Thursday, July 08, 2010

Graham Evans MP: Hero to Parliamentary Secretaries

Newbie MP Graham Evans has just tabled this Early Day Motion.

That this House regrets the continuing decline in importance of Early Day Motions which have become a campaign tool for external organisations; notes the role of public affairs professionals in drafting Early Day Motions and encouraging members of the organisations they represent to send pro forma emails and postcards to Honourable Members; further notes the huge volume of correspondence that this generates and the consequent office and postage costs incurred; believes that the organisations involved derive little benefit from Early Day Motions, which very rarely have any influence on policy; further believes that public affairs professionals are aware of the ineffectiveness of Early Day Motions, but continue to use them to attempt to justify their services; questions the value for money to the taxpayer of Early Day Motions of whatever origin; and calls for the system of Early Day Motions to be reformed or abolished.

And by doing so he has guaranteed himself hero status among the legion of House of Commons secretaries and researchers. Why? I'll let one of them explain...

This is so brilliant and SO true. We are plagued by the damn things although there is NOTHING I like better than enlightening a constituent who wants my MP to sign yet another EDM by telling them they are simply a PR exercise and have no legislative value AND cost the tax payer money. The next to go should be computer generated e-mails where a constituent goes on for example, a Greenpeace website, puts in his postcode and voila and computer generated e-mail goes to your MP on every Greenpeace campaign. Sometimes when you reply, you get an irate reply from the constituent demanding to know why you wrote to them – of course they forgot all about doing it!

How ironic, though, for Evans to criticise EDMs, by tabling one!

UPDATE: Of course, it was the trend setting Jonathan Sheppard who started the Scrap EDMs campaign last year.


Mark Wallace said...

EDMs are fairly pointless - but your correspondent's suggestion of banning online "Send an Email" functions is just lazy.

If people want to send a pro forma, they should be allowed to. Politicians always parrot exactly the same things to the people, why should we not be allowed to all send the same message to them?

Dave Cross said...

Is it really so hard to link to link you your sources? Not doing so makes people think that you're hiding something?

The EDM is here.

The only references to the other quotation that Google can find come from this blog entry. Did you make it up?

ToryTittleTattler said...

This is an EDM to be proud of, but the real question is how much man-handling are we going to have to do to get our bosses to break their "I'm not signing EDMs" stance in order to push this one through? EDMs have become a waste of money, they are never really debated and cost far too much. The three per parliament that do any good are not worth the thousands that do nothing.

Unknown said...

Completely correct for many EDMs. Not so though for some, e.g. those relating to the Sustainable Communities Act or Bill campaigns led by Friends of the Earth. I challenge anyone who disagrees to a public debate.

EDMs remain one of the few ways left by which the electorate can hold their MP to account.

Steve Shaw
National Co-ordinator
Local Works

Unknown said...

I agree with every word of that. EDMs are nothing but a con-trick, and should absolutely be scrapped.

Iain Dale said...

Dave Cross, you really are a sack of shit. Why on earth would I make it up. Would you like me to give you direct access to my email account? Because of course that's the only way I can prove to you it's a genuine email.

And if you seriously think I would make it up, why on earth would you ever bother visiting this blog?

Dave Cross said...

Looks like I touched a nerve there, Iain.

No, of course, I don't really think that you made it up. I'm just making the point that by quoting things without attribution, people are free to discount anything that you write.

If it comes from a private email, then why not say so. If you produce stuff out of thin air then people can quite possibly think that... well... you produced it out of thin air :-)

Your blog, your rules of course. Just a bit of friendly advice.

Little Ern said...

Don't you know how to do a screen capture Iain? I thought you were an expert blogger?

Lady Finchley said...

Steve Shaw- I'd hardly expect a turkey to vote for Christmas! I have never heard anything so absurd - EDMS holding MPs to account?! In what world?!

Lady Finchley said...

I disagree, Mark, all they have to do is sign up to one campaign and their names are automatically signed up to every campaign that particular lobby group does. They are the lazy ones. MPs do make an effort to tailor their responses but I can assure you that a lazy computer generated e-mail will only get a 'standard' response.

