MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

simonhill
Posts: 2446
Joined: 13 Jan 2007, 11:28am
Location: Essex

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby simonhill » 23 Jul 2019, 8:58am

I am the OP

All the points I raised in my letter had already been raised often at length with the appropriate authority, ie Southend Council. I have multiple emails on the matters, plus press cuttings announcing the cycle path extension, the Council display maps showing it actually built, etc, etc. What annoys me most is that the Council get the kudos from the announcements but never say sorry we got it wrong and won't actually be doing what we said we would (lies?)

The letter was to point out how the Council have constantly failed and how the local MP has never aired any pro cycling opinions.

I accept that my letter was robust, which many think was a mistake, nonetheless I doubt that it comes close to the many really rude letters that an MP probably receives on a regular basis. His reply which tried to gain the high ground because of my perceived rudeness meant he failed completely to answer any of my specific points. Whether a softly softly approach would have elicited a fulsome response to all my points is a doubtful possiblity.

If my MP now knows that at least one of his constituents is not happy with his (lack of a) stance on cycling then I am unrepentant.

Bonefishblues
Posts: 6592
Joined: 7 Jul 2014, 9:45pm
Location: Near Bicester Oxon

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby Bonefishblues » 23 Jul 2019, 9:08am

simonhill wrote:I am the OP

All the points I raised in my letter had already been raised often at length with the appropriate authority, ie Southend Council. I have multiple emails on the matters, plus press cuttings announcing the cycle path extension, the Council display maps showing it actually built, etc, etc. What annoys me most is that the Council get the kudos from the announcements but never say sorry we got it wrong and won't actually be doing what we said we would (lies?)

The letter was to point out how the Council have constantly failed and how the local MP has never aired any pro cycling opinions.

I accept that my letter was robust, which many think was a mistake, nonetheless I doubt that it comes close to the many really rude letters that an MP probably receives on a regular basis. His reply which tried to gain the high ground because of my perceived rudeness meant he failed completely to answer any of my specific points. Whether a softly softly approach would have elicited a fulsome response to all my points is a doubtful possiblity.

If my MP now knows that at least one of his constituents is not happy with his (lack of a) stance on cycling then I am unrepentant.

Follow up, accepting that your first letter was perhaps a little OTT, but explaining the above, which perhaps explains it, then pin him down for specifics.

...would be my approach.

PH
Posts: 7299
Joined: 21 Jan 2007, 12:31am
Location: Derby
Contact:

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby PH » 23 Jul 2019, 10:19am

simonhill wrote:I accept that my letter was robust, which many think was a mistake, nonetheless I doubt that it comes close to the many really rude letters that an MP probably receives on a regular basis.

I'm sure you're right, but IMO the ruder the letter the easier it is to dismiss. I think we all do this, if I'm reading a post on the forum and it reads like a rant, I don't bother continuing.
That they have some constituents that disagree with them and their political outlook won't come as a surprise, no action needed. Having a constituent who hasn't expressed any overtly political view though is dissatisfied by some situation, is a potential supporter and would get a different response, even if it made no difference to the action they take. If they get enough of those, it might prompt change, well we live in hope...

HobbesOnTour
Posts: 359
Joined: 20 Feb 2017, 5:12pm

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby HobbesOnTour » 23 Jul 2019, 11:02am

simonhill wrote:I am the OP

All the points I raised in my letter had already been raised often at length with the appropriate authority, ie Southend Council. I have multiple emails on the matters, plus press cuttings announcing the cycle path extension, the Council display maps showing it actually built, etc, etc. What annoys me most is that the Council get the kudos from the announcements but never say sorry we got it wrong and won't actually be doing what we said we would (lies?)

The letter was to point out how the Council have constantly failed and how the local MP has never aired any pro cycling opinions.

I accept that my letter was robust, which many think was a mistake, nonetheless I doubt that it comes close to the many really rude letters that an MP probably receives on a regular basis. His reply which tried to gain the high ground because of my perceived rudeness meant he failed completely to answer any of my specific points. Whether a softly softly approach would have elicited a fulsome response to all my points is a doubtful possiblity.

