Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Dear Chloe Smith

I received a letter today from the youthful and enthusiastic MP for Norwich North, Chloe Smith. As my local Member of Parliament, Chloe clearly feels a responsibility to inform me from time to time what she's been up to on my behalf, and she wrote me such a charming letter that I had to reproduce it here for your benefit, along with the response that I would make to her. For your ease of reading, I have placed Chloe's text in red text and my own response/comments in normal text.

Letter begins:

Dear Resident, it's an honour to be your Member of Parliament.

Thank you Chloe, it's an honour to receive your letter and I look forward to many hours of dedicated service from you.

I'm working hard for you here at home and away at Westminster.

That's good to know. It's so hard for a constituent to gain some idea of an MP's effectiveness. I note from official statistics at that you haven't spoken in a single commons debate this year or received an answer to an official written question. However, you are one of a handful of MPs to have attended every one of the twenty-six meetings of the Welfare Reform Bill Committee, which shows a certain level of commitment, and possibly a degree of masochism.

Times are hard at present.

It's good that you've noticed this. You may wish to suggest to Mr Cameron that he come up with some way to assist the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, as they're the ones really feeling the pinch just now.

Everyone knows that the country is in a shocking financial state.

It's good that you've noticed this as well. While you're communicating the previous comment to Mr Cameron, you may wish to ask Mr Osborne to do something to resolve the issue. And when I say something, I mean something a bit more creative than simply cutting the budget of every government department and local authority that looks at him in a funny way.

We have seen the biggest reckless overspend in our peacetime history.

Your Blairite predecessors used a trillion pounds of public money to sustain the immoral activities of a number of key financial institutions whose continued survival is nonetheless inextricably linked to the future economic prosperity of the nation. It's not ideal, but we can't say for sure that we wouldn't be in a worse mess if this hadn't happened. Plus there's always the chance that in the long run, we may see some return on our investment. Oh, and prominent workers from these same financial institutions are responsible for more than 50% of the donations that support the activities of your political party.

Actually, when you read it back, it does look like a right mess, doesn't it?

This is why we have to look so carefully at everything the nation spends.

That is indeed one way to resolve the deficit crisis. The other is to increase direct and indirect taxation. Arguably, your party has looked at this by raising VAT, but the benefit of this has been cancelled out by the reduction in corporation tax which has been offered as a financial stimulus to increase growth potential for business. It's a sound idea and I applaud it, but there are other opportunities for increasing taxation on those with massively high incomes, and closing tax loopholes to ensure that both business and individuals who generate income in the UK pay their fair share of taxes here too. I remind you that we are all in this together, so if you could look into that, it would be much appreciated.

It's like a credit card: when you run up massive credit card bills, the longer you leave it, the worse it gets.

Except in this case, it's the banks that owe large sums of money to us, rather than the other way round. There are of course a myriad of ways to make savings, such as cutting down on luxury expenses. For me, this makes your decision to vote in favour of replacing the Trident nuclear deterrent system a strange one.

If we don't take steps now to live within our means we'll end up paying higher taxes or making deeper spending cuts to pay off the debt.

I realise this kind of blanket missive isn't intended to go into great detail about the functional deficit but the use of the credit card analogy neatly explains the concept without actually providing a lot of useful information. Our debt is approximately 80% of our GDP, a substantial sum and apparent justification for much of the government's activities. However, that still ranks well below the average level of debt as a percentage of GDP in Europe, with riot-stricken Greece in debt to the tune of a scorching 150% of its GDP. In national terms, the interest on our debt is annoying but certainly not unmanageable, and it is wrong that social care and education, two cornerstones of civilised society, should face cuts on the scale that they have. Modern Conservatives are all in favour of redistributing powers via a localist agenda - this should include the power to set council tax rises where residents feel that this would be a suitable alternative to cuts in vital services.

I will work hard for more jobs for Norwich.

We appreciate your efforts. It's a shame that those same banks we discussed earlier don't appear to wish to lend money to new business ventures. Given that the Chancellor's whole policy for increasing investment in the UK comes from a simplistic 'reduce-corporation-tax-and-wait' perspective, perhaps you could suggest an alternative approach?

I will continue to stand up for public services whenever I reasonably can.

So does this mean you'll be voting against the government's plans for pension reform?

I will stay on the case of local councils to stick up for council tax payers.

Though I'm sure you will also view the needs of those councils sympathetically and petition national government to divert the necessary money to local authorities in Norwich to ensure that those local people who need services can receive them in a timely manner.

I like to be my own woman.

No-one here will ask you to be anybody else's. If you ever actually read this reply and it seems glib in places, perhaps you will consider this at least to be a serious response - don't be afraid to stand up for your constituents, even if it means going against your government. There are serious issues to consider here and it's vital that Norwich residents can bank on you doing what is right for them, rather than what is convenient for your party.

We sincerely wish you all the best - after all, your success is ours too.


  1. My wife pointed out to me that the financial state of the nation is like taking out a mortgage. You don't stop buying food to pay it off in a year.
    Another thing, is that my local MP, Simon Wright (Lib) has apparently consistently voted against all the coalition policies, in favour of his personal beliefs, and what the Liberal party stands (or rather, stood) for, unlike his power-hungry colleagues who will probably lose their deposits next time around.

  2. Hello Rob, thank you as ever for your well-reasoned contribution. Tammy is right, there is simply no need for cuts of the scale and depth that we are seeing in the UK and there are numerous reports (such as the Red Pepper finance summaries) that back this opinion up with economic reality. This is not to say that there is not a case for closely analysing local authorities and seeing how you can strive to get greater value from them, but simply cutting without regard for the consequences is counter-productive.

    I know that you can find Simon Hughes' voting record and further information at the hyperlink above for I'm sure you will have already done this, and it's a useful resource for anyone interested in finding out more about their MP. As I say in the comments above, much of what I have written in my reply to Chloe may be glib but I genuinely believe she has a lot of positive things to offer Norwich, as long as she can be trusted to vote solely in the interests of her constituents.

  3. Like it Kristopher, make no mistake though her decision to vote in favour of replacing Trident was 1000% the right one!xxx

  4. Good evening Anonymous (I use that name ironically, as the kisses totally give away who you are!)

    I'm sorry, but I think Trident is a reckless waste of public money at a time when saving money is so high on the agenda. We've already decided to share our naval capabilities with France, perhaps it's time to put Trident to bed?