Sunday, December 04, 2016

More Brexit lobbying with the delightful Anne Main MP

Since the High Court ruling about Article 50, I have been back in touch with Anne Main MP where I live in St Albans. Here is what we've been saying to each other. I doubt very much any of it will make a difference but I feel it's important to keep up the pressure. In Anne Main's case I remain convinced that she is in the rare and vulnerable position of being a Leave MP in a majority Remain constituency - and I really hope this will cause her problems if not now then at the next General Election. Her ongoing disrespect for her constituents is untenable and really starting to grate.


7 Nov 2016:

Dear Mrs Main,

Further to our correspondence below about the EU referendum, I had been waiting for the outcome of the High Court judgement on Parliament's right to authorise the triggering of Article 50 before writing back to you.

Now that it looks likely that MPs will, after all, be getting a vote on this matter, I would like to ask you, in the interests of reflecting the clear wishes of your constituents, to do the decent thing, put your personal views aside, and commit to voting against triggering Article 50, should a vote come before the House.


Yours sincerely,
Fin Kennedy


17 Nov 2016:

Dear Mr  Kennedy ,

Thank you for your email.

I have been contacted by constituents further to the High Court judgement and have attempted to address all of the questions and concerns that I have received below to ensure that you have a full and informative response. I apologise for the standard nature of this email however I would like to thank you for taking the time to write to me with your personal views and comments.

Firstly, I would like to assure you that I fully respect the judgement of our independent judiciary. Currently, as you will know, the government are going through the process of appealing the result to the Supreme Court, and I await this decision with interest. I was disappointed that this matter was bought to the High Court, as I felt that it was made very clear that the government had committed to implement the results of the referendum both in the Conservative manifesto and in the leaflet distributed prior to the vote. I am however very supportive of the supremacy of our courts and am unsure that appealing the result is the best course of action. Regardless of the outcome, it is important that the decision is respected.

In the event of a vote in parliament to trigger Article 50, it remains my position to support the government and the will of the people and vote to trigger Article 50. I appreciate that this is not in line with the way in which the majority of my constituents voted – which was to Remain in the EU – however if you have contacted me on this matter previously you will be aware that when making decisions as fundamentally important as the constitution, I believe the country must come first. I do believe that the government has a clear mandate to proceed with the results of the referendum and, although I disagree with the vote, I strongly believe that parliament should vote to implement the will of the people.

The referendum had a high turn-out and I believe that democracy has spoken. It would be a travesty of democracy for Members of Parliament or Lords to obstruct the results of the referendum, or if the vote was heavily amended. This is a decision I would have held regardless of the result.

Thank you again for taking the time to write to me.

With best wishes,

Mrs Anne Main
Member for St Albans


4 Dec 2016:
 
Dear Mrs Main,
 

I was disappointed to receive your standard letter in response to mine.

That you have been so inundated with constituency correspondence on the triggering of Article 50 that you feel a standard letter is required ought to be yet another indication to you of the overwhelming strength of feeling locally on this matter. Your refusal to even begin to entertain that your position might be untenable - never mind wrong - has become wearily depressing to your long-suffering constituents.

With the Supreme Court due to hear the Government's appeal on this matter next week, I would like to put to you one simple reason for you to vote against the triggering of Article 50 if and when a vote come before the House: even if you personally vote against it, Article 50 will be triggered anyway because the rest of the Commons is guaranteed to vote for it.

This is due to the majority of Remain supporting Labour MPs being too afraid of going against the wishes of their Leave constituents in most areas, lest they pay the penalty at the next election. Many have said they will respect the wishes of the local majority (however slender).

I urge you to take a leaf out of their book. Given that Article 50 is almost certain to be passed anyway - what have you got to lose? This is a prime political opportunity to show that you too respect the locally expressed opinion of those you represent - and yet also to get what you really want! 'Having your cake and eating it' to quote a colleague of yours... Doing this is completely no-risk to your position; indeed it may even improve your reputation here in St Albans.

