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Government Communications It's funny.  Laugh. Privacy United Kingdom Your Rights Online

MP Wants Official Email Address Kept Private 179

Posted by Soulskill
from the la-la-la-i-can't-hear-you dept.
nk497 writes "An MP in the UK has had his official email address removed from the parliamentary website, because he's tired of getting 'nuisance' emails via online campaign websites. MP Dominic Raab's parliamentary.uk email is currently not listed on the House of Commons' website following a spat with online campaigners 38 Degrees. 'Just processing the emails from your website absorbs a disproportionate amount of time and effort, which we may wish to spend on higher priorities, such as helping constituents in real need or other local or Parliamentary business,' he said, threatening to report the group to the government's data and privacy watchdog if they didn't remove the details from their own website. 38 Degrees says Raab gave them his personal email address during the election: 'it's only since he became a member of parliament with a taxpayer funded email address that he's now said he doesn't want to hear from people,' unless they're willing to shell out for a stamp to write him a letter. The lobby group said Raab likely averaged fewer than two emails from their site each day."
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MP Wants Official Email Address Kept Private

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  • Bayes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ls671 (1122017) * on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @12:42AM (#33200636) Homepage

    Maybe he would be better off using some type of Bayesian classifier similar to the one SpamAssassin uses.

    http://linux.die.net/man/1/sa-learn [die.net]

    It should work as well at classifying 'nuisance' emails as it does for classifying plain Spam as long as one trains it accordingly. Then, check the 'nuisance' emails at a lowest priority. He could also have his email go through several Bayesian filters, one trained to identify 'nuisance' emails and one trained to identify plain Spam. All email types could be handled differently.

    In my experience, it's already too late to remove your email address from a web site when already too many people know it so it is not that efficient. Anyways, it seems like this guy might need some technical advise ;-)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes'_theorem [wikipedia.org]

    http://spamassassin.apache.org/ [apache.org]

    • Re:Bayes (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mwvdlee (775178) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @12:53AM (#33200692) Homepage

      It's about 700 e-mails a year from a single website; I think a simple domain name filter would suffice and still allow other citizens to send e-mail.

    • Re:Bayes (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AVryhof (142320) <avryhof@[ ]ab.com ['gaw' in gap]> on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @05:42AM (#33201872) Homepage

      Having run a mail server with a few hundred users, I have learned that people hate being told to run anti-spam software. They expect you to remove every piece of junk mail for them before it gets to their computer. Even with SpamAssassin, and subscriptions to most major spam and dnr databases in my configuration, people still complain, but refuse to run mail filters of their own.... and now you are dealing with someone who has a big enough ego to have gotten elected to public office, and will expect more done for him.... all I can say is good luck with that.

  • by metalmaster (1005171) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @12:51AM (#33200678)
    a public official doesn't want to be contacted by the public? No one likes to hear the peasants out. Where's the story here?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tsm_sf (545316)
      Whining about "shelling out" for sending a letter had me rolling my eyes. How important can a note be if the sender doesn't think it's worth a quarter to send it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by delinear (991444)
        Well firstly in the UK it's actually just over a "third" rather than a "quarter" to send the message first class (and if it's important or time sensitive you'll want to send it first class), and much more if you want it recorded to ensure it arrives. You then have to get an envelope, if you don't have a printer you need to find some way to print it out (add on the cost of the paper and printer ink), you have to take the time to go buy these items and then you then have to take more time out to go post your
        • by SteveFoerster (136027) <steve AT stevefoerster DOT com> on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:26AM (#33202718) Homepage

          Only on Slashdot would an explanation of how snail mail works be modded informative. :-)

        • by Ash Vince (602485)

          Firstly, if you want to be taken seriously you need to learn about paragraphs. Reading a big block of text hurts most peoples eyes.

          Secondly, this website is not about saving the cost of a stamp. It is about making it trivially easy to send an email to your MP over an issue the website organisers think matters. If the issue is actually important to someone and their MP has a say in it, then chances are they will find a way to make their MP listen. This website is about making it so easy to contact your MP th

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zippthorne (748122)

        Where do you live that a first class stamp is a quarter?

        Or are you suggesting constituents should be sending postcards?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tsm_sf (545316)
          Where do you live that a first class stamp is a quarter?

          1996. The weather's nice and the politics less rabid.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sjames (1099)

        How important can his constituents be to him is an MP can't be bothered with 2 whole emails a day?

        Will he be happier if the same website prints them out when the user clicks send and then they mail the lot to him weekly? That way he can proudly proclaim that he's doing his part to waste resources in a country that's overburdened with trees HEY! wait a minute...

    • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @01:42AM (#33200942) Journal

      To put this in a bit of context:

      I have at times worked in a central policy department in the UK civil service. Dealing with correspondence from MPs to our Minister, usually passing along letters or concerns from the MP's constituent, is a large part of the work of many junior (and mid-level) officials. In my most recent post during a Parliamentary term, the relatively small team I managed would usually have in the region of 20 such letters needing replies, with a week to turn each one around (and our policy area isn't even a particularly high profile one). For MPs, dealing with correspondence is a pretty big part of their job; representing their constituent's concerns in Parliament is what they are there to do, and is one of the ways they can show they are "in touch" with their constituency. The degree to which the MP chooses to get involved in the issue varies; sometimes the constituent's letter (or e-mail) is passed along with little more than "can I have some information so I can respond", but in other cases, the MP might request a meeting with one of the Department's ministers to discuss the issue further, or if he feels he is not getting a satisfactory answer, might raise the issue on the floor of the House of Commons. While officials draft the responses in these cases, Ministers always check them before they are issued and sometimes make edits, or ask officials to take follow-up action.

      In any event, writing to your MP is the most effective recourse for a UK citizen who has a problem with the political establishment and most MPs take their duty seriously. Obviously, you are more likely to get positive engagement from your MP if you are writing about a tangible issue that wouldn't otherwise have come to light (eg. your small business is having problems with the planning system, or you believe your employer is violating health and safety law but have been ignored, or something of that ilk) than about one of the large and controversial topics (such as the Iraq war, or the bank bailouts) and MPs are always going to be less likely to get involved in a case that is clearly motivated by an ideology they don't share. But the fact remains that writing to your MP is far more effective than writing directly to a Minister (or the Prime Minister), as the latter will usually just yield a response drafted by an official that has never been near a Minister.

      The problem is that in recent years, the system has been somewhat under siege by various pressure groups. These groups do direct, regular and repetitive mail-shots to MPs, with many of them even providing tools to make it easy for users of their website to join in on the action simply by filling in a form. They operate on the principle of "if we say something often and loud enough, then MPs will conclude we are important or in the majority". In reality, all they tend to do is gunk up the system with spam, as MPs struggle to identify the letters and e-mails from their own constituents, asking for help with issues where the MP might actually be of some use.

      The MP in this case was wrong to have his official e-mail address taken off the Parliamentary website. That's where I'd expect that many of his constituents would start looking for his details to contact him. However, the greater fault here lies with the self-righteous pressure groups who see nothing wrong with trampling over the system by substituting volume for reasoned argument and resorting to the tactics of the spammer.

      • by iserlohn (49556) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @02:21AM (#33201066) Homepage

        And your point is? Email from these pressure groups are in no way invalid if they are from his constituents. Just because a Tory politician doesn't agree with the stance taken by pressure groups such as 38 degrees, doesn't give him the right to withdraw a valuable communications channel to his constituents. You can be sure that if those emails are in support of the MPs pet project, he would be openly inviting more email correspondence.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by eyrieowl (881195)

          Hear, hear! The MP is not elected solely to represent the constituents who are not intimidated by trying to craft reasoned arguments that might sway an MP. They're also elected to represent the views of their many constituents who, on a given issue, may find that an interest group has articulated their position better than they themselves could, as well as those constituents whose opinion on some issues may be as concise as "yay" or "nay". If the MP isn't providing a better way for those constituents to

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nospam007 (722110) *

            "the views of their many constituents who, on a given issue, may find that an interest group has articulated their position better than they themselves could, ..."

            You mean the goat has already told them how to work the garden?

            gun related - ask only NRA
            farm subsidy - ask only Farmer's Association ...

            It's _because_ those groups swaying/paying off your man that people want to reach their representatives to tell them they will raise hell for any next vote if he misrepresents them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by samjam (256347)

            Well said. And isn't the tory party also a pressure group? Aren't all political parties? Maybe he doesn't like the competition.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jimicus (737525)

          AIUI, his point is that there are always going to be pressure groups trying to change an MPs mind over an issue.

          In the past, they may have got together and drafted a letter saying "500 people in your constituency alone believe this...", put together a petition or asked their members to write letters themselves. The first two would have meant the MP has one letter to answer (and answer the letter he must, if only to ensure he doesn't develop a reputation of ignoring his constituents altogether). The last o

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by iserlohn (49556)

            And your point is? Democracy isn't cheap. There will always be low value communications, but and most people agree that that is a valid (but maybe not the most preferable) method of voicing support or disapproval of an issue to your MP. The issue here is that the MP stopped publishing his email so his other constituents would lose email access to their MP.

