Saturday, 10 April 2010

A letter from Cambridge

Hello Old Holborn

I have recently learned that you're standing as a candidate in the constituency that I was born in, went to school and college in, where I had my first job in, where I studied for a post-graduate diploma in and where I started my career in.

You are also standing in the constituency that my parents, younger brother, sister in law and my baby nephew live in. Therefore I take your request to ask for my vote very seriously.

I should also let you know that I commute to London daily and work in the civil service and guard my political neutrality like a hawk. What follows are my concerns as a local resident but concerns that have been informed by my experiences working in the private, voluntary and public sector.

I therefore have the following questions for you:

1) It costs up to £600 of civil servants time (and thus tax payers money) for the Government to respond to a question from an MP. Will you therefore state publicly that, if elected you will not waste taxpayers money by asking "soft" questions of ministers and get real value for money from the costs incurred in responding to such questions? - I want to know why it costs £600 for an MP to ask a question of the civil service. Assuming that he is asking on behalf of a constituent, isn't that what the civil service is there for? To serve us?

2) Do you have any ministerial ambitions? If so, what experience do you have of managing a large organisation? (In particular managing budgets, programmes, risks and people?) - I do have middle management experience but have absolutely no ministerial ambition. I would prefer many central functions to be returned to the regions. What is good for Cornwall may not suit the people of Cambridge.

3) If you are lobbied by organisations outside of your consitituency, will you publicly declare that you are asking a question on behalf of a lobbyist/firm before submitting such a question to ministers? - I'll go further than that. I intend to investigate every single lobbyist that gets within 10 feet of Parliament and publicly denounce them. Democracy is not for sale.

4) What understanding do you have of what ministers can and cannot do – for example in relation to local government and planning? - Again, I want power returned to local councils, elected mayors and elected Police heads. Let's see if the head of Cambridge Police thinks he can ban Strawberry Fair when his job depends on it

5) If elected, what do you think will be the biggest barrier to you performing as an effective constituency MP and how do you think you will overcome this? - As an independent, I have no barriers. Meet me in the pub and shout at me. I'm not paid to disagree with you.

6) What do you think of the Civil Service? - bloated and inefficient, mismanaged and manipulated. Would you rather do your job in Cambridge and save the commute?

7) If elected what will you do proactively to encourage people within your constituency to get interested in and engage with politics and the political processes? - I will give them a direct voice. The process of 646 people sitting in London doing what their party whip (and business lobbyists and unions) demands is abhorrent.

8) What will you do to help increase voter turnout in this constituency – irrespective of political affiliations? - empower people. Local referendums and local democracy

9) How do we know that you will put the interests of your constituency before the interests of big business and lobbyists? - See above.

10) What are you going to do to rebuild people's confidence in Parliament – irrespective of whether you get elected or not? - Direct democracy, referendums and full transparency. I will turn Parliament on it's head.

I intend to share your answers with both my parents, my brother and sister in law, all of whom have lived in Cambridge for over 28 years (the latter two, like myself born and brought up here) for their consideration.

I will also be asking the same questions of the other candidates.

Kind regards


Tigas said...

Well I never, someone taking you seriously OH.

Old Holborn said...

there's meat on these bones

Anonymous said...

Good answers, shame you won't get more than 500 votes.

So do you have a list of who is standing so far?

Are UKIP standing or the BNP?

Both have referendum and local empowerment on their agenda, much like yourself.

Old Holborn said...

Yay! Last week I was told I'd get 20 votes, now it's 500.

UKIP are standing, no BNP as yet

efedel said...

"1) It costs up to £600 of civil servants time (and thus tax payers money) for the Government to respond to a question from an MP."

This is just the arbitrary limit of 'cost' they have put on MP's questions. The Civil Service is paid to collect data, manage policies, do impact assessments etc. The information is rarely sensitive (even when they claim it is) yet getting it into the open is like getting blood from a stone. Unless there is something very wrong with the CS which has welcomed the centralised bureaucratic machine with open arms, getting the information asked of them should require little more than asking the department that collected it.

See the current hoo-har between Osborne and Darling about the Government's impact assessment on the NI rises. They have admitted one exists but refuse to publish until after the election. This impact assessment should have been done yonks ago and should be made public as a matter of course as the NI rise has been in the pipeline for some time.

The obvious answer to this 'cost' imposed by MPs having the temerity to ask questions, and MPs trying to do their job of holding the Government to account, is transparency as a matter of course. Contracts, purchases, impact assessments and the like on the interweb unless a very strong case can be made (in public) as to why it shouldn't be. Then the public can do the digging and provide lines of enquiry to their MPs. This would act as a bottleneck to the CS to stop the rapid and secretive implementation of bad policy.

There are too many initiatives, too many knees jerking, too many plans on the go at once. The sheer number of stuff the Government is doing is overwhelming Parliament's ability to scrutinise it.

If the US Government can set up to track the spending of $700 billion I dare say the British Government could manage the same for the entire budget. I like the "REPORT FRAUD, WASTE & ABUSE" button.

Ampers said...

Excellent replies OH.

Can you tell me roughly the date when the list of candidates is not only closed but published for all to see?

Then we can see who you are up against.


Old Holborn said...

Nominations close at 4pm on 20th April. the list goes up immediately

geewiz said...

Just read that link to the Strawberry Fair story. What a bunch of absolute crooked pricks the cops are. I know it sounds like a generalization but there are too many of these stories now to not tar them all with the same brush. Organised crime.

