Lib Dem Spin Doctor feels ‘Disenfranchised’

Dominic Raab MP by the Freedom AssociationWe have been asked to publish this post, unedited, by Dominic Raab, the Conservative MP for Esher and Walton (pictured right).

On Sunday morning, I was made aware of a blog-post by Roisin Miller on Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent website for Lib Dem supporters, entitled: ‘An MP who takes me for granted has left me feeling disenfranchised’. What followed was a nebulous – but direct – attack on me as an MP, saying that I took my so-called ’safe seat’ for granted. In particular, apparently my responses to Ms Miller’s communiqués were ‘half-hearted’, I’m not ‘a particularly good MP’, she hasn’t received any literature from me in 3 years, and locally Conservatives are failing to ‘engage with the electorate’. I think Ms Miller deserves a response.

First, she might have mentioned that she was Ed Davey’s local spin doctor and Kingston & Surbiton Lib Dems’ campaign manager until August 2013 – and has run as a candidate in various local elections. Nothing wrong with that. But Ms Miller is not just any old ‘political activist’. She’s a professional politician having a go at her local Tory nemesis.

Nonetheless, it’s fair game to highlight lazy MPs who take strong majorities for granted. It’s just that, since I was selected as the Conservative candidate by open primary in 2009, in a process open to every resident regardless of political affiliation, I have been anything but lazy. In the 2010 election, we had 72% turnout – compared to 65% nationally, and higher than Kingston – a tribute to the efforts my team and I made to galvanise interest. Neither I nor voters were remotely complacent.

Ms Miller lives in Molesey. I live in and commute from neighbouring Thames Ditton. I’ve spent an enormous amount of time in Molesey – all documented on my blog here. Up at Westminster, I’ve been independent-minded, for example, campaigning against the snooper’s charter, and supporting a beefed up Right of Recall against MPs – examples of issues that many Lib Dems care about, as well as Conservatives.

Ms Miller says my replies to her emails have been ‘half-hearted’. Really? I won’t disclose the content, but I have written to senior officials and Ministers on a wide range of issues. Ms Miller is no stranger to the ‘campaign email’, but has invariably got a personal reply from me. I have written to her substantively seven times in two years.

Next, Ms Miller says she hasn’t had any other literature from me in three years. In fact, I send an annual ‘Westminster Report’, delivered by Royal Mail, to every address in the constituency. She should have had at least two since she moved here – perhaps one or other got swept up into the bin with pizza leaflets, who knows? But, since Ms Miller signed up for my monthly e-bulletin in April 2013, I am starting to wonder whether she isn’t being rather economical with the truth when she says she has ‘had nothing’ from me in three years.

What about face-to-face contact? In addition to all the local events I do, like any MP, I also hold public meetings every six months across the constituency – advertised variously, including via my e-bulletin – to discuss any local or national issue. I have held six in Molesey alone since February 2012, 40 in total since May 2010. These meetings have been vibrant, sometimes challenging. In Molesey, working with local councillor Steve Bax, we’ve tackled a range of issues – including parking regulations, getting behind community ideas for buying the Jolly Boatman site (a longstanding local bug-bear), and liaising with Heathrow to secure the suspension of local flight trial paths. If Ms Miller is so ‘politically engaged’, why hasn’t she been along to any of these meetings to make her voice heard?

There are two ironies in all this. The first is that, if the Lib Dems had their way, and we changed the voting system to Proportional Representation, it would break the constituency link between elector and elected that ensures local residents can hold MPs like me to account. The current system may not be perfect, but the alternatives are far worse.

Second, for all Ms Miller’s attack on ‘Tory complacency’, she was in charge of Ed Davey’s local PR and Kingston Lib Dems’ local campaigns until recently. As we went into the last election, Ed Davey had a bigger majority than my predecessor did in Esher and Walton. Mr Davey’s seat is now viewed as ultra-marginal, and Kingston Lib Dems lost control of the council. In contrast, my majority in Esher and Walton doubled in 2010, and since then local Conservatives have assiduously retained a council long controlled by opposition groups.

