguments being made. It seems an ability to think is discouraged.

    “Damn your principles! Stick to your party.”
    Benjamin Disraeli

    Yours appears to be cut from the same cloth and obviously has yet to knock on your door.

    best wishes

  2. You might want to update your footnote. I’m sure most people in the UK _do_ want to remain in the UK, but I’m also sure that’s not what you meant to write. :-)

  3. Martin, you make an excellent point! Thank you, now fixed.

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