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

MP Wants Official Email Address Kept Private 179

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 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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  • email address (Score:5, Informative)

    by Phurge ( 1112105 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @02:22AM (#33200848)
  • by SwedishPenguin ( 1035756 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @02:30AM (#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:email address (Score:4, Informative)

    by Phurge ( 1112105 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @02:50AM (#33200976)
  • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @02:53AM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @03:20AM (#33201062)

    For a new MP in this session (he was elected as MP for Esher and Walton in the 2010 election) you'd think he would have had better PR, especially with a background as a Lawyer and a few years in the Foreign office.

    Voting record is already a bit shoddy, absent from 10 of the 49 possible votes so far this year, and seems to be a backbencher, so its not like he's got anything else to do except deal with his expenses, vote when required (he's a True Blue Tory Boy - 100% loyal to party lines when he does vote) and deal with his constiuency voter's issues.

  • by mister_dave ( 1613441 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @03:52AM (#33201174)

    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.

  • by delinear ( 991444 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @03:56AM (#33201184)
    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 letter and again wait several days to see if you get a response (at least with an email you should get a pretty instant "Thanks for your email", with a letter it could be delayed, lost in the post or just filed in this guy's waste bin and you have no way of knowning). There are all kinds of reasons to send an email over a letter, cost is a minor one, convenience is a much bigger one, and then there are "green" considerations, paperless is much kinder to the environment. When we're meant to be aiming for "Broadband Britain []" it seems this guy is actually going backwards. What's the point encouraging schemes to put broadband in the homes of every voter in the UK just to turn around and tell them not to use it for email?
  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @04:13AM (#33201240)

    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 party with 50% or more of the elected MPs forms the government - the party leader becomes Prime Minister and s/he hands out positions within government to MPs. The most senior MPs form the cabinet - a sort of steering committee, if you like, given that it'd be pretty hard to have an intelligent group meeting of the 300 or so MPs a ruling party would have. This system ensures that the party in power can generally get legislation passed relatively easily - few MPs make a habit of voting against the party line, it's an extremely good way to find yourself kicked out of the party.

    What's happened recently (though it's not directly related to this discussion) is that no single party has 50% of the elected MPs. So no single party commands a majority in Parliament. What happens then is that two parties whose votes together add up to more than 50% agree to form a coalition - a government comprised of MPs from two parties.

  • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki@ g m a> on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @04:26AM (#33201282) Homepage

    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.

  • Re:Completely agree (Score:3, Informative)

    by VJ42 ( 860241 ) * on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @04:48AM (#33201370)

    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 think that way, but for the wrong reasons - Write to them [] appends a hash of your email address and words to the effect of "signed in accordance with digital communications act 19xx" because MPs didn't trust 'letters' without a signature. It's because they didn't understand the technology, not because they can be spammed, after all it's not hard to post a letter.

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

    by rapiddescent ( 572442 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @04:50AM (#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

  • Re:Junk Mail (Score:5, Informative)

    by VJ42 ( 860241 ) * on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @05:09AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @05:31AM (#33201530)
    1) Debate.
    2) Legislature.
  • 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".
  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:01AM (#33202028) Journal

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

    Or are you suggesting constituents should be sending postcards?

  • Re:Bayes (Score:2, Informative)

    by ArmchairGeneral ( 1244800 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @07:10AM (#33202096)
    Better yet, filter all email addressed to to the Spam folder. /fixed
  • by R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @08:13AM (#33202620)

    Dear Mr. Raab;

    Recently your request to have your official email addressed removed from the public directory. I suggest you look up the term "Streisand Effect" on Wikipedia (or rather, have one of your more internet literate staffers do so).


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