For my part, working with a great local team, I’m energetically engaging with voters, regardless of their political views and by any means possible. For hers, Ms Miller confesses she hasn’t even bothered to register to vote. If she really feels disenfranchised, I can only extend a warm invitation to her to attend my upcoming Molesey public meeting – as it happens next Wednesday, 7.30pm start, at St Mary’s Church hall in East Molesey.

Photo: The Freedom Association

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44 Comments

  • STV doesn’t break the constituency link.

  • “if the Lib Dems had their way, and we changed the voting system to Proportional Representation, it would break the constituency link between elector and elected that ensures local residents can hold MPs like me to account”

    Whatever the substance of the rest of this spat, which doubtless contains polish on both sides, this out and out lie about STV should not be allowed to go unchallenged. The whole point of STV (the favoured system of not only us, but the Electoral Reform society) is that it allows proportionality while preserving the constituency link.

    Perhaps Mr Raab is thinking of the miserable little compromise system that the tories forced us to offer instead of STV in the full knowledge that the British public wouldn’t be daft enough to vote for it so they could then pretend nobody wants electoral reform?

  • Stuart Wheatcroft 9th Feb '15 - 7:02pm

    Jennie – AV doesn’t break the constituency link either, of course. It has its failings, but that is not one of them.

  • Why didn’t you just tell him to sod off? I have absolutely no idea why this has been published.

    Having said that it appears he thinks that one leaflet a year (paid for by the taxpayer?) counts as communication.

  • Stephen Hesketh 9th Feb '15 - 8:16pm

    Congratulations to LDV publishing this response. I can’t think of any newspapers that would behave so well even when they had knowing exaggerated or fabricated a story.

    Mr Raab, in light of this openness towards yourself and your right of reply, I do hope you will feel able to issue a correction regarding your mistake concerning proportional representation and it breaking the link between constituent and MP?

  • Alex Sabine 9th Feb '15 - 8:27pm

    What Stephen W and Stephen Hesketh said. Well done LDV.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Feb '15 - 8:51pm

    Well done LDV.

  • Matt (Bristol) 9th Feb '15 - 9:24pm

    I think some of Mr Raab’s arguments are overstated, and there are many many ways of making the system more proportional without breaking the link between electors and elected (parallel voting, for one).
    But I intensely dislike all political campaigning by clichéd mudslinging, and too often LibDems forget that throwing generalised muck at those who operate the system just denigrates the system and generates little motivation to change the system unless it’s well focused (the local election leaflet about ‘council waste’ from last time round still hasn’t been forgiven by me). So good on him.

  • Well done to the lib dem voice for publishing the rebuttal of an MP from another party.

    As an ex-lib dem I really dislike the lib dems now but this site usually let’s everyone express their point of view, so well do on that. To be honest, all the fighting between the lib dems and the Tories seems to be much ado about nothing, the parties are so similar now they should probably merge…

  • AMS – used in the Scottish Parliament – keeps the link between constituency and member. In fact, it means that every person has 8 MSPs linked to their area – one directly to the constituency, and 7 regional MSPs. The only system of PR which breaks the link between member and constituency is the Party List system – which nobody is proposing for Westminster.

    The lesson for Dominic Raab – if you’re going to make misleading comments about PR, don’t do it on a Lib Dem site!

  • As Paul says, Dominic Raab published this post on his own blog and added this at the bottom – and it is still there:
    “(For the record, Liberal Democrat Voice declined to post this response to Ms Miller).”

    Dominic Raab’s post was published on his blog some 25 minutes after I had published it here (as duty editor). I have asked him to correct the statement since it is clearly incorrect, but he has so far not approved the request which I added as a comment on his blog.

    On the earlier thread Caron Lindsay explained why the post was published here slightly later that Mr Raab ‘wished’.

    “Mr Raab sent this to my personal email address at 17:08 saying that if it was not published by 18:00, he would publish it elsewhere. Given we are a team of volunteers with day jobs, this seems unreasonable. In fact, I caught it by chance between meetings. Mr Raab’s previous correspondence had copied in the generic LDV email. His blog was to my personal email. I personally don’t think that’s playing fair.”