            The previous reply hits the nail on the head. What MPs should be doing is to find ways of managing this, either by managing email in a much better fashion

            • by ebuck (585470)
              While democracy isn't cheap, we shouldn't actually try to make it more expensive. The key point it that the MP is getting DDoS'd with form letters from pressure groups, and that denies YOUR access to him for any issue YOU might have that isn't the same issue the pressure group is currently pushing. If the MP fixes this by hiring more staff, YOU get to pay for it. So now that you're footing the bill, how much do you want your taxes raise to afford this not-so-cheap exercise in futility?
            • by Kijori (897770)

              This seems to me like an implementation of the micropayment method to control spam. If you want to pressure this MP you now have to spend the extra couple of minutes that it takes to print your letter and put it in an envelope, and then pay 41p for a stamp. The total marginal cost of sending the letter is a couple of pounds, at most. Is it really a sensible use of an MP's time to deal with issues that people don't consider to be worth £2?

          • by samjam (256347)

            "Today. however, anyone can throw together a website with an email form that sends directly to a particular email address"
            sure, but it takes more effort than to go and buy a stamp, doesn't it.

            And then you have to find voters who are bothered enough to use the said website.

            If voters are using the site it's because it represents them better than the MP does.

            This MP is trying to ignore voters who already have had to go to great lengths to be heard - double fail to the MP!

            • by Kijori (897770)

              "Today. however, anyone can throw together a website with an email form that sends directly to a particular email address"
              sure, but it takes more effort than to go and buy a stamp, doesn't it.

              And then you have to find voters who are bothered enough to use the said website.

              If voters are using the site it's because it represents them better than the MP does.

              This MP is trying to ignore voters who already have had to go to great lengths to be heard - double fail to the MP!

              I'm not sure that's true. If you make the barrier to participation low enough and the consequences sufficiently remote then people will happily support almost anything, despite having no knowledge or real interest - look at some of the petitions on Facebook for example, or the official petitions on http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/ [number10.gov.uk] the petitions about the Red Arrows and Student Loans, for example, have been endorsed by hundreds of thousands of people despite the fact that they are based on misunderstandings

          • It's the "squeaky wheel" principle, but with an amplifier.

            Hmmm, wonder if I can patent that.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by dangitman (862676)

              It's the "squeaky wheel" principle, but with an amplifier.

              Sorry, that patent is already held by Celine Dion.

          • by delinear (991444)
            If there are too many constituent correspondences for the MP to handle, then either the MP is doing something wrong (if nobody else is complaining) or he has too many constituents in his seat and it should be broken up. The way to fix that is not to make constituents jump through hoops to put them off speaking to him, which seems to be what Mr Raabs is trying to do. I wonder what he'd do if he then started receiving the same volume of correspondences in writing (considering it's a lot more effort to open al
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by mdwh2 (535323)

            But I would say things are better now. When you consider:

            In the past, they may have got together and drafted a letter saying "500 people in your constituency alone believe this...", put together a petition or asked their members to write letters themselves.

            The problem with the first two is that things like group letters and petitions are very poor indicators of support. How do we know that 500 people really believe this? E.g., it's not uncommon for an organisation to cite the number of its members as suppo

        • by Stellian (673475)

          The main point is that it's impossible for a politician to know if he's spammed by a large part of his voters as opposed to a noisy minority employing automated tools. As such, any repetitive mail will be ignored. And rightfully so, else we will quickly end up with the "Subsidized Penile Enhancement act of 2010" - it's clearly what the people want.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Aceticon (140883)

          And your point is? Email from these pressure groups are in no way invalid if they are from his constituents. Just because a Tory politician doesn't agree with the stance taken by pressure groups such as 38 degrees, doesn't give him the right to withdraw a valuable communications channel to his constituents. You can be sure that if those emails are in support of the MPs pet project, he would be openly inviting more email correspondence.

          Let me put this in perspective by giving you an easier to visualize metha

          • - Imagine that an MP sets up an open session with his constituents, maybe in a local town hall which takes 200 people.
            - His intention is to get questions from members of the public and answer the as best as he can, maybe picking up some of the cases he hears about and checking int them further.
            - During the whole session, there is a group of 10 people which came in together and spend the whole time shouting out loud how they want something specific done, drowning everybody else during the whole session and pretty much not letting anybody else be heard.

