Eastern Daily Press David Powles Column on Members of Parliament

Posted:
2:41 p.m. January 11, 2022



My column from last week seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people, judging by the responses on our letters pages, email, and social media.

In case you missed it, I’ve covered the growing problem of some elected officials not responding to our requests for answers on key issues impacting themselves, their constituents or their respective political parties.

As I said at the time, I suspect that either the EDP audience is not important enough to them to warrant a response, or, as I suspect, is part of a deliberate tactic, the hope being that by ignoring us (or the problem at hand), we just walk away.

From the responses, I am convinced that this is not just an Eastern Daily Press problem. Media people in Norfolk, as well as in other parts of the country, have confirmed they are facing the same problem, often with the same people.

Even more worrying, however, has been the response from many citizens who say they too often feel completely ignored by their particular elected official, whether it is an MP or a city councilor.

Many people have reported trying, often numerous times, to get in touch with their chosen one, but have encountered complete silence or an automated response promising a response later, which then does not materialize.

Now I have some sympathy with politicians on this issue. In this age of mass communication, it’s easier than ever to get in touch with someone, whether by phone, email, or on the many social media channels.

It might only take 30 seconds to send an email, but once done, that person is waiting for a response and will likely be unhappy if they don’t get anything back. We are facing a similar problem in the newsroom and I am facing a similar situation as the editor of this newspaper.


Could not responding have a cost at the ballot box?
– Credit: PA Archive / Press Association Ima

However, I have a golden rule. If you take the trouble to contact me, I will at least take the trouble to get back to you, either personally or through a colleague. This message is also passed on to everyone who works here and I am always disappointed to learn if this has not been the case.

There is a reason for this. You are a customer, you buy into what we do and so it’s our job to at least acknowledge it with a response. Even if it’s not always what you hoped for.

Maybe our elected officials receive a lot more correspondence than the editor of the local newspaper? But if they don’t, I would say maybe it’s time they started applying the same rule to their own dealings with audiences.

Voters may not be buying a product from their local MP or councilor, but they are buying that person. Just as they have the option to stop purchasing the EDP or visit our website, they have the option to stop supporting their local representative.

And they don’t even have to respond personally themselves. Each MP has a budget that allows them to employ staff to act and speak on their behalf.

What worries me is that some of those who are guilty of not responding to the people they represent might be doing so because they don’t think it matters. Of course, some may do it out of convenience, others because they just can’t be bothered.

If so, I would ask them to take a long look at themselves, as they might need a refresher on why they got into the role in the first place.

The best MPs and elected officials – and I’m sure we could all name who those people are – realize the importance of the personal touch.

They are the ones who take the time to respond, remember a first name and recognize that an answer counts.

They are also the ones who are voted on many times.

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