An Open Letter to the Shipley Conservatives

Dear Members of Shipley Conservatives, 

I’ve just had a leaflet pushed through my door, asking for my vote in the upcoming General Election. I assume this was delivered by one of you. Whoever it was didn’t knock on my door so I didn’t get the chance to ask what you think of the way Philip Davies communicates with some of his constituents. It occurred to me that I may not get the chance to ask you this in person during the campaign, so I’m writing you this open letter.

In the interests of transparency, let me say that Philip Davies won’t be getting my vote on 8th June. This will come as no surprise to him, I’m sure. My politics is very different to his, as we have both discovered during email communications over the years.

But I don’t want to ask you about party politics or Conservative values. I’m a strong believer in democracy and would staunchly defend your right to stand, campaign and win any parliamentary seat, however much I may disagree with your policies.

As I understand it, it is the job of an MP, once they have won their seat, to represent all of their constituents, regardless of political affiliation. If I care about an issue, one of the main democratic channels open to me is to write to my MP about it. My MP, of course, has every right to disagree with me on any issue and to tell me so in any reply. And to give Mr Davies his due, he is fairly assiduous at passing concerns on to the relevant ministers and forwarding their replies. On this front, I make no criticism.

As an MP, he also, of course, has the right to reply to constituents in any way he chooses. I wonder, though, whether you, as local party members, are happy to endorse the tone he often uses when writing to constituents who disagree with him?

You see, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect an MP, as an elected representative in a position of power relative to their constituents, to adopt a tone which is polite, respectful and courteous when communicating with those they are paid to represent, even in disagreement. Yet my own experience, and that reported by many others, is that replies we receive from Mr Davies are increasingly rude, inflammatory and designed to provoke.

Let me give you some examples. Do you think it is ok for an MP to dismiss constituents visiting him to discuss global hunger and overseas aid as “people with extreme political views”? Or to reply to a constituent emailing about the Syrian refugee crisis as wanting to ignore practicalities “on the altar of looking compassionate”?

How about replying to a constituent seeking clarification of Philip’s willingness to endorse Donald Trump following Trump’s comments on sexual assault? Is this an appropriate way to correspond with a constituent?
“Amazing how the so-called feminists were so quiet about the Clintons. As I say, it is not their feminist views that motivates these people, it is their socialist views. It’s a shame they can’t be honest about that.”
“If I had said I supported Hillary Clinton, would you have emailed me to ask why I supported a woman who helped to cover up her husband’s sexual assaults? No, of course you wouldn’t have done so – I can only speculate as to why.”
“I know for a fact you wouldn’t have emailed me if I had said I supported Hillary. Whether you wish to admit that is a matter for you, but you know it and I know it.”

How about this frankly odd reply when I asked him why he was so disparaging about UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality which seeks to eliminate violence against women and girls? (See article here in which he claims “nobody actually cares about all this rubbish”)
“Some (particularly socialists) like signing documents, talking, writing, waffling, protesting etc. I prefer to see action and things getting done.”

Bear in mind that he doesn’t know me or my circumstances, that 1 in 5 women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16, and that 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. It is entirely possible (even probable) that I was motivated to write to him to clarify his views because someone close to me has suffered from sexual assault or domestic violence. Do you feel that his replies contain an appropriate level of sensitivity?

How about accusing constituents of ‘indoctrinating’ the children in their care, a politically loaded word against the sensitive backdrop of the Prevent agenda and spotting early signs of extremism? Is that acceptable? (An accusation made because my 10 year old, taking an unexpected interest in the Parliament Channel, asked a question on whether there were rules on how long people could speak for and expressed an opinion that there should be.)
– “Of course I encourage your niece but I am sure she is getting all the encouragement (and indoctrination) she needs from her uncle.”
– “I would be astonished if your daughter was not being brought up to share your Socialist values.”
(This despite the fact that I’ve told him multiple times that I’m not a socialist.)
– “You are clearly easily offended.”

Just for the record, I’m not easily offended. Although why I should have to justify that to my MP is beyond me.

As I say, it’s not the views expressed in these emails that I want to ask you about. Mr Davies and I disagree on foreign aid, refugees, endorsing candidates in international elections who have bragged about sexual assault, indoctrinating children and filibustering. Fair enough.

My question is about tone. Do you, as local party members, think it is acceptable for an MP to write to constituents in a rude, dismissive and inflammatory manner? Or do you agree that MPs should treat their constituents with respect, regardless of their political opinion? It is possible to disagree firmly, politely and with respect.

