It’s been a busy few weeks for the #LBBill. In wonderful crowdsourced fashion, supporters of the Bill wrote to their MPs asking them to give their backing to the Bill. Just on 2/3rds of the country’s MPs were contacted. Then came the ballot for the private members bills and once again, the Bill supporters rose to the occasion, contacting those chosen MPs and asking them to consider supporting the Bill through parliament.
Over the past few days, people have been posting the responses they’ve received. There is always an initial excitement that an MP has taken the time to reply. But that excitement has quickly turned into a heart sinking ache as we’ve realised that the Tory MPs are using a template letter to address their constituents request. And then you read the letter and realise what a horribly cynical, shabby piece of work it is.
There are three paragraphs to the letter:
- Paragraph One starts with the line “I was deeply saddened to hear of Connor’s death”.
- Paragraph two points out that it was “absolutely right” of Southern Health to offer their unreserved apology.
- Paragraph three points the reader in the direction of Norman Lamb’s “No Rights Ignored” green paper & suggests that the content of the LBBill is already covered in Mr Lamb’s paper.
You get to the very end of the letter and it dawns on you that the MP hasn’t actually committed their support to the Bill or explicitly rejected their support. It offers nothing.
Let’s look at those three paragraphs and try and understand their meaning. When you spot that the letter is a standard template, the personal “deeply saddened” statement is too cloying for words. How can you be deeply saddened about something that you haven’t engaged with? Have you even read the letter you are signing? Have you read the Bill? So the purpose of the condolence must have another meaning. I might piss a few people off now but I think this model of response has been modelled by their leader. How many times have we seen Mr Cameron challenged over a disability issue. He goes very red and explodes with rage. He then points out to the challenger that having experienced his own son’s disability, he is deeply committed to disability issues. He is affronted by the challenge as it impacts on his own deep loss. Sad to say but it’s a phenomenal tactic. The challenger is immediately silenced – too embarrassed to pursue their point. The MP’s letter has a similar feel to it. By declaring a personal emotional feeling in the first sentence, the MP has taken charge of the emotional game. You are drawn into his/her sincerity and emotional expression. By the time you realise that the sentiment is totally insincere it is too late – you’re on to paragraph two and the next sucker punch.
Why does the writer feel they have to point out that Southern Health were “absolutely right” in their apology”? What has that got to do with anything that the MP was being asked to do? It is important to the history of the Bill but has little relevance to the content. Doesn’t the MP realise that given Southern Health’s behaviour since 4th July 2013, their apology is completely meaningless? So, the statement must have another purpose. I think it’s interesting that within that message the MP is positioning him/herself with the Official Body. The supporters of LBBill are the outsiders. Southern Health, like the MP, are on the inside. It’s also a reminder, as if it is needed, where the power lies in all this. Their is something in those two words that reveals the MP is aligning themselves with Southern Health and consequently waters down what happened to Connor. It also, starts to show paragraph one up for what it is.
Finally, there is the reference to Norman Lamb’s green paper. Has anyone heard anything about the progress of the paper since the election? We’ve heard about cuts to disability support, the closure of the ILF, the scrapping of the Human Rights Act but nothing about the development of Mr Lamb’s proposals. At best, the paper is in the long grass – at worst, it’s in the shredder. Which if the LBBill throws its cap into the Lamb green paper ring, is precisely where it will find itself as well.
For me, a standard template letter is the worst response. Lots of people (including me after writing to Boris) haven’t had any response at all. A few people have had a personal response declining to give their support. Fair enough. The non Tory MPs who have responded have given a more personal reply, regardless of their support for the Bill or not. I think I’d prefer a “This proposal is the biggest heap of shite I’ve ever read” response to the letter the Tory MPs are sending out.
The letter was obviously drafted by an intern or someone in the Department of Health. Was the intention to try and kill the LBBill stone dead? Why is it so threatening? I can see that the LBBill doesn’t fit into current political narratives. Perhaps that’s the problem. The letter is a party line – the LBBill isn’t. We see so much of that in political discourse that perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when the LBBill falls foul of the same political modus operandi.
Now that is deeply saddening.