Your illiberal voting record has consistently been at odds with what is a fair-minded and compassionate town. A quick scan of your history on www.theyworkforyou.com shows that you have consistently voted against:

Gay marriage
Equal rights
The right to die
Raising welfare payments in line with prices
Increasing benefits for the long-term sick and disabled
Initiatives to create jobs for long term youth unemployed
Increasing taxes for the highest earners
Taxing banker's bonuses
Taxing expensive homes
Measures to reduce tax avoidance
Restricting private patients' use of the NHS
A fairer electoral system
Lowering the voting age
Measures to prevent climate change
Slowing the rise in rail fares
An elected House of Lords
Renationalising the railways
Britain accepting more (or indeed any) unaccompanied child refugees.
 

While you have consistently voted for:

Restricting trade union activity
Reducing corporation tax
Privatisation of the NHS
Raising tuition fees
Reducing local government funding even further
A harsher asylum system for refugees
Increasing mass surveillance
Selling Britain's forests
Privatising Royal Mail
Restricting legal aid
Allowing secret trials.

On the matter of the right to remain for EU nationals already living in the UK, you have consistently not bothered turning up to vote at all.

Against this record, it is hard for your constituents to see you as anything other than a fully paid-up member of the Nasty Party - in league with already powerful corporate interests; hostile towards the weakest in society; determined to transfer the last of Britain's public assets into private hands, destroy our environment and spy on our citizens. This is completely at odds with the sentiments of everyone I have ever met in St Albans. I have lived in this area for four years and the local resentment against you is vociferous and growing.

A commitment to vote against the triggering of Article 50 would go some way towards showing that, if not exactly sympathetic to the sentiments of your constituents, that you at least respect them and their views on this most important of matters. Article 50 will still be triggered anyway and you haven't lost a thing.

I urge you to reconsider your position on this single matter. You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is a unique opportunity to prove to us once and for all that you are a politician of professionalism, intelligence and integrity.

Yours sincerely,
Fin Kennedy

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Continuing to argue with my MP

Regular readers will recall that I'm engaged with ongoing exchange of letters with my local MP Anne Main (Conservative, St Albans) about being a pro-Brexit MP in a majority Remain area. You can read previous letters in our correspondence here

I think it's fair to say it's become a bit more heated since then. Here is the latest from her, followed by my response.

Dear Mr Kennedy,


Thank you for your email.

I am sorry to say that I did not receive the below email – I have searched through my inbox and cannot find the email, so I do apologise for the delay in responding.

As you will appreciate, a lot of has changed since the referendum. We now have a new Prime Minister who has confirmed that she will be following the result of the referendum. Whilst I appreciate that you have strong views about the majority upon which a referendum is won upon, this is not something that we have any power to now alter. The Prime Minister has confirmed her stance towards exiting the EU and a second referendum will not be taking place.

Over the last few years, I do believe the term ‘representation’ has become skewed – it is felt that if an MP does not vote in line with a constituent’s personal views, they are not fulfilling their role as an MP which is incorrect. The term ‘represent’ covers a wide spectrum of issues, including helping constituents with personal problems e.g. representing them in health/pension/housing disputes, either locally or in the Chamber, which I have done on a number of occasions.


This is the nature of representative democracy – constituents elected an MP to make decisions in parliament on their behalf based on a number of factors, including their manifesto promises. As I have said previously, it is not possible for a Member of Parliament to reflect the views of every constituent, even in occasions such as this when the majority have indicted their preferences a certain way. Indeed, if I were to ‘represent’ you by following your personal views, there may be others in my constituency who would feel the same way as you do now. It for that reason that an MP must make decisions based on other factors as well, including their experience in Parliament and detailed information provided in the political arena.

The matter of the referendum was in the Conservative manifesto over a year before it took place. I do not believe that not enough time or information was given within this year for people to decide how to vote or to raise concerns and questions.