I am aware that Philip has been challenged on the way he writes to constituents before – in the transcript of his meeting with the Shipley Feminist Zealots on 25th February (a meeting which I was not at), one constituent asked him directly about his email exchange with me regarding his support for Donald Trump. Referencing a quote from Philip to me, she asked, “Do you think that’s an appropriate way to reply to somebody who is trying to explain to her two young daughters about Trump’s comments about groping women and why we march about that?”

He defended his comments by saying, ​I remember the exchange, and you pick out one bit of the exchange, you don’t have the whole exchange, and I ask you to, when you look at these things, to look at the whole exchange of emails”, implying that I had done something to warrant his rude reply. The questioner actually had seen the whole email exchange – it’s here. I don’t believe I wrote anything that justifies his responses. Do you? I would ask Philip Davies to quote one thing that I have ever said or written to him that justifies his rude replies.

I realise that Mr Davies has a significant majority here and that that can lead to complacency – why bother to be polite to constituents who are never going to vote for him? Why bother, other than basic human decency, professionalism, and an understanding that communicating with constituents is not the same as engaging in the strange, outdated adversarial exchanges that occur in the House of Commons.

When our political channels leave ordinary people in the position of being dealt with so rudely by those who represent them, it’s not really a win for democracy, is it?

I look forward to your reply.

*************************************************************************************

As members of the Shipley Conservative Party ask us to vote for their candidate in the upcoming General Election, it is only right that we should know whether they endorse and support the way he communicates with some of us as constituents.

If you are a fellow Shipley Constituent and believe the local Conservative Party Association should reply to this letter, which was sent to them by email on 10th May 2017, please use the comments box below to add your name and sign this open letter.

 

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51 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Shipley Conservatives

  1. Davies has spent his entire parliamentary career pushing his own chauvinistic agenda instead of representing his constituents. I have a stack of letters and emails from my time in Shipley that match those you describe here. The fact that nasty extremists like Davies and Farage dominate the political scene in the UK is one of the reasons I no longer live there.

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  2. I gave up writing to him as a constituent because he was so rude, calling me names and saying that I was naive and stupid (verbatim) to believe, variously, that job seekers deserved support, that disabled people ought to have the same working rights as everyone else, and that refugees ought to be welcome in our area. Among many other things.
    I should very much like the party to respond to this letter.
    Lauren Hughes (Windhill)

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  3. I fully appreciate that an MP has a right to disagree with his constituents. However I strongly believe that a constituent should have a right to be able to contact their MP without being fearful of receiving a personally insulting response. If I, as a vicar, ever wrote to one of my parishioners in this way, I would, rightly, be disciplined, and probably dismissed. I am sure that other professionals would say exactly the same thing. Please could you look in to this matter and respond as to how you intend to tackle this issue. Thank you, Rev. Jenny Ramsden (Shipley).

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  4. I’ve often found that if Philip Davies doesn’t agree with you he can be incredibly rude and dismissive rather than try and address his constituents concerns he will just dismiss them as “socialist claptrap”, as well as accusing the person with those views of ‘extremism’, “indoctrinating others” & “just trying to push a socialist agenda” or just “stupid”
    I would very much like to here how the local Party Association can justify supporting a candidate who shows disdain and disrespect to his constituents

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  5. I would be very interested to hear how the Conservative members of Shipley feel about Philip Davies’ treatment of their fellow constituents. Catherine Hardy

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  6. In total agreement with the letter & most comments beneath.
    The arrogance of the man when he tells us that he’s not here to represent those who didn’t vote for him is extraordinary.
    His dismissive rude tone passing everyone off who doesn’t agree with him as a Socialist is totally unprofessional & damn right lazy.
    Unfortunately I think it is to some extent all tied in with his somewhat right wing political stance.
    His constituents deserve to be treated with more respect. All of them.

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  7. Well written letter responding to an MP who seems to have not learnt how to be sensitive and empathetic to people who are different to him. I look forward to hearing a reply.

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  8. Sadly, I think that his rude and churlish attitude would not only be tolerated but celebrated by Shipley conservatives. I look forward to their response but would not be surprised if it echoed the Davies playground.

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  9. This is an excellent letter and I wholeheartedly agree with everything in it. What Philip Davies says he does and actually does are two entirely different things. Over the 12 long years of his tenure as our MP I have seen and heard of countless examples of rude and disrespectful responses to questions that we, as his constituents, are perfectly entitled to ask. I am quite sure that many people in the constituency who see him trotting around, hand-delivering his leaflets and being all smiley have no idea how unpleasant he can be if he makes the judgement that you are a “leftie”, a feminist (zealot or otherwise) or part of the “PC brigade”. He is a complete embarrassment and I am utterly ashamed that he is my MP.

