Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Those interpreters and my MP

Via the poor, little Greek boy, it seems that the government is still pissing about whilst those whom we have a duty of honour to protect get murdered.
Do you like reading fine words? Here is the Prime Minister on the subject of Iraqi ex-employees of the British Government, speaking in the House of Commons on October 9th, 2007:
"I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work of our civilian and locally employed staff in Iraq, many of whom have worked in extremely difficult circumstances, exposing themselves and their families to danger. I am pleased therefore to announce today a new policy which more fully recognises the contribution made by our local Iraqi staff, who work for our armed forces and civilian missions in what we know are uniquely difficult circumstances."

Fine words. What about deeds?

A small number of Iraqis—fewer than a dozen, according to people close to the operation who are in contact with me—were removed from Iraq in the early autumn of 2007. Since the Prime Minister’s admirable declaration of October, how many Iraqi ex-employees have been evacuated from Iraq? According to all the Iraqis that I am in contact with: none.

None? Not one? This is absolutely fucking outrageous.

As some may recall, I wrote to my MP—a certain Keith Hill—some time ago, on Monday 26th November.
Monday 26 November 2007

Dear Keith Hill,

On October 9th David Miliband announced that the British Government would assist former employees in Iraq, so long as they had worked for it after 1st January 2005 and for 12 months or more. This was itself a small enough concession for those who have risked their lives to help our soldiers.

Unfortunately, this abandons several hundred Iraqis who have been targeted for murder because they worked for the British before that date—and in 2004 fighting between the Mahdi Army and the British was at its peak—or because they worked for less than that period, often leaving their jobs at the end of a British battalion’s six-month tour.

The British Government should help Iraqi employees on the basis of the risk they face, not according to an arbitrary time stipulation. This only affects a few hundred Iraqis, whom we are well able to shelter, and for whom we have a direct moral responsibility—a debt of honour,
if you like.

Even those Iraqi employees who qualify for assistance are not being properly assisted. Iraqis in Basra are not able to apply via the British Army in Basra International Airbase, since it is ringed with militia checkpoints. Iraqi ex-employees in Damascus are being screened by Syrian policemen guarding the British Embassy and delayed by lengthy bureaucratic procedures when they apply for asylum, although many of them are illegally overstaying their Syrian visas and face deportation back to Iraq.

A blogger called Dan Hardie is directly in touch with a number of Iraqi employees via email and phone. He is willing to brief MPs—as concisely as possible—either over the phone or via email. He can be reached at [email address].

In the meantime, I would like to know if you would petition the Foreign Secretary—or at the very least, raise the issue—to allow those Iraqis who have worked with our hard-pressed forces to be fast-tracked into Britain. The fact that we have not done so has already resulted in the murder of several of those who worked for us and, as we know, they were neither quick nor painless deaths.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

DK

I did indeed look forward to hearing from him; after all, this is why MPs need all these holidays and perks: so that they can respond to their constituents—isn't that right? It is, I would imagine, how Keith Hill would justify the £88,060 that he spent on his staffing allowance, the £1,314 he spent on stationery, £3,670 on the associated postage costs, the £1,008 he spent on centraly provided computer equipment and, no doubt, much of the £11,957 he spent in incidental allowances.

So when WriteToThem.com reminded me, two weeks later, that I had not received a reply from the little shit, I lost my temper. People are, after all, dying and not in pleasant ways. So, I sent the following missive, on the 13th December.
Thursday 13 December 2007

Dear Keith Hill,

Some weeks ago, I sent you an email on the plight of the Iraqi interpreters who worked with our forces and are now being murdered because of this.

You have not replied. Really, I expected nothing more from you: you are, after all, a politician and, as such, a pretty poor specimen of humanity.

I hereby pledge to do everything within my power to ensure that you lose you seat at the next election.

Yours sincerely,

DK

Well, this obviously riled dear Keith, because the response was instantaneous.

No, only joking, it wasn't even close to being swift. In late January, I received a letter dated Tuesday 15th January.
Dear DK,

My office was in the process of responding to your email concerning the British Government's assistance to former employees in Iraq, when I received a second email from you containing abuse and an idle threat.

With that in mind, I will not be corresponding with you again.

Yours sincerely,

Rt Hon [Ha!] Keith Hill MP

I can't say that I'm particularly gutted; Mr Hill is not the world's most scintillating letter writer and I imagine that his reply would have been some useless boilerplate parroted from the Foreign Office anyway.