  • It is not possible to comment on Mr Raab’s blog. As far as I can make out.

    While I’m here, is he an international lawyer or a member of parliament?

  • Alaric Rose 9th Feb '15 - 11:26pm

    I too have commented on Mr Raab’s blog, and pointed out that the Conservative Action for Electoral Reform favour the STV vote 😉
    On another matter, I keep on trying to “like” comments on here, I’ve obviously been on Facebook too much.

  • Alex Sabine 9th Feb '15 - 11:59pm

    Caron, Mary and co: I too posted a comment on Dominic Raab’s blog highlighting the fact that LDV had in fact published his response unedited. After a delay while the pre-moderation system on his blog kicked in, it has now appeared.

    He has now updated the line beneath his blog post as follows:
    “Update: having originally declined a right of reply, Liberal Democrat Voice changed their mind and published this post on their site. Credit where it’s due.”

    Based on what Mary and Caron have said, I think it’s a pity that Mr Raab chooses to characterise the initial delay in the publication of his response as declining a right of reply. He must realise that this is a specious accusation.

    It’s unfortunate that, having made a robust substantive defence of his work as an MP, which made me question the picture painted by Roisin Miller, Mr Raab now seems to be playing silly games and impugning the motives of the LDV editors. Perhaps, to avoid giving any impression of partisan pettiness, he would agree to re-word his closing comment along the following lines:

    “Having originally sent my response to Roisin Miller’s article to the private email address of one of the site editors, which understandably caused a minor delay, I appreciate the prompt and fair-minded decision by Liberal Democrat Voice to grant me a right of reply and to post my response unedited. Credit where it’s due.”

  • Dominic Raab 10th Feb '15 - 12:20am

    I am sorry for the delay in updating my blog. I only got back home from Westminster at gone 11pm, and noone from LDV had emailed me in the meantime to let me know. LDV did initially decline to give me a right of reply, offering instead to let me write about electoral reform rather than address the points in Roisin Miller’s post. (I published the relevant bits of our email exchange, at Caron’s request, on my blog in the comments. ) In any case, I don’t wish to end on a sour note. I do appreciate the belated decision to post my reply unedited. As I made clear on my own blog, credit where it’s due.

    Dominic

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Feb '15 - 12:29am

    No one was saying what I was thinking until Caron Lindsay said:

    “First of all, Roisin is giving her appraisal of how two Conservative MPs in constituencies she knows well interact with their constituents. She sees much more merit in David Willetts’ actions than Mr Raab’s.”

    I do think Dominic Raab makes some good points, but exaggerated.

  • It is good to see this Conservative MP being kept on his toes, he wouldn’t be doing much otherwise.

  • I really feel Raab is trolling LDV. He had no reasonable expectation of his response being published in under 24 hours (let alone less than an hour!). His further remarks on his blog are petty and show a desire to milk as much out of a situation in which LDV bent over backward to give him room to respond. They moreover leave a quite false impression to anyone who reads them alone, and doesn’t come here to find out the rest of the story.

    Whatever justice there might have been in Raab’s original rebuttal, his spiteful handling of the aftermath puts him in an even worse light than he would have got from the opinion piece alone. No doubt Raab does not care; after all, he doesn’t have to care, which was the original article’s point. However, there is a political lesson here: don’t draw attention to criticism that might otherwise have been overlooked; but if you absolutely must, do so for reasons other than personal pique, and don’t behave in such a way as to make things worse for yourself.

  • Geoffrey payne 10th Feb '15 - 7:14am

    Party politics is practiced by all political parties. I don’t like it myself. I can’t wait to get the general election out of the way. However I do not recall any Conservative ccomplaining about the appalling newspaper coverage Nick Clegg got in the 2010 general election.

  • Oh Yes of course — that Dominic Raab, 

    the man who said –

     “The British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor….    the British are more interested in football and pop music.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/aug/22/britannia-unchained-rise-of-new-tory-right

    I have to own up  — not only do I have an interest in football and music, I have retired early.   

    So I am not on Mr Raab’s list of favourite people.   I cannot tell you how good that makes me feel!