Andy said...

I think Iain that your response to Dave Cross is a bit excessive. Points have to be substantiated.

For example I am annoyed that I cannot tell the world what a former security worker for Mirror Group Newspapers told me about a senior figure from the Maxwell days. Just lets say he thought Maxwell was not too bad.

nigel said...

Frankly that comment from Iain to Dave Cross pretty much justifies my move back to complete cynicism about politics - to wit the only good politician is a dead politician.

Dave Hodgkinson said...

Sack of shit?

Pot, kettle, black.

An apology is in order I think.

Lady Finchley said...

Dave Cross - are you thick? It is obvious the story comes from a private e-mail.

John M Ward said...

Where the Sheppard leads, the flock follows...

As for EDMs: it is a pity that one of the very few backbenchers' facilities turns out to be generally of little real value.

That needs to be addressed as part of the rebalancing of the Parliament-vs-Executive equation.

Dave Cross said...

Lady Finchley,

It's obvious now, of course, as Iain has clarified the situation.

But ignoring Iain's explanation in the comments, can you really tell that the quoted paragraph comes from an email and not, say, a blog post? If you can then I'd love to know what the clues are. Because it's far from obvious to me.

So, yes, perhaps I am thick. But I'm always willing to learn from from intellectual superiors. Please enlighten me.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

Steve - the fact that maybe one EDM got coverage does not make it an effective mechanism one bit. A huge amount are self congratulatory - they are hardly if at all debated, and they cost £600,000 just to be printed. You could set up a website and persuade MPs to sign up to a campaign at no cost to the taxpayer. Who not do that instead of some outdated and outmoded useless parliamentary mechanism.

I agree with the school pupils on this podcast:-

Unsworth said...

@ Dave Cross

You seriously unwell or something? This is the bleeding Internet. Normal rules need/do not apply. You can choose to believe, or not believe, what you read. Why do you think attribution to any particular document will make it so?

And why does neglecting to (or choosing not to) link "make" "people" (which "people", for that matter?) think anything at all? For those who are actually bothered there are many search engines which may help in the relentless and unending pursuit of ultimate truth - although I'm unaware of any being directly sanctioned by the Vatican.

@ Andy

Why do points "have to be" substantiated? Do they get substantiated elsewhere?

Self-appointed Internet Cops seem to be everywhere.

Lady Finchley said...

How can you not tell that this was something communicated to Iain by somebody real - I see now, Mr Cross - you have a pathological hatred of Nadine Dorries so of course you are going to jump on anything Iain says - silly me!

Lady Finchley said...

Jonathan - the problem with asking MPs to sign up to a campaign website (this was done during the GE to get around the fact that there were no EDMS) is that there are usually things on the campaign site that MPs cannot sign up to without becoming hostages to fortune. Then if you don't sign up you are harrassed by constituents and the organisation alike which is why I maintain that if you want to express your views to your MP then take the time to do so personally.

I am aware that you know the score but this is for the others who don't!

Unknown said...

If EDMs really are a waste of time and money then please give me some advice. What would be a more effective way of raising issues of concern with my MP?

Dave Cross said...


As far as I know I'm perfectly healthy. Thanks for taking a interest though. How are you?

As I said in another comment, it's Iain's blog so his rules apply. He's free to cite sources or not as he feels fit. I was just offering some friendly advice about how people may interpret his actions.

Bloggers like Paul Staines deal in unsubstantiated rumour, so you wouldn't expect them to link to sources. But I suspect that Iain aspires to a higher quality than that and those aspirations can only be helped by linking to sources. This is hardly controversial stuff, is it?

The last W in WWW stands for "web" which, for me at least, implies that it's a series of linked pages. It makes it easy to link to sources, so there's no real reason not to do so.

And it appears that Iain agrees with me as he has edited the post to add a link to the EDM as I suggested. Of course he can't link to the other source because (as he has now explained) it's a private email.