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  10. As a fellow constituent I have also experienced an aggressive/combative and unhelpful tone in responses to my correspondence with Philip Davies. Whilst of course it is his right to offer robust disagreement, I would be very interested to know if the party are aware they are endorsing a man who’s communication lacks respect in the ways your letter has clearly illustrated.

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  11. I wholeheartedly agree. He is arrogant and complacent. Although to be fair there are more offensive things about him.

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  12. I share this frustration. I have after received rude and aggressive responses when corresponding with him on various occasions, he is all about self interest. If you disagree with his views you are branded a socialist and verbally attacked.

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  13. Sadly I have also experienced Philips Davies’ rude manner in responses to me. I would be really interested in a response to this letter.

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  14. I agree wholeheartedly with this letter. I’m especially interested to hear why Philip thinks it acceptable to accuse his constituents of contempt for democracy when they raise concerns over Brexit. Yet thinks it perfectly acceptable for him, in the face of a loosing a democratic vote for a bill that he disagrees with, to filibuster the reading?

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  15. Adding my name to the list of constituents who have been sneered at by my MP for expressing views that differ from his. I was also at a public meeting where someone complained to Philip Davies that they had had a reply from him accusing them of being a “left wing, do-gooder lunatic”. Deeply unsettling, anti-democratic, and deserving of being investigated – is there a code of conduct for MPs? This is not acceptable behaviour for someone in public office.

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    • There is, though it seems to be mostly about avoiding financial conflicts of interest. Perhaps the people who drafted it didn’t feel that specifying basic courtesy was necessary.

      III. Duties of Members

      4. By virtue of the oath, or affirmation, of allegiance taken by all Members when they are elected to the House, Members have a duty to be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, her heirs and successors, according to law.

      5. Members have a duty to uphold the law, including the general law against discrimination.

      6. Members have a general duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole; and a special duty to their constituents.

      7. Members should act on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in them. They should always behave with probity and integrity, including in their use of public resources.

      Source: https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmcode/1076/107602.htm#a2

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  16. The examples in the letter above demonstrate a lack of professionalism in Mr Davies’ communications with the people who pay his wages that would not be tolerated in any other area of public service, nor in any private organisation I have worked for.

    I haven’t corresponded with Mr Davies myself, but I did follow his Twitter feed for a while. I gave up as he seemed to use it to retweet insults he had received rather than (as do other MPs, and MEPs) to let his constituents know what he was doing. He appears to prefer to stir controversy than to either explain his views or understand those of others.

    He also seems to assume that concern for the less well off, whether overseas or in Shipley, is the preserve of socialists. Is that really the position of the Conservative party in Shipley?

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  17. Adding my name and raising the possibility of further action:
    https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/law-and-courts/discrimination/hate-crime/disability-hate-crime/

    Note you don’t have to be disabled to have experienced hate crime. It just has to been done under the assumption you were, or through association with a disabled person. And whether you’ve stated it or not, does he know you aren’t or could have reasonably assumed you might be making representation on behalf of yourselves and/or disabled relatives and friends.

    I haven’t been given these hate terms that I remember, but the fact you have is important!

    When I tried to act like a mirror and say in a straightforward way that I was a socialist but friends (didn’t mention you specifically) weren’t, while raising other/genersl concerns, it was termed extraordinary. I’m not sure whether to take this as a compliment.

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  18. I’ve been given hate terms like those and worse over the internet and at school and in person as an adult but not by Philip Davies. Making a complaint sometimes can be a consuming process, don’t feel I’m pressing anyone.

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  19. I haven’t made any official complaints about anyone personally, but it’s interesting that it can be done, and should make the conservative party think carefully about him. I am also wary of pushing Davies further into this mode and the dangers all round.

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  20. As a Shipley constituent who has experienced a hostile and rude response to a polite email that sought clarification on his actions in Parliament, I endorse this letter and look forward to reading the reply.

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  21. Though not had correspondence direct with Mr Davies, I’m appalled that an MP who so obviously works in self interest and whose antiquated views fly in the face of many of his constituents has not had some serious questions asked about his conduct. He has some dangerously off colour views and seems to spend most of his time blocking bills and working to his own agenda. I’m embarrassed that he is my MP.

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  22. I long ago gave up trying to write to Davies as my MP after he repeatedly made unwarranted and unsubstantiated comments about me, my life and my political views, none of which he had information on, but which he felt free to do because I had the temerity to disagree with his views. He is not just a disgrace as a person in public office but is entirely full of his own self-importance.