            I think your last point is the problem with the metaphor. I would agree that shouting out the whole time would be very wrong, but that this isn't what is happening here, what is happening here is you have a few people who feel strongly about an issue (or simply have too much free time) have organised so that as many people as possible come to this meeting and raise their views at the meeting.
            The email equivalent of shouting others down would be to make sure that others couldn't be heard, so if for example t

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Malc (1751)

          It doesn't really matter whether these groups are valid or not. Their complaint that the loss of the recent addition of email contact is ridiculous. If they care about their cause, then why does it matter that it costs money? Stationary and stamps cost very little, unless they're in the business of bulking mailing or spamming, in which it's probably better all around that they can't use email for contact.

          I should point out that in Canada a stamp isn't required to contact one's MP. If it's such a big dea

        • by DaveGod (703167)

          doesn't give him the right to withdraw a valuable communications channel to his constituents

          I think you're confused. He is not required to provide an email address, neither he nor his constituents have any rights or obligations in this respect. Any ideas about "rights" is a non-issue. Many MP's choose to use emails, there may be ample merits of doing so, but it is their choice.

      • Completely agree (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kupfernigk (1190345)
        Any MP will tell you one well written letter in an envelope with a stamp is worth uncounted numbers of emails, because someone has bothered to communicate, and where one person takes action, many others think the same but cannot be bothered. In a democracy, we should express our views by voting, or demonstrating, not by spamming. Sites like 38degrees could easily be more responsible, but they suffer from a degree of self-righteousness that (to them) justifies encouraging annoying behaviour.

        Where I live, we

        • Any MP will tell you one well written letter in an envelope with a stamp is worth uncounted numbers of emails, because someone has bothered to communicate, and where one person takes action, many others think the same but cannot be bothered.

          Sorry, but some of us painstakingly write carefully-thought-out e-mails to our MPs. There's a difference between a cut-and-paste job and an e-mail that's had effort put into it. Indiscriminately stopping constituents from e-mailing you is ridiculous in the 21st century.

          • by delinear (991444)
            I totally agree - considering we're all being told to be more green and that MPs are trying to push out widespread broadband it's totally counter-intuitive if they're then going to tell us not to send emails. I'd be surprised if the MP doesn't have a civil servant filtering out the dross anyway, if his workload is still too high maybe he chose the wrong vocation, most MPs would be happy to have constituents that are so engaged in the political process.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by VJ42 (860241) *

          Any MP will tell you one well written letter in an envelope with a stamp is worth uncounted numbers of emails, because someone has bothered to communicate, and where one person takes action, many others think the same but cannot be bothered.

          Really? My MP often replies to my emails (and I think about what I write) within hours.
          I first emailed her (and the other candidates) during the election campaign to find out their views on issues important to me - my previous MP used to even reply to my tweets! Most MPs are getting as used to new technology as the rest of the public, they know that 99% of people don't use snail mail anymore. Just because it's email doesn't mean it's thoughtless or meaningless.
          Of course, you're right that they used to th

          • It depends on your relationship with your MP. My wife knows our MP well and yes, she will get rapid replies to emails. But I was specifically writing in the context of people sending off emails as a result of stuff read on pressure group websites.
            • by VJ42 (860241) *

              It depends on your relationship with your MP. My wife knows our MP well and yes, she will get rapid replies to emails. But I was specifically writing in the context of people sending off emails as a result of stuff read on pressure group websites.

              I've never met my MP, and she's a new Tory MP who beat the incumbent in May (although it was the 2nd or 3rd try). I've emailed he a number of times though; about the attempted demolition of the Tory 1922 committee*, once to ask her to Sign EDM 17 (about the DEA), once to ask her to oppose the sunset motion keep 28 day detention**, and finally to ask her about the governments official position on BT & TalkTalk's challenge to the DEA***. All lobbying on "issues", and 3 out of 4 brought to my attention via

        • Re:Completely agree (Score:4, Informative)

          by rapiddescent (572442) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @03:50AM (#33201386)

          I am a community councillor in my town in Scotland (an unpaid elected voluntary position). I basically listen to the public of my town and then talk directly to the politicians. It works well; myself and my community councillor colleagues have a good working relationship with individuals in local government and the scottish government and we have solved a lot of issues.

          I'd amend the GPP's post to say:
          1. personal, cordial contact works best - usually through an elected rep, e.g. community councillor
          2. a handwritten letter - (with evidence or citations attached)
          3. newspaper story
          4. through a "recognised" pressure group, e.g. Citizens Advice, RSPCA etc
          ...

