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MP David Clelland: ‘I don't want your vote, stick it'


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His leader may be beleaguered and his party staggering through a third term in government with a stricken economy, but one backbench MP still felt able to tell a voter where he could “stick” his vote.


Labour’s fight to regain the support of the electorate took a less conventional turn this week as David Clelland began an epistolary battle with one dissatisfied voter.


Mr Clelland, who has represented the people of Tyne Bridge in Newcastle for 23 years, has written to one resident informing him that he had no desire for his vote in the future.


“I accept your offer not to vote for me again,” he wrote, in bold defiance of the usual conventions that exist in communications between elected representatives and their electorate. “I do not want your vote so you can stick it wherever best pleases you.”


Mr Clelland, 64, offered this advice in response to a letter from Gary Scott, 27, an IT salesman with concerns over civil liberties.


Mr Scott had written to his MP once before, while living in a different part of the city, a constituency represented by a Liberal Democrat MP. “He was kind enough to write a considerate reply and I hope you will do the same,” Mr Scott wrote. He then detailed his concerns. The Government was authoritarian and out of touch. He could no longer ignore what he regarded as a “blatant power grab”.


Mr Clelland is regarded as a man of the Centre Left who votes broadly with the Labour mainstream: indeed, he was once a parliamentary whip. He voted in favour of identity cards and 42-day detention for terror suspects. He also voted for the hunting ban. He did stand up for civil liberties when it came to the smoking ban, perhaps because he is a pipe smoker.


Mr Scott was very disappointed with what he saw. “You vote with your party on pretty much every single issue,” he wrote. “It’s not your constituents you represent, it’s your party.”


He was sceptical of the usefulness of recent legislation, in particular the criminalisation of violent internet pornography, that was passed as part of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. “Not saying any of this is my bag,” he wrote. “I just do not understand why anybody should have the right to prohibit consensual sexual behaviour at all.”


In short, he held the Government and Mr Clelland himself “responsible for destroying civil liberties that have been hard won from tyrannical monarchs over centuries”.


Concluding what he described as “a bit of ranting and raving from one of your constituents”, he said that if Mr Clelland continued “toeing the party line”, he could “kiss my vote goodbye”.


The warning did not have the desired effect. Mr Clelland replied accusing Mr Scott of arrogance for thinking that “you . . . represent the views of the people of our community”. This, Mr Clelland wrote, was his job.


After firing off his frank missive, Mr Clelland said that he had found his constituent’s letter offensive. Mr Scott, in turn, said that he was offended that his MP considered his letter offensive.


The battle of letters has now been followed by a war of words. “This just shows the arrogance of the man,” Mr Scott said. “He does not listen to the people he represents.”


Yesterday Mr Clelland told The Times that his constituent’s letter was “extremely abusive”.


“I’m not here to be dictated to like that,” he said. He allowed, however, that Mr Scott’s letter might have caught him “at a bad time”. Mr Clelland is the not the first Honourable Member to have allowed his true feelings to be heard. On announcing his intention to step down from Parliament, Tony Banks said that working with his constituents had been “intellectually numbing” and “tedious in the extreme”.


On another occasion an aide to Dari Taylor, MP, advised his boss that there was “no rush” to help a constituent who was a “snotty” woman who “hates the Government”. The advice was accidentally e-mailed directly to the constituent.


Michael Stern, MP for Bristol North West until 1997, named one of his constituents as a “neighbour from hell”.


After electoral defeat in 1996, Gordon Bilney wrote to a committee saying: “One of the great pleasures of private life is that I need no longer be polite to the nincompoops, bigots, curmudgeons and twerps who infest local government bodies and committees such as yours.”



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