by JohnnyChatterton Aug 10th, 2010
A lot has been said over the last 24 hours about Dominic Raab MP’s attempt to stop his constituents contact him by e-mail. A few very important things have in some cases been mostly overlooked:
1. Since the election Mr Raab has received on average less than 2 e-mails a day from constituents using the 38 Degrees website. As any of us who have an e-mail address know, this is not a lot of e-mails. As an MP who is paid with taxpayers money to maintain an office and staff to serve his constituents, this shouldn’t be too much for Mr Raab to handle
2. Not only did Dominic Raab MP threaten 38 Degrees in an attempt to get us to stop his constituents contacting him about issues they care about. He also made the House of Commons remove his e-mail address from their website.
3. The messages Raab received aren’t spam. Mr Raab has received on average less than 2 e-mails a day from his constituents about issues his constituents care about. Anyone saying otherwise doesn’t understand what spam is. If one person triggers an email to another by personally going and pressing a button, this is not spam. Spam would be emailing a target over and over again without any human intervention.
4. The messages to Mr Raab aren’t automated clones as he’s claimed. We do provide a suggested text but strongly encourage people to personalise the text.
Since I blogged yesterday we’ve been inundated with supportive messages from our members across the country appalled at Mr Raab’s behaviour. Here are a few of them:
“Mr. Rabb sounds an arrogant, smug egomaniac, having listened to the broadcast. An MP who wishes to dictate the terms of engagement and erect barriers to constituents contacting him. He obects to a standard form letter? Shame, get over it. Regardless of whether the letter is a “boilerplate” or not, the fact that it has enabled his constituents to more easily register their concern over a particular subject would be welcomed by any true advocate of democracy and political engagement.”
A few political blogs have sympathised with the MP accusing 38 Degrees of “Spamming Dominic Raab”. Here’s how a member, Mark Collins responds:
“He would have a point if one person was generating the emails – but each email he gets represents one voter in his constituency that wants him to do something about the issue in hand!”
Another member, Mark Williamson got in touch saying
“Well done, thanks for putting our point across. When discussing this with people it’s worth making 100% clear that only local constituents and still have to explicitly send the e-mail. Dominic Raab is trying to present this as an automated system run by a lobbying group.
There are no mailing lists involved and it’s only automated in that it makes it easy to send a mail to your MP with some suggested text.
Out of this issue though, maybe we should take (as per some comments on the 38 degrees blog) the chance to reconsider how e-mail campaigns are handled so as to make processing the information easier. Raab is still in the wrong in my opinion but 38 Degrees should still strive to make information easier for MPs to digest – just not to ignore.”
and to conclude Stall Pearson commented saying
“Just listened on iplayer – Mr Raab really does not come across well. It is down to his constituents to decide how they would like to communicate with him. He doesn’t seem to have thought through what it would be like to be an MP before standing for election. He displays a level of arrogance that demonstrates he clearly does not understand the people he is trying to represent. It can be quite intimidating for people (myself included) to try to compose a letter to an MP as they represent a position of respect and authority. Being able to articulate yourself well is not something that comes naturally to everyone (we didn’t all go to Eaton). “Suggested texts” can help to overcome some of these barriers not because the thinking is taken out of the process but because the barriers to opening a dialogue are removed. Mr Raab seems to be suggesting that his malicious constituents are trying to cause him a problem by spamming him as much as possible about any issue regardless of how important it is to them. This is not my experience of people who use these mechanisms to engage with their MPs at all. I have never come across anyone who has sent communications on issues that are not important to them personally. I have certainly never spoken to anyone who has suggested that they have spammed their MP for a bit of fun or to cause a nuisance.”.
What happens now? Yesterday we launched a local poll of our members asking them what we should do next. That poll will conclude later this week. When it does we’ll update the blog with the results.