          34 written on the side of a cow
          ...

          568. email campaign

        • Hang on so email is worse than a letter because it means you have put in less work.
          Interesting; but you try going around to your MPs house and giving him your opinions in person with all the extra effort that requires and suddenly they're talking about restraining orders and violation of privacy.
          There's no pleasing some people ;-)

          In all seriousness, it is the MP's job to represent the views of their constituents. I would have thought any MP who was interested in this job as it is rather than a meal ticket o

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mister_dave (1613441)

        The MP in this case was wrong to have his official e-mail address taken off the Parliamentary website.

        He seems to have been following advice on how to opt-out of spam: [blogspot.com]

        The reason I stopped formally advertising my actual email address is that the Information Commissioner's Office advised me that, if I do, I am putting it in the public domain and then cannot ask for it to be removed from mass e-distribution lists or automated systems.

        • by Triv (181010)

          The MP in this case was wrong to have his official e-mail address taken off the Parliamentary website. He seems to have been following advice on how to opt-out of spam: The reason I stopped formally advertising my actual email address is that the Information Commissioner's Office advised me that, if I do, I am putting it in the public domain and then cannot ask for it to be removed from mass e-distribution lists or automated systems.

          ...which would be fine if he was talking about his gmail accoun

      • by Nursie (632944)

        In any event, writing to your MP is the most effective recourse for a UK citizen who has a problem with the political establishment and most MPs take their duty seriously.

        ROFL.

        The experience of most people I know who have written to their MPs (and it's quite a few now) is that they wait months for a reply, and the reply usually makes it clear that not only do they not understand the position that the petitioner was coming from, but haven't even read the letter. And this is snail mail.

        • by RogueyWon (735973) *

          Then you have a bad MP. These do exist. Not every MP takes an equal interest in constituency work. By and large, you are more likely (though not certain) to get a bad MP under the following circumstances:

          - The MP has the kind of majority that would never in a billion years be overturned and they have the local party in their pocket, so there's no chance of de-selection.

          - The MP is a Government Minister (in which case he or she will be working the kind of hours that make the average EA employee in crunch-tim

    • by DrXym (126579)
      a public official doesn't want to be contacted by the public? No one likes to hear the peasants out. Where's the story here?

      No he doesn't want to be deluged in shit by a multitude of "campaign" sites. Quite understandable really. The public most MPs want to hear from are the people who elected them in their borough not some random lunatic cutting and pasting a form letter from a website.

      • a public official doesn't want to be contacted by the public? No one likes to hear the peasants out. Where's the story here?

        No he doesn't want to be deluged in shit by a multitude of "campaign" sites. Quite understandable really. The public most MPs want to hear from are the people who elected them in their borough not some random lunatic cutting and pasting a form letter from a website.

        What about some lunatic who elected them in their constituency cutting and pasting a form letter from a website?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by metalmaster (1005171)
        Lobbying just isnt lobbying unless there are huge sums of money being tossed around. Am I right?
      • by Leynos (172919)

        When you send an email from one of these web sites, you're supposed to email your own MP, not one picked at random. Therefore, the emails he is talking about are from his own constituents.

        • by mpe (36238)
          When you send an email from one of these web sites, you're supposed to email your own MP, not one picked at random.

          Or the site itself could pick the MP from the address/postcode details entered.

          Therefore, the emails he is talking about are from his own constituents.

          Which MPs (or their staff) should be able to trivially verify against the electoral register.
          Another thing is that even with "form letters" 38 degrees encourages people to add additional comments.
        • by DrXym (126579)
          Yes you're supposed to, doesn't mean you actually have to, or that the MP has any easy of verifying you are you say you are, or that your views are representative of constituents, or that multiple people in the constituency should be spamming the MP with substantially identical form letters as part of a campaign.

          The 38 degrees site claims to have sent "tens of thousands of emails" for just one recent campaign. Which means every single MP on average received at least 15 substantially identical emails and p

          • by Leynos (172919)

            As the other response to my comment also noted, you are generally required to include a postcode with any email sent to an MP through these sites, which can easily be checked.

            • They can check it's a valid postcode but I don't see any real way they can check the submitter actually lives there.

      • by delinear (991444)
        So block those sites and send them a notice explaining that if the constituents want to email directly from their own accounts that is fine. That way you cut out spam from the sites but you don't stop people who really want to get in touch (and if the sites are responsible they will explain to users that they need to email the following address [...]). Seriously, if Parliament can't find a way to do something as common place as deal with spam, we're all in trouble.
  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @12:52AM (#33200684)

    I always had the idea that politicians do not read the mails that are sent to them - the higher up the chain the less likely. I would expect them to have a bunch of aides who actually go through those mails, categorise them, and regularly hand summaries to the politician, or forward really important ones directly to his actual private e-mail.