With best wishes,

Mrs Anne Main
Member for St Albans
House of Commons
SW1A 0AA
0207 219 8270


Dear Mrs Main,

Thank you for your response.

I do understand the nature of representative democracy. You are right to point out that "an MP must make decisions based on other factors as well, including their experience in Parliament and detailed information provided in the political arena." I was not asking you to change your stance on Brexit merely because as your constituent I would like you to. On the contrary, I was asking you, post-referendum, to engage fully with the 'detailed information in the political arena' which has since emerged, such as the Opinium poll of 1 July, the ITV Wales/Cardiff University YouGov poll of 5 July and the ongoing court battle involving the disenfranchisement of the 700,000 British expats which I cited - all of which provide 'detailed information from the political arena' that there is not a clear consensus for Brexit and that if anything the balance post-referendum is tipping the opposite way.

You response does not attempt to engage with a single one of these points but instead attempts to characterise me as a lone, angry and unreasonable constituent.  This is as unfair and disingenuous as it is patronising.

My letter to you was not asking you to take my views in particular into account over and above any other constituent's. Rather, it was to ask you to properly and respectfully engage with the well-researched evidence I am offering you (your party's view on 'experts' notwithstanding) and in particular to take into account the 63% of your constituents who feel the same as I do, as clearly indicated in the referendum result locally.

If you are going to place such weight on the outcome of a mere 1.9% majority in a national referendum, and treat it as mandate to make a huge and widely-predicted catastrophic leap into the unknown, then what of the thumping 13% majority at local level to remain?

You can't have your cake and eat it on this one, I'm afraid. You are a Leave MP in an overwhelmingly Remain constituency. This puts you in an extremely difficult position. Your only democratic, and indeed moral, option here is to respect the overwhelming views of your constituents, as clearly expressed by the referendum mechanism you hold so sacrosanct, and to change your stance on Brexit in the interests of serving the people you represent.

If you continue to ignore the majority of your constituents' views on this matter it will be difficult for the many individuals and groups who are lobbying you to avoid the conclusion that it is you who do not understand the nature of representative democracy. Worse, it could look as if you are using the coincidence of a referendum outcome in line with your own minority view as a fig leaf to push your personal political agenda ahead of the will and best interests of the majority who elected you. I'm sure I wouldn't be alone locally in considering this tantamount to an abuse of your office.

I urge you one last time to put your own views aside, and do the democratic thing, unpalatable to your personal politics as it may be.

Please reconsider your position on Brexit, in the interests of your constituents, your elected office and your own reputation and career.

Yours sincerely,

Fin Kennedy
  


Monday, August 01, 2016

Arguing with my MP


I wrote my first letter to my MP Anne Main (Conservative, Leave) about the EU referendum result on 2 July. You can read it here. She responded (in a commendable 4 days) on 6 July. Unfortunately I didn't agree with a word of it. Today I have responded to her response, reproduced below.

I'll keep you posted how I get on....

Dear Mrs Main,

Thank you for your email response of 6 July to my letter about my concerns post-EU referendum.

I too am sorry that we do not agree on this, but it is too important an issue to just leave it at that. I hope you might hear me out in response to some of the points you make.

You acknowledge that the referendum was won by Leave by a 'small margin'. Yet you go on to argue that a majority must be respected, no matter how slender, particularly in 'matters of the constitution'.

This is dangerous territory. Referendums are problematic in democracies for precisely this reason; 'small majorities' (and how small would you go - 1.9%, 0.5%, 0.1%?) get to decide matters of huge national importance, by-passing our elected representatives while closing down any further  debate on the matter, even if circumstances change.

I wonder if you would be so ready to respect a 'small majority' to bring back hanging, or abolish the monarchy, or use nuclear weapons on ISIS?

All these issues and many more are regular fodder for the tabloids in the same way as the EU and a referendum on them would likely produce a similarly perverse result against the national interest. It is the job of our elected representatives and institutions to be a bulwark against such knee-jerk populism. Even Margaret Thatcher called referendums "a device for dictators and demagogues".

