John Howell is the elected Member of Parliament representing the Henley Constituency. Here is his constituents’ monthly update for September 2017.
In September I shared, via social media, news of a £40m investment in our coastal communities. It will help create jobs and increase visitors, so our coastal towns and villages thrive. I was surprised to receive comment back suggesting that, given that Oxfordshire is land locked and about as far from the coast as you can get in England, it was irrelevant to the constituency. I was surprised, yes – and also saddened. Are we really only interested in our own back yard? Can we not appreciate the benefit to others, and also to ourselves as visitors to our coastal towns? Thankfully I know from other communications that many people do look and think more widely, but this made me think about how we can so easily become focused on the things that affect us that it can be difficult to see things from an alternative perspective.
I regularly receive communications from people who feel strongly about an issue lobbying me to act or vote in a certain way. On most issues I receive communications on both sides of the argument with people feeling equally strongly both for and against something and each side urging me to support their view. Of course, it is impossible for me to support both so I have to do my research and come to my own conclusion. When I come to a particular view I try to set out my rationale so that even where people do not agree with me they can see where I have come from. I have had some very interesting and informative exchanges with people. It is good to learn and understand, even when we do not agree. However at times there is less graciousness in disagreement.
In Parliament, the weekly Prime Minister’s Question time can be confrontational. It is one of my least favourite sessions of the week and certainly does not represent the way in which Parliament usually works. In other debates members are respectful of one another in sharing opposing views. In our changing and complex world understanding and mutual respect are important. Where this fails we too often see abuse, unrest, and violence or terrorism.
Along similar lines, in a recent meeting I had a discussion with a constituent who raised issues as reported in the media. As we talked we realised and agreed that it was a biased view. He asked how he could actually know what had gone on and acknowledged that each form of media will have its own bias, and that the papers write to satisfy their audience. Of course, politicians will also have their view! It can be very difficult even to get factual reporting of what was actually said and done and thus allow people to draw their own conclusions. Sometimes the only way to find out what a person actually said it to read the transcript of their speech or watch it again. It may take longer than reading the media summary but at least you then have the facts.
I welcome communications from constituents sharing views and ideas. We may not always agree but it is good to have the debate and learn from one another. I also produce a periodic electronic newsletter and briefings on specific issues in which I offer my assessment of issues and share my views. These can spark interesting debate. If you would like to subscribe to these please email me at email@example.com You can also follow me on Facebook or on twitter.
I look forward to hearing from you.
If you would like to know more about my work in Westminster, on behalf of the Government and the Constituency please do look at my website which is regularly updated.
Further details of the work of Parliament is available on the parliament website. As always, I am interested to hear constituent’s views on the proposals before the House.