    A national politician reading all mails sent by constituents by himself is doing something wrong imho. He has better things to do than spending all day reading mails, as I expect that he will get lots of mails.

    • by SwedishPenguin (1035756) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @01:30AM (#33200876)

      It depends on the politician and/or the body I suppose. As far as I can tell, our parliamentarians in Sweden don't have such aides. Not that they will necessarily respond to your emaisl, but they will answer the phone if you call them... (But then we're only 9 million people, and very few would ever bother sending an email, much less call an MP, I am however one of those few)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bigstrat2003 (1058574)
      I don't know. While it may be a hell of a lot of work, I think they also owe it to the people to be contactable, so the people can express their wishes. The only person I would really exempt is someone like the president of a country, where they represent every single person in the country (which can be an impossibly large number). However, pretty much anyone else should be making the effort, as their number of constituents will be more manageable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jimicus (737525)

      The UK's political system is rather different from the US, however. We directly elect our representative (who becomes a Member of Parliament, or MP) by a simple majority - whoever has the most votes in an area is the MP for that area. (This can actually mean that a fairly unpopular person becomes MP, if the votes are split 30:28:28:14, the candidate with 30% of the vote becomes MP even though 70% of the people in the area didn't want him. We don't have a two-party system, so this can easily happen.)

      The p

      • by jez9999 (618189)

        We don't have a two-party system, so this can easily happen

        Technically, the US doesn't either... though it's easy to forget. ;-)

      • We directly elect our representative (who becomes a Member of Parliament, or MP) by a simple majority - whoever has the most votes in an area is the MP for that area. (This can actually mean that a fairly unpopular person becomes MP, if the votes are split 30:28:28:14, the candidate with 30% of the vote becomes MP even though 70% of the people in the area didn't want him. We don't have a two-party system, so this can easily happen.)

        In case you're not aware, the "two party system" doesn't actually guarantee

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mashiki (184564)

      Dunno in my neck of the woods my MP reads all of his mail, his email is handled by his secretary. He's been doing a pretty good job for the last 8 years we've had him(considering he was a very well liked police chief), who got what he stated, done.

    • by VJ42 (860241) *

      I always had the idea that politicians do not read the mails that are sent to them - the higher up the chain the less likely. I would expect them to have a bunch of aides who actually go through those mails, categorise them, and regularly hand summaries to the politician, or forward really important ones directly to his actual private e-mail.

      A national politician reading all mails sent by constituents by himself is doing something wrong imho. He has better things to do than spending all day reading mails, as I expect that he will get lots of mails.

      I know mine reads hers as she replied from her personal email account indicating she's set up some forwarding rules system so she doesn't have to check multiple email accounts every day.

    • What else should politicians spend their time on if not listening to their constituents? They only have one job - speak on behalf of the constituents, and they can't do that properly without listening to them.

  • by chichilalescu (1647065) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @01:00AM (#33200724) Homepage Journal

    even "less than 2 a day on average", as they said... it's ridiculous. If I received that amount of e-mails from someone, it would mean I am spending at least half a day (each day) working on something that is a collaboration or something.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @01:12AM (#33200804) Homepage
    If I got two unsolicited emails a day from the same sender, day after day, it would really get on my nerves. Posts above say "boo hoo he gets two emails a day" when in fact it is from a single site. No sympathy for his "God damn ordinary people" attitude but still, how many times have you been unable to stop an email sender who doesn't care about your opinion? Spam filter would be the solution that seems to be lacking, but then the negative story would be "politician bins a pressure group's informative daily emails".
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by c0lo (1497653)

      If I got two unsolicited emails a day from the same sender, day after day, it would really get on my nerves.

      Maybe this is why you aren't getting elected? If you are not an MP, your "pissed-off of same person writing you twice a day" reaction is not relevant for the issue at hand, as legitimate as it is for the case of a private person and as much as I empathise with you (I really do, but this is also irrelevant)

      For an MP (public person), the situation cannot be the same: I'm quite afraid that supporting the nuisance of receiving mails from a pressure group really does come with the position of MP. After all, a MP

    • by Leynos (172919)

      The thing is, it's not the same person. It's his constituents, using a tool to enable them to contact him about issues they feel are pressing. The fact that these people are using the same tool to communicate is irrelevant.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      I think they have some sort of requirement to read them, not bin them, maybe even to reply as well. I wrote a couple of letters to my MP when I lived there (by post - this was the 1980s). Both times I got a canned response letter.

