Ever since he called out the police when less than a dozen peaceful constituents attended his monthly surgery, Croydon South MP’s “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway has been spinning a line to cover his embarrassment. Here, JON BIGGER says it is time his MP came clean
“Sir” Richard Ottaway’s attitude to 38 Degrees, the widely admired petition group, tells us a lot about how politics works in this country.
In one self-justifying interview, the Croydon South MP labelled them “notorious”, in another, he called them “confrontational”. This was his idea of a response to the issues raised when a group of constituents, including me, arrived at the Croydon South MP’s office for a scheduled monthly surgery to hand in a petition on the Gagging Bill.
38 Degrees, as with other grassroots lobbying organisations, uses internet technology to allow constituents a very easy way of interacting with politicians. A few clicks of the mouse and you can write to your MP about the issues that you care about.
The first time I used this method to contact Ottaway was as a trades union member worried about losing my public sector job.
The idea behind using this tactic is clear. If an MP gets several emails on the same subject by concerned constituents then maybe, just maybe, they’ll take up the issue.
This is all far too annoying for Ottaway. He mentioned in one interview that all these approaches from his constituents clog up his email inbox. He said that it is therefore less effective than an individual simply coming to see him.
This is a great insight into the mind of one of our local politicians. Act as a group, and he doesn’t want to know. But act as an individual and he’ll listen. Or so he says.
This is full of class politics. The overriding dominant ideological influence in British politics is neoliberalism. It’s most associated with Thatcherism and while it can’t be bottled into a single phrase, Thatcher’s “There’s no such thing as society” helps explain it.
The individual is supreme. It’s the individual that drives the economy by moving their money or their labour where it helps them most, or at least that’s the theory. But when it makes sense to combine together, neoliberals don’t want to know. That’s society and community and it just won’t do.
Look what happens when people decide it’s in their interest collectively to strike for better wages, rather than look individually for a better paid job. And look what happened to a modest group of constituents with a common cause when we went to Ottaway’s office. The police were called.
So combining together via a petition website to lobby your ruling-class MP is to be discouraged, according to Ottaway. Meanwhile, multi-national companies and professional lobby groups are always pressing MPs for help which will aid them in their quest for ever greater profits.
Companies are increasingly being seen as individuals in this context, labelled “corporate personhood” in neoliberal speak.
The register of MPs interests can tell us a lot about our MPs. In Ottaway’s case, you can see he’s had a lot of gifts and trips paid for by people and organisations who, presumably, get something out of the relationship.
The issue of a smoking ban in cars which have child passengers first cropped up in 2011. Ottaway received a pair of tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show, worth more than £1,100, from Japan Tobacco International around the time he voted against such a ban. Maybe that was a coincidence. We can’t find anywhere that shows Japan Tobacco International as a Croydon South constituent. The House of Commons lists them as being based in Weybridge.
In his article criticising 38 Degrees, Ottaway suggested that his office had called the police because they knew that I was attending and that they knew that I was an anarchist. He calls me a “youthful anarchist”. I’m 38, so I was overjoyed at that.
But Ottaway’s account of events does not seem to tally with actual events.
I only decided to attend the surgery 20 minutes beforehand. If I didn’t know definitely that I was going to go to my own MP’s regular monthly surgery, then how could he?
I spoke to the police as they were leaving, and they didn’t seem to regard me with any suspicion. Ottaway even stood next to me when he came out of his office. There was no talk of anarchism.
Yet since the incident, in which his own behaviour was less than reasonable and beyond ridiculous, he has tried to portray me as a possible danger, and potentially violent.
It is disgraceful for him to suggest the things that he has. He didn’t know I was attending and his office didn’t call the police because of me. He should correct his stance at the earliest opportunity.
- Read more from Jon Bigger on his own blog here. Jon Bigger is standing as the Class War candidate in Croydon South at the 2015 General Election. “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway won’t be standing for re-election, because even the local Conservatives refused to sanction him standing again following revelations in 2009 about his expenses claims
Coming to Croydon
- Croydon Arts Network meeting, Feb 15
- Chinese New Year children’s event, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 18
- This War! St Gertrude’s Theatre group, Feb 19-22
- Welsh myths children’s event, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Mr Pooter comes to Croydon, Feb 20-22
- Warm and Well event, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 22
- Stop the Incinerator fund-raiser, Feb 24
- Fairtrade Film night, Antenna Cafe, Haynes Lane, Feb 27
- Fairtrade event, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 1
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Mar 3
- Patchwork and quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 3
- Fairtrade stall at Food Market, Haynes Lane, Mar 8
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, Mar 15
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org