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  23. I undertook work experience with Philip when I was at school (I wouldn’t have chosen a Conservative, as I am Labour, but I thought at the time it had to be with my local MP). He was pleasant enough to me and I have to be grateful for him providing me with this work experience. However, he gave me in an insight into what sort of human he is, as I am sure even the worst dictators aren’t horrible to everyone.

    Whilst his racist and anti – disabled views are completely unacceptable regardless of who was there, he continued to state them in front of another girl who was doing work experience, who happened to be black and in a wheelchair. He made us research how white men are experiencing more racism than black man and how the minimum wage for disabled people should not be in place. He had anti feminist posters in his office, acted in a bullish way towards his staff, and was aggressive to the head of the channel 4 when I watched him in a select committee – shouting ‘YOU’RE IN DENIAL MATE’.

    He found me amusing in that I would print guardian articles for him when he asked me to do press cuttings supporting his obscene views, including pro climate change evidence when he requested I found him evidence challenging that climate change exists. It just bewildered me whether he even believes what he says.I would love to find his motivations for behaving the way he does. I suspect he enjoys his power, and feels threatened by other people having the same rights as himself.

    I have written an article in the Ilkley gazette concerning his voting record etc, and will continue to spread the word about his horrible behaviour.

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    • I have just come across this letter and after reading some of the comments I feel inclined to post. I am a university student and was on the same work experience week in Parliament with Hannah Robinson, which she mentions in her post. All I can say is that her remarks about Mr Davies’s demeanour and attitude throughout the week are completely and utterly untrue, and what she says simply did not happen. This is clearly a politically motivated accusation, and makes me wonder how true any of the other postings are.

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      • Hi Rachel, Thanks for your comment. I have met with Philip myself a couple of times and never had an issue with his demeanour in person. As the letter states, it’s his tone in emails that I find unacceptable.
        I can absolutely verify that the quotations in the letter from Philip’s emails to me are 100% accurate – I have the emails and can easily produce them as evidence. I’m also more than happy to open my own part in the exchanges up to scrutiny. If he writes to me in this way, I see no reason to doubt that he writes to others like that also – and have seen some of the emails received by friends in a similar vein. And I maintain that it is unacceptable for an MP to write to his constituents like this.

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      • PS – Are you the same Rachel Varley who was elected to Bingley Town Council as a Conservative candidate in May 2016? Apologies if not, but if you ARE, perhaps you could reply on behalf of the Shipley Conservative Members while you’re here?

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  24. I have corresponded with Philip Davies many times over the years I have lived in Shipley. Initially, I found his responses to be polite and diligent, passing on my concerns to the relevant people.
    However, as time passed and it became more clear to him that I disagreed strongly with most of his views, his responses became rude and aggressive. Finally, he explicitly told me he would not represent my views in Parliament.
    I stopped writing to him at that point.
    It saddens me that his majority is so large and that so many people are either happy for him to represent them in this way, or do not realise what he is like.
    I fully endorse this letter, add my name to it and would like a reply from the local Conservative Party.

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  25. I would also like to sign this letter. Philip Davies is a disgrace to Shipley and people need to know what he’s like if disagrees with you.

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  26. I would also be very interested in a reply to this letter. I’ve experienced his type of response when he is aware you don’t agree with him; while I’m aware that some people have had help and support from him for their issues, I’m horrified that my MP feels he can treat his constituents like this.

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  27. I wholeheartedly endorse this letter, and would be very interested to learn whether the Conservative Party, locally and nationally, are prepared to justify and support the disgraceful words and actions of Philip Davies.

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  28. having recently moved to the area I have yet to have any contact with him. Thank you for writing this. I would like to co sign it and would be very interested to hear their response.
    Rebecca Falkingham-Rushton

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  29. This letter sums up the type of dismissive responses received from this arrogant man who is paid to represent us all. Please add my name to the letter.

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  30. I’ve just got back from hand delivering a paper copy of this letter with additional signatories and comments to the Conservative Office in Shipley. Will keep you all posted of any developments.

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  31. Specifically hostile and demeaning language like “(left wing, do-gooder) lunatic” or perhaps using words like “idiotic” and “stupid” and if made in respect especially to representation on behalf of disabled people and if disabled is illegal (probably, by one count or another, discrimination or hate incident), as well as against parliamentary conduct guidelines, there may be specific guidelines in a separate document that cover using words like lunatic as there’s pages on disability related discriminatory language at the .gov website.

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