Ferg’s Blueair #1: “Contact Your MP.”

Posted: August 12, 2009 by Ferg in Ferg's Blue Air

Realistically, I won’t get a chance to do any album reviews for a month or so. This is because I’m working on my thesis for my masters degree, which is on the ways in which people become ‘radicalised’ (ie, turn to terrorism as a method of political protest) and what the government’s doing to stop this. And how they’re doing it wrong. Let’s face it, the government’s record on stopping terrorism is pretty stopstart – from Iraq to relying on a hardnut Scotsman – otherwise known as Glaswegian – to punch out a man on fire with Jean Charles de Menezes inbetween, and successes in stopping 7/7, the airline plots and, erm, that Glaswegian.

My Blueair is directed not at these, but at my local MP’s office. I’ve met my MP a few times, and we’ve had ‘disagreements’ (“Why did you vote for the war in Iraq when your consistuency voted against it?” is never a popular question) but I needed my MP’s help with regards a particular issue. You see, in investigating my topic, I came across a mentoring programme for young Muslims which teaches them about the way recruiters might manipulate the Qu’ran to serve their own means. Keen to speak to the head of such a programme, I did the natural thing of Googling him and the mentoring programme. I was surprised to see that I couldn’t find him.

I know! I thought. I’ll contact my MP, he used to work for the Home Office. They quoted this man and his programme in their counter-terrorism literature! They’ll know where to find him! So I sent the following email:

“Dear [MP’s name],

I am a postgraduate student in Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham, writing a thesis on the radicalisation problem in the UK. My research has led me to the CONTEST document, in particular, the ‘Prevent’ section of both the full document and the pamphlet copies.

I have been keen to try to contact the man listed in the Prevent section of the pamphlet, Sowail Nawaz, who is part of the Iqra Mentoring Programme in Preston. The pamphlet suggests that the Iqra mentoring programme speaks to young Muslims, providing guidance relating to the Qu’ran and the way in which extremist propaganda twists the verses of the Qu’ran. However – searches through different internet engines turns up no results with regards either the Iqra Mentoring Programme or Sowail Nawaz.

I understand you used to be the under-secretary of State for the Home Office, and was wondering if any guidance could be offered as to how I can get in touch with either Iqra or Mr Nawaz, or why it is so difficult to locate them through regular methods?

Any time, effort or advice that can be offered is much appreciated.

Yours Faithfully,
Fergus Slade
[Address Within Constituency]”

Nice, polite, considerate and respectful, as well as informative. I went about my business and a couple of days later had a reply. Well, sort of…

“I have spoken to [MP] about this.  If you would like to write to [MP] formerly about this, he will forward your enquiry to the Home Office for a response.”

No Hello. No Thanks for your query. Not even a spellcheck for fuck’s sake. Just a response that says “we’re far too busy to deal with such menial matters.” There was me thinking an email counted as a FORMAL – that’s F-O-R-M-A-L, cretin – method of communication. Baffled, but undeterred, your hero – well, me – decided that up with this I will not put!:

“Hi,

I was under the impression, especially from [My MP’s] website, that emailing [My MP’s] office was a method of formal contact?

Regards,
Fergus Slade”

Restrained, right? I’ve only got a month to hand the damn thing in and I’m playing round the houses with some busybody. Now, cast your mind back to that first email, readers. The last line, where I detail my address. It was especially fresh in MY mind when I read the latest drivel in my inbox this morning (well, I checked for spelling errors first…)

“That is so if you are a constituent. Otherwise, your query should go to your own MP, or directly to the Home Office.”

Really?

I DIDN’T THINK OF THAT…

By this point, I’m getting the sense that I’m nothing more than an irritation to whatever nameless moron is responding to my queries. Needless to say, the feeling is absolutely mutual at this point. Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m not a patient or calm man at the best of times, especially in the face of stupidity. I anxiously await the reply to my latest retort, whether I get one or not is a matter of dispute, I’ll doubtless have to go round a different variety of bureaucratic hurdles :

Hi,

[MP’s name] IS my local MP. I live in [this place], which I listed at the bottom of my first correspondence, which is in Gedling Borough Council.

Regards,
Fergus Slade

I have resisted the temptation to name and shame my MP, and his feckless employee. What I will say is this: is it any wonder we lose faith in the way a government works when getting a simple question about their job answered takes 6 emails?

(I feel I need to start this with a disclosure that any research detailed above is my own, I have not stolen it from elsewhere and claim full intellectual property rights before the university takes that away from me when I hand my thesis in.)

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