Just because the EU referendum produced a result which aligns with your own views does not absolve you of your elected responsibility in this regard. You are a representative of those who elected you - not of yourself. I really can't stress this enough. The St Albans area which returned you to Parliament voted 63% to Remain - a thumping majority, on a turnouts of 82.5% - yet somehow the tiny national one on a much lower turnout trumps it? Your view of democracy and which parts of it to respect is worryingly inconsistent.

Public opinion is fluid and subject to change, and all serious democracies have mechanisms to recognise and respect that. Referendums can only ever be snapshots of the public mood, at a certain time, in possession of certain information. Since the referendum, and especially since the lies and false promises of the Leave campaign have been exposed, the public mood has clearly become far more sceptical of Brexit and what it can deliver.

Research by Opinium from 1 July suggests at least 7 per cent of the people who voted for a Brexit in the EU referendum now regret their choice. Projected on to the referendum vote, this would cut the Leave share by 1.2 million, almost wiping out the majority.

An ITV Wales/Cardiff University YouGov poll of 5 July found Welsh voters would now vote Remain by 53 per cent and Leave by 47 per cent if there was a second EU referendum.

Moreover, 700,000 British expats living in the EU were denied the right to vote altogether, now the subject of an ongoing court battle. Most of these would have voted to remain.

Your commendable urge to respect the 'will of the British people' unfortunately looks more and more misplaced if this is to be done solely on the basis of the 23 June referendum result.   

Indeed, the truly democratic thing to do would be to respect this new consensus for Remain which is clearly emerging.

The 23 June referendum was not sacrosanct in any case. As has been widely observed, it was merely advisory. David Cameron could have made it legally binding, as he did with the referendum on proportional representation in 2010. He chose not to, rightly, in order to give himself and your party the option to assess what was truly in the national interest, whatever the outcome, and to have the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances and a new consensus, should one emerge.

We are now at that point. I would urge you to follow the example of your leader, use the opportunity he has left you with to reassess what is truly in the interests of the UK, and reconsider your unnecessarily rigid position on this matter.

There is no shame in doing so; on the contrary, it would be the mark of a true patriot and democrat.

As you point out yourself, 'the country must come first'.

I would be grateful for your response.

Yours sincerely,

Fin Kennedy

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

A response on Brexit from my MP

Just received the following predictably dismissive response from my MP Anne Main. (You can read my original letter to her here).

Dear Mr Kennedy,

Thank you for your email.

I appreciate that this was a narrow margin by which the leave campaign won, however, the choice of the majority British people remains the same. A small margin is a margin nonetheless - a view I, and I believe many others including MPs, would hold no matter what the result.

People made their choice based on as little, or as much information as they chose to access. As you may know from reading my responses to other constituents, I do not agree that enough information was not made available prior to the vote. Further, that we do not know if a vote is coming to the House regarding Article 50, however, if it does, I do believe that in matters of the constitution, the country must come first as should the will of the British people.

I am sorry that on this occasion we do not agree, if you do have any questions regarding policy decisions going forward, please do let me know and I would be happy to assist where possible.

With best wishes,

cid:image001.jpg@01CD602B.0F76B330

Mrs Anne Main
Member for St Albans
House of Commons
SW1A 0AA
0207 219 8270
Email: maina@parliament.uk

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Brexit: A letter to my MP

Here is my letter to my local MP, who was part of the Vote Leave campaign in a majority Remain area:

Dear Anne Main,

I'm writing to express my deep disappointment at your backing of the Vote Leave campaign, your unquestioning repetition of the flagrant lies on which many of its arguments were based, and the appalling consequences which the campaign's narrow victory has now unleashed upon the country.

I'm aware that you are writing to other constituents defending your actions and refusing to modify your views in spite of the face of overwhelming evidence of the harm they have done, and indicating that if a vote on triggering Article 50 comes before Parliament you will vote to support it, citing 'respecting the choice of the people'.