  • email address (Score:5, Informative)

    by Phurge (1112105) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @01:22AM (#33200848)
    raabd@parliament.uk dominic.raab.mp@parliament.uk
  • Junk Mail (Score:2, Insightful)

    by afabbro (33948)

    The group provides a service by which people can automatically email their MP on certain issues

    A friend who worked in a U.S. congressman's office said that these sorts of "constituent contacts" are a complete waste of time. Ditto for "send this postcard to your lawmaker", form letters, online petitions (of the "we have a voice!" type, not the legal process type), etc. Any kind of preprinted form contact (whether electronic or written) is generally ignored because the lobbying groups who generate them can do so at will. e.g., Right to Life or NARAL can at any time run a campaign and get thousands o

    • by jimicus (737525)

      On the other hand, a personally written letter or phone call is given whatever miniscule attention the congressman's office usually gives to constituent contacts...i.e., very little unless you are a major contributor, but at least it's not automatically routed to trash.

      I have completely the opposite experience.

      The UK system doesn't rely on individual contributions anything like as heavily as the US system. (Well, actually it does rely on them to a certain extent but it's nothing like as obvious - frankly, from what I've heard I'd describe the US system as formalised corruption) - if you write to your MP with a tangible issue that's likely to be impacting a number of people in their constituency and not too controversial, as I indeed have, you may very well get serious at

    • by SheeEttin (899897)
      I don't remember where I heard it, but I heard that at least one Congressman's office, any handwritten letters go directly to the Congressman's desk (presumably after being screened for anthrax, etc., of course). Form-filled/pre-printed letter probably were fast-tracked for the trash.
    • Re:Junk Mail (Score:5, Informative)

      by VJ42 (860241) * on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @04:09AM (#33201456)

      On the other hand, a personally written letter or phone call is given whatever miniscule attention the congressman's office usually gives to constituent contacts...i.e., very little unless you are a major contributor, but at least it's not automatically routed to trash.

      My MP has replied every time I've emailed her, a couple of times within hours - then again, I put some thought into my emails to her and contact her about specific issues. Having said that, I don't see the problem with form emails - just send form replies.

    • by ledow (319597)

      Maybe it's just me but I've always treated any petition in exactly the same way:

      - Classmates "petitioning" to be allowed not to wear uniforms.
      - Facebook "petitions" to honour some mass murderer who went on a rampage with a gun then shot himself (Incidentally: Ah, diddums...)
      - "Petitions" to stop Hotmail charging for their service.
      - People who stop me in the street and expect me to be as riled about their cause as they are.
      - Petitions to the No10 website, or direct to MP's.

      They are all a 100% waste of time.

  • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @01:45AM (#33200962) Homepage Journal

    I foresee a stark future for the MP. One where his mailbox is filled to overflowing daily with links to wikipedia's page on the Streisand Effect.

  • by MacTO (1161105) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @01:53AM (#33200990)

    I cannot speak for the UK, but you don't need to add postage to letters addressed to your MPs in Canada. Even if such a rule does not exist in the UK, I would imagine that the postal service would have an unwritten commitment to deliver mail addressed to MPs regardless of affixed postage.

    So if you can't spend the pennies on a sheet of paper and envelope, and can't invest the five minutes to walk to a postal box, I really must ask if that essential comment to your MP is really essential or just another example of UBE.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mister_dave (1613441)

      In the UK, if you send an unstamped letter to someone, the recipient has to pay the postage.

      One of my MEPs shot himself in the foot a couple of years ago, he sent out unstamped letters to his electors after the election, and they had to pay the postage (if they wanted the letter), only to discover it was junk mail! So we all got a follow up apology letter, with some unused stamps as compensation. :-)

      • I propose that everyone prints out a copy of the Wikipedia Streisand effect article, and posts it to him with no stamp attached.
    • by delinear (991444)
      That ignores all of the other benefits of email. It's greener than shipping paper around the country, it's convenient for people who work, it's inclusive for the elderly or less abled who actually might have physical difficulty getting to the post box. You can generally get an instant response to let you know your message got through, you might even get a real response in less than a day as opposed to several days for snail mail. It's easier to save and organise your correspondance, and you don't have to be
  • popfile (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Monoecus (1761264)

    Why not using a program like popfile (http://getpopfile.org/)?