But how is two sodding weeks, without even an acknowledgement, a reasonable lead time for a man who spends £88,000 employing staff? And to receive the first acknowledgement of my correspondance a month after that—i.e. six weeks after my original email—is just entirely unacceptable.

Having said that, I am embarrassed. No really, I am.

Because I did make an idle threat: I promised to dedicate time to making sure that Keith Hill lost his seat when, of course, he is standing down of his own volition. Indeed, the website for his potential Labour replacement, Chuka Umunna, was built by Jon Worth.

Streatham, interestingly (and perhaps unexpectedly), was a safe Tory seat from its creation in 1918 until Hill won it for Labour in 1992. Since 1997, Labour's lead in the constituency has shrunk from 18,423 to 7,466 on an average turn-out of 41,000. It's still a significant Labour lead, but by no means impossible to overturn (although the LibDems have beaten the Tories into third place in the last couple of elections).

Obviously, I shan't bother contacting Keith Hill MP again, but if anyone would like to write to their MP and express their outrage that this government is failing to honour its obligations, please do so—using WriteToThem.com, it couldn't be easier.

21 comments:

The Nameless One said...

The only time I ever wrote to an MP was back when I lived in Simon Hughes's constituency. Never got a reply. And I didn't even put any abuse or idle threats in the letter!

Almost wish I had now.

Jules said...

DK - you blew your stuff too quickly there i think champ. two weeks waiting for a reply from an MP's office? [yes i KNOW how much they leech off us and how nothing justifies utterly noddy constituent service]. i always wait four weeks and have yet to be disappointed by either the rt. and pretty hon. alan duncan, MP and the rt. also pretty hon. david davis, MP. i have been totally disappointed by two PMs, john 'jabba the hutt' prescott and that odious, prissy little cunt, 'wee' dougie alexander. whom, it's worth adding, i'd like to chastise with a wet haddock 'till all eternity.

if they're a diligent MP, they'll reply when their mrs has processed the correspondence. so go on, give the poor gel(s) some leeway ;-))

Unsworth said...

There's an ongoing discussion on ARRSE at:

http://www.arrse.co.uk/cpgn2/Forums/viewtopic/t=83450.html

Frankly the problem is that Miliband is simply not interested in helping a bunch of Iraqi Arabs. Why might that be, do you suppose?

What is worse, some of these brave and selfless people have been killed or forced to flee since the British Army retired to the air-base outside Basra. What is going on right now is the beginning of civil war. The Iraqi cops and their military are entirely partisan.

In the meantime the apparatchiks in FCO are working away at doing nothing. They are morally depraved vermin.

ENGLISHMAN said...

What would you call people ,who when thier country is invaded by a foreign power,aid and assist the forces of occupation?
What would you call people who having committed what the majority of thier countrymen would regard as treason,seek to evade the mess that they have made by begging the invaders to remove them and bestow upon them a life of ease in the country of the invader?
Would you be willing to give your trust to some-one who has already changed sides once,and given the opportunity would do so again,if the price was right?
why are you so free with my hard earned tax monies,that you wish to load another several hundred large families onto my tax-burden?

asquith said...

Keith Hill sounds like a right cunt, just based on his voting record. He's been unfailingly wrong on everything, ever. Except equal gay rights, and he'd probably backtrack over that tomorrow if clunking fist told him to.

And the wanker turns up in parliament for almost every vote, as if he enjoys the thought of making you suffer.

Unsworth said...

@ Englishman

Only 'several hundred'? Now do you want to consider the multiple hundred thousands of Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians etc etc who have poured into this country? What have they done for this country apart from a bit of plumbing and building and then buggered off back home with 'Englishmen's' cash?

So you would not protect those who have made a contribution towards saving our soldiers' lives? Probably you would not. But don't let on to anyone who has served in the armed forces in those hot sandy places. You might regret expressing your views. As a taster, try saying the same thing on ARRSE and see what sort of response you receive.

Cyclefree said...

I wrote to my MP, Glenda Jackson, on the child benefit database scandal asking for answers to various questions. (I have 3 school age children so this is something I feel strongly about.) That was in November; no reply; wrote again 2 weeks ago. Both letters perfectly polite. How much longer should I wait? The next letter may not be quite so polite. Perhaps we should follow the French example and throw paving stones at our MPs when they ignore us. Incidentally, I'm appalled at how this instance of appalling incompetence has simply been ignored after the initial flurry of hoo-ha.