The fact of the matter is the referendum was won by the narrowest of margins and purely as a result of the electorate being hoodwinked by self-serving politicians not ashamed to use lies and outright racism to bolster positions on this issue which would otherwise have been highly tenuous. This is not democracy; it is charlatanism. It is no more the choice of the people than the victim of a con artist 'choosing' to hand over their life savings. The growing chorus of 'Regrexiters' - those who voted to Leave and now wish they had not - is testament to this.

If it's the choice of the people you are interested in, may I suggest you begin by respecting the far more resounding 63% vote to remain in the EU, on a turnout of 82.5%, of the constituency you represent? Surely you can understand that if you continue to disrespect the clear wishes of a majority of your constituents, such a position is not only immoral, but untenable? You are highly likely to be voted out in an election which may come sooner than any of us expected. More to the point, it is a dereliction of your duty as our MP. You could not have a clearer picture of our views. Now please respect them.

The least you can do in light of the dreadful economic and social effects you have helped to unleash is to modify your views, align them with the people who elected you, and from now on do everything within your power to make sure that Britain stays within the EU - including voting against any motion to trigger Article 50 which comes before the Commons.

Yours sincerely,

Fin Kennedy

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reversal by Fin Kennedy*


We have lost our nation forever
And I refuse to believe that
Democratic consensus can be achieved
I realize this may be a shock but
“We are all in this together”
Was a lie, and
“Britain is broken - split down the middle”
So in 20 years I will tell my children
Their futures ended here
Racist politicians and our right-wing press will know that
We got our priorities straight because
Fear
Is more important than
Community
This we know to be true
Once upon a time
Britain welcomed the world
But this will not be true in my era
This is a selfish society
Experts tell me
10 years from now, I will be living on a diminished little island
I do not concede that
I will live in a country at ease with the world and with itself
In the future
Aggressive nationalism will be the norm
No longer can it be said that
My fellow citizens and I welcome outsiders and care about the world beyond our borders
In time, it will be evident that
Hatred has won the day
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope.
All of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it.

*With thanks and a debt of gratitude to Lost Generation by Jonathan Reed.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bacc for the Future

I went to a meeting yesterday of the Bacc for the Future campaign, a coalition of arts organisations who have come together to try to influence the Government about the damage the English Baccalaureate is doing to arts subjects in schools. I have campaigned about this in the past and can confirm how serious an issue it is, it is already seriously affecting take up of Drama in schools and the amount of Drama teachers leaving the profession. Needless to say this will seriously affect our audiences and artists for years to come. There is a particular impact on diversity because often schools are the only place where inner city young people get any kind of contact with the arts. As it happens every school i have visited recently for Tamasha has said how badly EBacc is affecting the stature of Drama within the school.


EBacc has been around for a while as an optional measure for schools but the campaign has taken on a new momentum because the Government has launched a consultation to make it compulsory in all schools, with a deadline of 29 Jan. If this is allowed to pass unchecked it is potentially devastating for the arts in schools and will be very hard to unpick.


Tamasha is already a public signatory as a supporter of the campaign but I intend to step up our involvement so you will be hearing a lot more from me about this in the coming months. This is the new In Battalions, people! But in a way it is worse than cuts to the Arts Council because it is so insidious, so under the radar and so poorly understood.


I've been surprised how few theatres and theatremakers have even heard about this campaign never mind signed up to support it. If you haven't already done so, please sign the petition. It also signs you up to updates from the campaign which will contain suggestions for other actions you can take.


There is going to be a dramatic escalation of activity in the new year, including open letters to newspapers, a major MP lobbying campaign and various ongoing meetings and publicity stunts. The more of us are signed up and advocate for it within our networks, the more effective this will be.


I frankly would not have become a playwright, never mind an artistic director, if it wasn't for the fantastic Drama provision in my state school - and I am sure the same can be said for many of you.


Play your part, people. This is serious.


More soon.... but in the meantime, sign that petition: www.baccforthefuture.com