CROYDON COMMENTARY: It might just be the worst nightmare of constituent-lite MP “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway – an online petition with his own name on it. JON BIGGER on the good work of 38 Degrees and the bitter irony that Croydon South’s MP will this week be supporting the Government’s rushed digital security bill
Imagine the thrill of receiving an email entitled “Does Richard Ottaway Listen?”
There are just too many jokes to be had with a title like that.
At first, I thought it was a rhetorical question, but it turned out to be an email from 38 Degrees, the online petition group. People may recall that earlier in the year, “Sir” Tricky Dicky labelled 38 Degrees as “notorious” for having the audacity to encourage constituents to contact him about issues affecting them. When people use the online site to contact him, it means he gets multiple emails about the same issue. Rather than thinking that this might mean that lots of different people might care about these issues, Ottaway considers it to be an administrative nightmare.
Ottaway much prefers the cosy option of only inviting people who he has personally vetted to his constituency office. I found out what happens if you attend in a group to which he has taken a disliking.
Now, 38 Degrees has been asked to provide information to a government commission looking at “digital democracy”, specifically how MPs respond to electronic requests from constituents. They’ve set up a questionnaire so that as many people can feed into the consultation as possible. If you’ve had online experience of Ottaway (or any other MP for that matter) you can access the questionnaire here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/how-well-does-your-mp-communicate-with-you-#petition.
It might be useful for as many people who have contacted Ottaway online to detail how they have been treated by the MP for Croydon South. Does Richard Ottaway listen? It’s not rhetorical, it needs answering so that people know exactly how hard it is to influence politics, particularly in a constituency with a largely absent MP who opts to represent a narrow base of interests.
Back in the late 1990s, I studied for an MA in Democratic Studies. When it came to the brand new internet, many of us thought that the possibilities for democracy are as far-reaching as our imaginations. Full of promise, digital democracy conjures up images of citizen involvement in decision-making.
Yet our politicians seem more remote from us than ever before. Power seems increasingly difficult to influence. It’s ironic that far from the internet providing digital democracy, MPs this week will be voting on emergency legislation to enable the security services to continue collecting data from us all about our online activity. Politicians are using the internet against us when it should be a wonderful liberating tool giving us a voice.
We could start by insisting on a culture where our representatives don’t just respond correctly when we contact them; they should seek our views and not kow-tow so heavily to their party machines.
I’m standing in next year’s General Election in Croydon South, despite not believing in representative democracy. I believe in direct democracy with recallable delegates rather than representatives. I want us all to represent ourselves and work together to decide the important issues in our lives. This is the polar opposite of the society Ottaway influences.
Power and decision-making are for the likes of him, not us. Digital democracy gives us an opportunity to take some power back. How ironic that it is used by the likes of Ottaway to close down debate and keep ordinary citizens away from the decision-making process.
If you’ve contacted your MP online and found it like banging your head against a brick wall, then get your views heard.
- Ottaway’s attitude to democracy enough to make anyone gag
- Arise Sir Tricky Dicky Ottaway – Croydon’s dark knight
- Croydon MP missed the riots but now calls for water cannon
Coming to Croydon
- South Norwood Arts Festival, July 5-20
- David Lean Cinema: Half of a Yellow Sun, July 17
- Love Norbury launch event, July 19
- Picnic in Grangewood Park, July 20
- David Lean Cinema: Pantani: Accidental Death of a Cyclist, July 21
- David Lean Cinema: Tracks, July 24
- Fragile, Spread Eagle Theatre, July 24-26
- CODA’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at Wandle Park, Jul 30-Aug 2
- David Lean Cinema: Locke, July 31
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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