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Tory MP wants official email address kept private

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By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 9 Aug 2010 at 12:12

A Conservative MP's official email has been removed from the parliamentary website, after he complained that online lobby groups were becoming a "nuisance".

MP Dominic Raab's parliamentary.uk email is currently not listed on the House of Common's website following a spat with online campaigners 38 Degrees.

The group provides a service by which people can automatically email their MP on certain issues. Raab asked the group to remove his address from its service at the beginning of July, which he provided to the lobbyists during the election.

These emails from your and other lobby groups are becoming a real nuisance

38 Degrees took down that email address, using his parliamentary one instead. Complaining that too many people were contacting him, Raab asked for that to be removed as well, warning he would take the issue to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) if 38 Degrees didn't comply.

"Please understand that MPs get a high volume of correspondence and emails," he said in an email exchange with 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."

"These emails from your and other lobby groups are becoming a real nuisance," he added, saying constituents can write to him at the House of Commons or meet him at one of his surgeries.

Buy a stamp

David Babbs, executive director of 38 Degrees, said Raab was likely receiving on average fewer than two emails a day via the site, with the most recent messages concerning the alternative vote referendum.

"They're genuine emails, from genuine constituents about areas of genuine concern to them," Babbs told PC Pro. "He seems to think it's something illegitimate or something MPs shouldn't be receiving."

Most MPs recognise that it's their job to engage with their constituent

"Most MPs recognise that it's their job to engage with their constituents," he said, adding many MPs see email as a way to increase engagement in politics.

Babbs added that Raab provided his personal email address to the group during the campaign. "So 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. When he was still asking them to vote for him, he pro-actively gave us his Yahoo email address," said Babbs.

38 Degrees did remove his personal address from their system, but Babbs noted: "It was only then it became clear that actually he felt that if you wanted to contact him you should walk to the Post Office and buy a stamp."

Work email not private

While both parties claim the ICO has come down on their side, a spokesperson assured us that work emails are not private data. "If it's used for work purposes, it isn't private," an ICO spokesman told PC Pro.

Babbs said Raab's parliamentary email remained in the 38 Degree's database, so any constituents looking to contact him can still find it via that site.

Raab didn't respond to our telephone request for comment at the time of publishing.

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User comments

An Mp that does not want to deal with constituents should have to face a recall vote. The coalition thought that it was a good idea before the election. This looks like a good trial. He clearly does not want to deal with his constituents now he has a seat. This is what recall would eliminate.

By Amnesia10 on 9 Aug 2010

Secretary?

First, I agree with Amnesia10. How can he do his job without being available to his constituents?

Secondly, doesn't he have a flunkey to deal with vexatious e-mail from troublesome campaigners? Anyway, given the e-mail addresses of MPs seem to follow one of about 3 patterns, it wouldn't be outrageously difficult to guess his.

By flyingbadger on 9 Aug 2010

Your in government yer t*t

If your going to be in government one thing that comes as part of the job is to take a bit of cr*p, and getting emails that the general public sends should be something you expect, the government is meant to be representing the people of britain, but how can they do that if they cut off all communication to the general public

By SmilerOnline on 9 Aug 2010

One sided?

This article does seem awfully one sided in its content. I think I might have to email Mr Raab to ask him what his opinion is on this matter. All in the interest of fairness, you understand. :-)

By PaleRider on 9 Aug 2010

I don't think he should have any choice in the matter regarding his official email address. I can email other public services such as health, the police etc. My MP is another public servant therefore he should be able to receive and act upon emails?

By Nodule on 9 Aug 2010

Easy to work out - so why delete?

According to his blog, "it is very easy to work out an MP's email address (surname, initial, @parliament.uk)".

So why delete it then - to penalise the non-tech savvy?

By halsteadk on 9 Aug 2010

PaleRider has the right idea

It's terrible that anyone (even an MP) should have this sort of criticism without the right to defend himself, at length, by email, personally, to a sizeable percentage of the UK population :D.

By steviesteveo on 9 Aug 2010

My local MP!

He's fairly young, so you'd think he'd get 'it'. But he's a new MP in a safe seat, so maybe doesn't need to bother. I think he's strongly against ID cards, so he's not all bad!

In his defence, it has become very easy for people to fire off a standard-form email to people in the pretence that they care. Every now and then someone in the third world is selected to be 'saved' by us westerners who join an email campaign, and give 30 seconds of our time to an issue. Of course the country in question just waits until our 24-hour attention span has moved on, and executes them anyway.
I would think our MPs want to sift out those that are actually serious, from those who are 1-minute-wonders.

By davidsoap on 10 Aug 2010

It's not easy...

It's not easy to persuade people who don't care to even take the steps to fire off a standard-form email.

It's not easy to write you own rebuttal to some stupid but complicated legislation either.

I support Open rights Group, EFF, Free Software Foundation and 38 degrees because they can do that sort of thing much better than I can.

I donate money to some of them regularly to make sure that they are able to do this.

Does this somehow make my view invalid - just because I helped contribute to the costs of someone to research and write it up for me?

Isn't that what the MP's do?

If this MP thinks he can listen to the paid lobbyists of commercial interests but not the paid and unpaid lobbyists of his voters then he wants to resign out of shame.

By Sam_Liddicott on 10 Aug 2010

A little context and data would help

To help readers get some perspective, how many emails did he receive before the election, how many after, and what was the average to all candidates/electees after the election.

Is he truly getting a low number, or a level that creates too much noise and borders on uncontrollable spam (even if from the great british public)?

By redgar3 on 10 Aug 2010

Context is so important

Just refreshed this page, and my own comments are below Sam_Liddicotts excellent points (we must have posted at the same time). Anyone reading in sequence might take what I have written as a counter, or in some way a rebuttal to his points, but they aren't.

Context is all, can we have actual email volume data posted?

By redgar3 on 10 Aug 2010

Number of emails

Hi @redgar3,

We still haven't heard from Dominic Raab regarding this story, so the only data we have on how many emails he was receiving is from 38 Degrees. While David Babbs originally told me Raab would have seen at most two emails a day, he's since gotten back to me with some more figures, but noted it's hard to get precise figures.

He said the most popular recent campaign has been regarding the BBC license fee cuts, from which Raab received 42 emails. He says "with a high degree of certainty" that Raab hasn't had more than 150 emails from 38 Degrees.

Of course, 38 Degrees isn't the only site that runs email campaigns, so we have no idea how many messages he's getting from other sites.

Nicole Kobie,
News Editor

By Nicole_Kobie on 10 Aug 2010

More info on the BBC

I heard both parties being interviewed on PM on Monday evening (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00t8hqm#synopsis
and go to 0:49.45). Pretty robust exchange, and the MP made some good points not covered in the story above. Worth a listen...

By hickeypa1 on 11 Aug 2010

BBC interview is better

Thanks to hickeypa1 - I had a listen and it's interesting that Raab is happy to have his email address on the parliament website (due to the attention he's recieved?) and interesting that 38Degrees didn't want to remove him from the list

As always... there's more to a story when you actually hear it from the actual people involed.

By Sercul on 12 Aug 2010

BBC interview is better

Thanks to hickeypa1 - I had a listen and it's interesting that Raab is happy to have his email address on the parliament website (due to the attention he's recieved?) and interesting that 38Degrees didn't want to remove him from the list

As always... there's more to a story when you actually hear it from the actual people involed.

By Sercul on 12 Aug 2010

Ludicrous

"My MP is another public servant" ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ah ha ha ha ha ha sure he is, hah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hah. Next you'll be saying there's actually democracy, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

By dodge1963 on 16 Aug 2010

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