    Mr Raab is not my favourite sort of person.

    The completely ###### Mr Raab is a total #### in my opinion.

    He should thank LDV from the bottom of his heart — it were not for the LDV comments policy I could tell you what I really think about him, for example  that he is a  ###########  ####### !

    If LDV does not publish this comment in 24 seconds I will report it to Esher Conservative Party.

    Well I am exhausted now after all the effort of writing this comment.   I will go back to idling my life away.   Perhaps I will put on some music,  maybe watch some football on TV.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 10th Feb '15 - 8:59am

    I feel I should also tell you that during the rather bizarre correspondence we had with Dominic Raab on Sunday (which went, roughly, I demand a right of reply, ok, here are your options, and why not address these points, YOU ARE REFUSING ME THE RIGHT OF REPLY, no we aren’t, you can do one of these two things, YOU ARE SUPPRESSING MY VOICE), he demanded that we should publish whatever he sent us unedited. Excuse me, that’s not a guarantee we would extend to anyone, not even Nick Clegg. This is particularly important as his email contained something which was very easily provably untrue about the author of the original article. Obviously we wouldn’t be able to publish something we knew to be untrue, but we’re also not so unsporting that we would have allowed even a political opponent to do so. It wouldn’t have been right.

  • When is Dominic Raab going to publish our rebuttal of his errors on STV?

    I think we should be told.

  • Roisin Miller has obviously been caught out ,but instead of accepting this we have endless comments about the merits of STV and the timing of responses.

    Game ,set & match to Mr Raab.

  • I think LDV have been very accommodating to allow his unedited rebuttal to be published. If he felt that this site was simply a Lib Dem “tow the line” type affair I would suggest he hasn’t read it often enough. Yes there are a large number of pro leadership articles (what else would he expect from a site that states at the top of every page “The most-read independent website by and for Lib Dem supporters”). However, there have been, and I imagine there will continue to be, a substantial number of dissenting articles.

    Clearly he misses the point about STV, probably deliberately, but he did rebut a number of points regarding his approach to contact with his constituents in general and specifically the author of the original post. On balance I would say it appears he has been treated a bit unfairly by that thread (Aaaagh a Tory positive comment, my parents and Grandparents have just performed a simultaneous turning in their graves). Rest easy ancestors, he lost all my sympathy when he reverted to bullying Tory in his unreasonable approach to timelines.

  • Mr Raab is neither rabid nor “foaming at the mouth”.

    If you think he is acting suspiciously read this before phoning 999 —

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/donald-macintyres-sketch-dominic-raabs-not-rabid-but-he-is-dangerous-9097465.html

    So not rabid, just ” dangerous “, in the opinion of The Independent.

  • Paul in Wokingham 10th Feb '15 - 11:04am

    Sounds like politics as usual and the huffing and puffing from both sides redounds to the advantage of neither.

  • Steve Coltman 10th Feb '15 - 11:22am

    I heard on the radio this morning about one MP who used to get 8 letters a week from constituents but now gets 300 communications per day from them. Mr Raab’s comments seem to reinforce the impression that MPs are so busy looking after their constituency they have little time or energy left to think about genuinely national or international issues. I can’t see this changing, but there is something to be said for an elected upper house that does not have any constituencies. Then we will have some elected politicians keeping their eyes on the big issues of the day.

  • Let me first say that I am grateful to those of you who clearly put so much effort into running this site. However, I an very sorry folks but I fail to see why you gave this nasty piece of work the fresh air of publicity.

    Without detailed explanation this all comes across as ‘nice Liberals’ back down when faced by ‘nasty Tory’ and that says so much about what has been so wrong in recent years that this article and thread may be a fitting last few words before we once more retire to impotent obscurity.

    After the last 100 years of British political history, we Liberals should understand what it means to struggle against the odds at least as well as any other political grouping. However, all we appear to understand is surrender.