Anonymous said...

cyclefree

Glenda has not replied to me either - thanks for that - now I wont take it personally

darkm said...

not wanting to rain on your parade, but I am a researcher for a certain mp (who shall remain nameless!) and I can tell you that in all likelihood, the mp in question will not have seen or replied to your letter/email, the researcher in question will reply with a stock answer. This is pretty standard across the parties and has since made me disillusioned with the process of contacting/lobbying MPs for any reason. I know of one conservative mp who hasn't personally responded to a letter (sent by a constituent with who he doesn't know personally) for perhaps a year! As for your plight dk, I'm not surprised in the least.

permanentexpat said...

Unsworth:
'Englishman' is clearly not. His prose betrays him. Read: 'Troll'

Katy Newton said...

My (Tory) MP responded to my letter within ten days of me writing it. I was really impressed.

Katy Newton said...

Oh - she also wrote to me about four weeks after that updating me on what she'd done about it. I was really impressed. I don't have much time for party politics generally but as a constituency MP I think she's great.

Centaur said...

Apologies for the OT:

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2008-02-26a.986.6#g1015.6

Our government holding the EU to account...NOT.

Umbongo said...

My MP - a LibDem - is pretty good at responding to emails/letters. The problem is that there's absolutely nothing she (or her party) can do about the Iraqi interpreters or anything else. Labour has written off non-Labour seats (and their constituents) for the duration. If you've got a Labour MP (who will be seeking re-election) you may be able to get him/her off his/her massive backside if and only if s/he suspects that your letter is a straw in a significant wind. Otherwise, like the Iraqi interpreters, you're f***ed.

Ed said...

I have written to four MPs in the recent past. My current MP (Hoey) isn't too bad at replying but won't give a straight answer if you ask something about Labour policy, my previous MP (Ruddock) was totally useless - she didn't want to know unless you were asking for immigration help or a state hand-out. I have also emailed Greg Hands and John Redwood and even though they are not my MP they have both replied promptly and thoroughly. I don't think it is a coincidence that Labour MPs regard themselves as representatives of the party and that Tory MPs are a little more aware of who they are supposed to be working for.

Vicola said...

At least he replied to your second email, I wrote a polite letter to Ivan 'I'm a useless, adulterous wanker' Lewis and he didn't reply. So I sent him a letter full of abuse. And he still didn't reply. I thought about going to his office to deliver the abuse in person but decided against it as I can't afford to post my own bail.

Unsworth said...

@ Ed

Yes Redwood does respond promptly and, in my case, courteously. And no, he's not my MP.

Anonymous said...

I love the "idle threat" bit.

That's what democracy is now: We are all an idle threat to our noble keaders.

Budgie said...

DK

Keith Hill's reply is nonsense.

Your abuse was mild, and merited by his incompetence. Certainly there is far worse abuse between politicians in the Commons which I have not heard Hill denounce.

As for the 'threat' - you are perfectly within your democratic rights to work to unseat Hill (as the LibDems and Tories already do).

That being so, Hill is not justified in refusing to act as your constituency MP. Who does he think he is? Complain loudly to him the MSM and any available ombudsman.

Brian said...

Hold on everyone, I think you are all getting a bit hot under the collar. Usually MP's have 1 or 2 people to help respond to cases via letter - but understand the phone rings constantly. Those of you who say about Tory MP's such as John Redwood forget that he represents a constituency that frankly never needs an MP's help. When would someone ring from Wokingham about their desperate need to help with an immigration or housing issue? I know John and he is an interesting fellow but he would never have the casework of an inner London Labour MP who by definition would have all of the above and more. To then suggest that all these people are lazy, or shits or whatever is frankly silly. Have you ever opened mail that contains 300 letters a day? In America, where there are roughly equivilant numbers of senators to our MP's they employ hundreds of staff to our MP's 2 or 3 and yet we all complain when they get office cost allowances to pay for three. I suggest all those who complain so harshly stand for Parliament, get elected and then answer all the post and phone calls, particularly in constituencies like Streatham where not only do you get windbags firing off letters all the time but a large number of people who actually need help. Stop complaining. You actually get a good deal out of the system, even though I recognise some of the individuals need a kick.

Devil's Kitchen said...

"... but understand the phone rings constantly."

Not true for the inner city MPs that I have been in multiple hour meetings with.

"Have you ever opened mail that contains 300 letters a day?"

Have you ever spent over £88,000 on staff to do this for you?

DK