Hope that clarifies where I'm coming from. I really didn't mean to come across as a "self-appointed internet Cop". I was just offering some advice to raise the level of the debate.

Iain Dale said...

Bollocks. You were insinuating that I had made the whole thing up. Don't try to come across as all innocent. I know your game. It's the same one that's now perpetrated by your friends and allies whose entire reason for existing, it seems, is to try to make out I am some sort of bandit.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

Lady Finchley - yet more and more of the new intake are just not signing any EDMs. They are meant to be motions debated at the earliest opportunity.. yet they do not get debated.

I worked in public affairs and they are used at times by agencies to pretend to clients who know no better what a good job they've done because they've managed to convince an MP to table a motion.

Come on.. A parliamentary motion used to express sadness about the death of a celebrity chefs dog.... an effective campaign technique? No - more like a pain in the arse for MPs offices to deal with the letters (both internal and external) saying please sign x y or z on some bog standard letter that the person sending cant even be bothered to personalise. Its lazy on those who send them and lazy on those who sign... and I too would be prepared to debate that in public.

Rant over ;o)

Dave Cross said...


Up to you, of course, how you interpret my motivations. You're wrong, but I'm not going to be able to persuade you of that.

You added a link to the EDM though, and explained where the other quotation came from. Thanks for that.

Lady Finchley,

Not sure what my feeling about Nadine Dorries have to do with this discussion, but (for what it's worth) I should probably make it clear that don't have a pathological hatred of anyone.

Unsworth said...

@ Dave Cross

Well it certainly clarifies where you've been, now where are you actually going to? You're all over the shop.

You said: "Not doing so makes people think that you're hiding something"

So I asked who these "people" were.

You now say: "I was just offering some friendly advice about how people may interpret his actions"

So I say - again - who are these "people"? Do you speak on their behalf? Let's hear it from them, eh?

And, further, you seem not to understand your own change of position - from a statement of fact "not doing so makes people..." to an expression of opinion "offering some friendly advice about how people may interpret his actions". Note the interesting insertion of "may".

Just because it's a relatively simple task to link to pages, that doesn't mean it's mandatory, does it? Seems to me you're verging on the old Lefty trick of trying to control how people express themselves - thereby controlling the discussion itself. If people want links they can, presumably, ask for them. Did you do that? No, I don't think you did.

Anyway, it's a matter of conjecture as to whether a link in this case would in any sense "raise the level of (and WTF does that actually mean) debate". Which particular "level" are we talking about?

Dave Cross said...


One final attempt to clarify before I give up for the day...

1/ Which people? Well, I'm one. There are others - we've seen some in the comments on this entry. And, no, I don't claim to speak on their behalf. I'm just giving my opinion.

2/ That word "may". Yes, I sometimes use imprecise language. People do, you know. I apologise and will try harder in the future.

3/ I have never claimed that this is mandatory. To claim otherwise looks a bit like you're setting up straw men.

4/ As I've pointed out before, it seems that Iain agrees with me as he has made the clarifications that I have suggested.

5/ I don't really see how giving people easy access to sources can fail to improve the quality of the discussion. Just my opinion though (of course).

I've tried to explain my position in more detail over on my blog. Maybe we can continue the discussion there and leave Iain alone.

Anonymous said...

I doubt anyone wants to hear the inane wafflings of a pompous ass, but I'll take a chance and comment anyway.

Firstly, can I say that I really do think that linking to primary sources is desirable and I'm pleased to see that Iain has now added relevant links.

I don't think, though, that the comments in response to Dave Cross's observations were helpful. In particular, I feel that asking if someone is "unwell" or asserting that they have a "pathological hatred" are inappropriate responses to a request for a blogger to link to sources.

Finally: while I can imagine that Iain found Dave Cross's question at the end of his first comment provocative (I think I might have found it provocative myself), I don't think that the comment Dave left was best dealt with by an opening gambit of "Dave Cross, you really are a sack of shit."

Anonymous said...

Wow! He's my MP - he's actually doing something!

Unlike his predecessor, who seemed to sit in his office all day and turn up to vote for the gvt.