The Rt Hon. Grim Reaper said...

I'm surprised Boatang & Demetriou haven't been over yet to say "OMG, that cunt Holborn's answering this letter but he won't answer our questions!!!!11!!".


caesars wife said...

Good replys OH , I hesitate a bit at democracy is not up for sale .There are corruptions by lobbyists (EU is founded on corrupt lobbying) , I make a but , when you are drafting legislation you may need to talk to people who know certain specialised things .These may be technical things such as how lorry drivers work , and therefor lobby groups like the road hauliers should be consulted. same goes for elderly care , you need to hear from help the aged , or if your making health care changes etc etc .

So lobbying can/should be consultation to make sure the new legislation comes into effect as intended .

preing said...

My first job was as a civil servant answering what were called "Yellow Perils" (PQs, called that because of the file covers). It didn't cost any more to have me doing that than it was costing to have me playing Minesweeper for half the day and churning out standard letters the other half. After two years I couldn't bear it any longer and got a proper job.

Gallimaufry said...

Preing is right. PQs are drafted to a consistent format by EOs using readily available information, eg annual reports, white papers, Ministerial speeches etc, then checked by line management for quality and correct policy line and sent to the relevant minister's office for typing out and signing. It's the Pqs that require trawling through files for information that nobody reasonably thought would ever be counted that pushes the average cost up. I remember drafting a reply for Michael Portillo once and the helpful spellchecker poppped up and enquired "Do you mean Portaloo?" Well yes, but I had a mortgage to pay.

Dave H said...

" will not waste taxpayers money by asking "soft" questions of ministers..."

Yeuch. What a smug, patronising tosser.

An MP should feel free to refer any question they bloody well like from a constituent to a minister, whether the Civil Service sodding hate it or not. It's entirely down to the MP's judgement and discretion: that's the whole bloody point of representation. If the Civil Service are so sluggardly and incompetent that it costs a fortune to perform such a basic function then they ought to be forced to buck their procedures up.

£600? How do they transcribe it? In Copperplate using quills on vellum?

I look forward to pissing in the Cam this evening in the hope that your letter-writing potential constituent falls into it after a day or so.

Ron Broxted said...

Which party will be best at safeguarding human and gay rights? Rendition, Secret detention and torture...Oooh matron, Plod and BNP followers chasing cottaging gay men like me out of public toilets making us scream and cry loudly. The right to a fair trial has been jeopardised by counter terrorism legislation. Control orders, now whose son and heir thought that one up? The Human Rights Act is laughable in a nation where what liberty we gays had has been eroded. I see that Old Holborn is running for the Cambridge constituency under the "Jury Team". Where does he stand on gay rights and lowering the age of consent for young boys? Poor showing in Scotland when they selected a baggage handler but Mr Holborn in truth doesn't really stand a dogs chance of getting on the gravy train. I should however make a fair running if I were to stand as an Independent for "Make Homosexual Cottaging Legal." In Luton South we Steven Lathwell is standing as an Independent. Where one wonders does Esther Rantzen stand on gay rights and legalise cottaging?
I have been trying hard to get my new best friend Colin Berry to stand as an independent for Save the planet from man made global warming. Visit his Sciencebod blogsite this man is a real genius and makes Al Gore look an amateur when it comes to starch.
I must away now to the gym to linger in the male changing rooms and sniff the intoxicating odours of sweaty male bodies.

Anonymous said...

A fair set of questions and a robust set of answers OH. has a list of who's standing. Interesting to see Tony Juniper, former head of Friends of the Earth standing for the Greens.

Also worth noting from is that in the past 25 years, all three main parties have held the seat, so it should be closely fought.

@Dave H, I think Q1) refers to MPs that ask questions such as "Will the minister/PM take this opportunity to say how wonderful the Government is and how ridiculous the policies of the opposition are?" rather than "The civil service doesn't like replying to awkward questions." Preing and Gallimaufry I think are right - Preing may even have found his first job more interesting if the questions required more work in them.

Fausty said...

I'm late to this thread, but you'd get my vote on the basis of those replies alone - even if I'd never read your blog!


Might those questions and answers form part of your campaign leafleting? And if so, might you put a caption at the bottom which says "photocopy me and distribute me", or similar?

Should you produce printable leaflets, I'd be happy to host them on my blog.

subrosa said...

I ditto Fausty. I know I get a few residents of Englandshire popping in now and again. :)

Henry Crun said...

OH, a pity I don't live in Cambridge, you'd get my vote.

OT: The President of Poland dies in a plane crash and the country declares a week of mourning, if it was Brown, I suspect there would be a week of street parties.

Anonymous said...

I used to live in Cambridge, moved out about four years ago.

I regret it now. :( I'd help you just for a free mask!

Anonymous said...

You not attending the debate advertised at ?

Martin Wellbourne said...

Mustn't miss out on Strawberry Fayre - well known annual shindig for the local human rights activists, anti-racism campaigners, purveyors of rainbow striped trousers , local trades-union activists, fair trade militants, stinky dole scroungers, pissed-up labour voters, feminist campaigners for prioritising free beard transplants for the transgendered over cancer in the NHS, etc, etc.

Simple equation:- Plod = wankers
Strawbery Fayre-ers = wankers.

Wankers all.

Man with Many Chins said...

I would vote for you mate, but I am in Swindon:-(

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