  • Could be worse... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AmonTheMetalhead (1277044) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @02:56AM (#33201188)
    In Belgium someone was tried & convicted for stalking a city office because he kept mailing them....


    The guy dared send them 130 or so mails over a period of 5 years, the bloody criminal!

    Dutch article [nieuwsblad.be]
    Google translated version [google.com]
    • That's over two per month, what a nutter!

      Seriously, I get more unsolicited phone calls (which are much more obtrusive compared to emails) than that. Can I have some money please?

  • First point, he hasn't "removed his address from the Parliamentary website", he's actually had to disable the address.

    He says he'll re-enable it when the website he's complaining about remove it from a drop-down list they have on a form - people with too much time on their hands pick an issue from one drop-down, pick an MP from another, type in their name and postcode and hit "send", which means that for every "real" email he gets from someone who is capable of writing down their own complaint or issue he has to plough through 200-odd auto-generated from this site. (Figures are ballpark - I wasn't listening *that* closely...)

    It's the "campaigning" equivalent of SPAM marketing, just as annoying and with a law of diminishing returns. He told the guy running the site on PM (UK news show) yesterday that he had no problem with them publishing his address on their site and asking people to get in touch if they had a problem, he just objects to the automated system that encourages bored people to nag an MP about "something".
  • you moron ? maybe you havent realized that emails come from actual people.
  • by awjr (1248008) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @06:19AM (#33202182)

    If a pressure group has a specific issue to address, rather than ask their members to spam their MPs, they should collect signatories and then submit one email to the MPs whose constituants have signed up. The email should also list the set of MPs to whom the email has been sent. It should also provide a respone email address which will distribute the response to the sigantories. If really clever, then the MPs in question come up with a reasoned response each or one official one for each party.

    Instead we have this pressure group sending out 700 emails to each of the 600 odd MPs who then have to create an individual response and most need to respond in writing. The cost is enormous.

    I can understand why this MP is asking his constituants to write to him. It takes effort. You really have to care about the issue. Sending off an email is easy. Writing a letter and putting in the post shows you actually care.

  • by Grumbleduke (789126) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:13AM (#33202622) Journal

    This guy is my (brand new) MP and so I've been keeping an eye out for him and it strikes me that this is partly him trying to get in the news. He's turned up in a couple of rather silly, but newsworthy debates so far. He's young, keen and probably after a ministerial job at some point - and what better way to get noticed by (and support from) the other conservative backbenchers than by complaining about these "evil, liberal lobby groups sending lots of emails to MPs through the Interwebs... It's also a little hypercritical of him as he was actively encouraging people to send him emails to discuss issues during his election campaign. So, given how important being able to write to an MP is, and the circumstances, I strongly disagree with him removing his email address from "the public HoC Internet".

    That said, I think this is mainly 38 Degrees's fault, and I also disagree with what they (and the ORG) have been doing. Writing to one's MP is an important part of the system, however each MP may represent 100,000 people, so if each of them sent an email or letter each time they had a though, this system would break (which is almost what we are seeing here). As such, there is a useful check on this; the effort required to write a letter. Now, it may not seem like much, but when I ended up writing to his predecessor (over the Digital Economy Bill, now Act) it took the best part of a day to write the letter, make sure it was all properly worded, that I had a clear idea of what I wanted to say etc. and find out where to send it. This is a good thing, as it means that the only people contacting their MPs are those that are willing to spend the time and effort to do so. By setting up a mass-template-email system, you remove this check and make it as simple as clicking a button. This is great for us, but terrible for the MP who then has to manually go through all these emails and (unlike a ministerial office, or department) is unlikely to be able to set up a mass-response system - which is what is really needed. [When I wrote to my MP, he had obviously received many template emails/letters on the same issue, so he wrote one response and sent it out to everyone - after the Bill passed.] If anything, the mass-template-emails drown out the real responses, which is a bad thing.

    Perhaps a more suitable way for 38 Degrees to act would be if they collect signatures, match them with their MP and send one email per issue (maybe after a week-long campaign) to each MP willing to take part in the system - so that MPs know how popular and important certain issues are, and get the details, but without being overloaded.

    Anyways, finally in defence of my MP, it is worth noting that he is still emailable (he's set up a form here [dominicraab.com]) and has explained his reasoning in detail on his blog [blogspot.com] (which includes his email address, sort of) - where he explains that he isn't against being emailed - he just doesn't want the mass-template emails from any lobby group, whether it is an industry or trade one.

    [I wonder how different this story would have been if it was some big corporate website encouraging people to send template emails, rather than a civil liberties one...]

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