  • Robin Bennett 10th Feb '15 - 11:45am

    Keith Legg:

    Caron is right about STV. If we had had it in Holyrood, there would have been even better constituency links (we scarcely hear from some of the list MSPs) and the SNP would not have achieved a majority in the 2011 election.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Feb '15 - 12:54pm

    The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable. I’m not even quite sure which is which.

  • Scott Berry 10th Feb '15 - 1:31pm

    Steve – I absolutely agree and think that is the electoral reform the Lib Dems can reasonably aim for. An elected upper chamber elected on a PR basis without a 1-on-1 constituency link. That would give a local MP to represent each local area but also a chamber elected on PR to give a balanced representation of the national views and it would deal with the HoL at the same time.

  • Scott Berry 10th Feb '15 - 1:35pm

    On the wider issue there isn’t much that hasn’t already been said except that living in a safe Conservative seat myself I think part of the issue is that even if an MP is in a safe seat they likely only won votes of around 50% or less of their constituents. It’s very frustrating to write to an MP who, however hard they work, disagrees with you so entirely on almost everything so that ever letter back is just “Thank you for your email but I disagree”. Of course in a democracy not everyone can get their own way the whole time, but multi-member constituencies ensure that far more people at least have a representative that broadly agrees with their views on any given issue and can represent them in parliament.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Feb '15 - 2:32pm

    Steve Coltman and Scott Berry are onto something and it broadly follows my thinking on this in the past. We need separate elections for constituency and national representatives. Run with this idea.

  • Steve Coltman:
    > …there is something to be said for an elected upper house that does not
    > have any constituencies…

    Scott Berry:
    > …multi-member constituencies ensure that far more people at least have a
    > representative that broadly agrees with their views on any given issue…

    Eddie Sammon:
    > We need separate elections for constituency and national representatives…

    There are three foreign models I am aware of that would be of interest to anyone looking at how a mix of single- and multi-member districts can operate in practice.

    — A lower house comprising single-member constituencies plus a PR upper house, as in Australia’s federal parliament.
    — A mix of single-member FPTP districts and PR multi-member districts in the same house, as in the parallel voting system used in Japan’s House of Representatives. (The FPTP seats are separate from the PR allocation.)
    — Single-member FPTP seats topped up with balancing seats from party lists to produce a proportional result, as in the MMP system used in New Zealand. (The FPTP seats are part of the PR allocation.)

    With a little tinkering, any of these systems could potentially satisfy those who want a single local member and those who want multiple national or regional members.

    Of the three specific systems, only New Zealand’s MMP distributes legislative power proportionately. (Further contradicting Mr Raab’s claim that you can’t have PR and small, local, single-member constituencies.)

    Also, there is no reason why you couldn’t have two houses or parallel voting with two different forms of PR instead, for example STV-4 in smallish constituencies plus STV-12 in a handful of very big regions.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Feb '15 - 12:24pm

    Adrian PR, thanks. I think I also like the idea of FPTP for both houses, but with separate elections for constituency and national representatives. A bit like the United States, but with a more rational separation of powers between the congress and the senate.

  • Stephen Howse 11th Feb '15 - 1:18pm

    Whatever the merits and demerits of various electoral systems, the point is that allegations were made by a Liberal Democrat (and former party staffer at that) against Dominic Raab MP on this blog, and he has pretty comprehensively rebbuted them. Well done to LDV for publishing his response – most political blogs certainly wouldn’t. A victory for fair play!

  • Peter Watson 11th Feb '15 - 1:53pm

    @Steve Coltman “I heard on the radio this morning about one MP who used to get 8 letters a week from constituents but now gets 300 communications per day from them. ”
    Organisations like 38 Degrees and other websites make it easy to fire off emails to MPs so I do feel a little sympathy.

  • Mark Littlewood 14th Feb '15 - 12:44pm

    Hilarious stuff. Particularly loopy is LDV agreeing to the right of reply and then having Caron Lindsay qualifying/apologising for this editorial decision in the comment thread.

    Words fail me. No wonder a party with this nonsense behaviour on its leading “independent website” is at 7% of the vote.

  • This is very embarrassing; if you’re going to launch an attack publicly, PLEASE make sure you cannot be slipped up like this. It does nothing for the Party.

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