If my MP now knows that at least one of his constituents is not happy with his (lack of a) stance on cycling then I am unrepentant.


Simon, I have a lot of respect for your posting in the touring forum. You obviously know what you are talking about. I am someone who believes that words and tone matter and we have have had a couple of chats about that. 8)

I think "robust" is too soft a description. It would take a saint to respond to your email in a positive manner. In fact, there are actually very few points that the MP can respond to, because according to the wording, you have already made up your mind. Your tone suggests that your mind will not change.

Furthermore, there is the potential damage that your addition to the standard email format will do. The MP, or more likely their staff, will be less disposed to any similar emails from other constituents - not professional, but certainly human. (There's a reason that organisations use templates!)

The MP's "job" is to satisfy enough constituents to secure enough votes at the next election. It's pretty clear he has no chance of your vote - why should he help you?

In any case, if he did want to help you, he obviously has to work with the Council. There is nothing positive in your email for him to work with - it is all criticism, some of it very extreme criticism.

There is no doubting the emotion in your original email. You obviously believe in what you write. There is a saying "Hard cases make bad laws", meaning that emotion should not be the deciding factor in important decisions. Emotion, however, is an important factor in creating energy to inform and follow through on policies and decisions.

simonhill wrote:[Sir David,

The above is obviously a pre written letter supplied by Cycle UK, which I agree with.

Nonetheless I feel very strongly about the abysmal cycle facilities provided in Southend and your failure to ever speak up about them. We have a collection of piece meal often unconnected cycle facilities that do little more than pay lip service to supporting cycling.

[i]Perfectly valid point, well presented.


For example the advance cycle area at some of the traffic lights along the London Road. I stress "some" as there seems no rhyme or reason why some have these safety feature (eg Chalkwell Schools) but the far more dangerous Chalkwell Park lights do not. This just smacks of lip service by the Council whereby they stick down an advance area when there is a bit of room so it will not hinder motor traffic or when they happen to have a spare can of paint. It seems to have little to do with a coordinated cycle safety strategy.

This is where it starts to go off a constructive course. You have decided that it smacks of lip service. Asking why they do what they do demands an answer - you haven't asked the question.

We have an excellent sea front cycle path (albeit deteriorating rapidly), which I use on an almost daily basis for my regular exercise. However it stops at Chalkwell Avenue and then as a resident of Leigh I have to cycle the busy, dangerous, and pot holed road back to Leigh. Southend Council have made numerous announcements that the path would be continued to Leigh - the first time was in 1996 and I am still waiting. One announcement not fulfilled is maybe understandable, but over the 23 years I have seen many press releases by Southend and Leigh Councils that this will happen and nothing is ever done. To me this equates to lies, lies and more lies.

Again, you have decided that it is lies, lies and more lies. Again, asking a question what has happened demands a response. Calling people liars gives carte blanche to ignore.


The pathetic nature of Southend Council's cycling policy can be summed up in Tattersall Gardens. When they built speed humps they made little cycle lanes at the kerbside ends. These were welcomed by cyclists, but unfortunately the good burghers of Tattersall regularly park over them in contravention of the Highway Code. When I contacted the Council about this, they told me they had no intention of getting the necessary parking orders to enforce the law. As a cyclist (and driver) I am told that I need to adhere to the Highway Code and the law, obviously Southend Council and the residents of Tattersall Gardens are exempt from this

I'm seeing a pattern here.

I regularly read the local press and have never heard you speak up in favour of cycling. Perhaps you, like many of your colleagues, think it is a marginal enough activity to be able to ignore or waste money on. My regular cycling keeps me fit and healthy and out of the health system, which as we all know is being clogged up more and more by the unfit.

Absence of proof is not proof of absence. Again, if you asked him to clarify what his stance was on cycling that would require an answer. Berating the man just gives him an easy way out.

I'm sure you will plead poverty in the public purse and indeed we have had nearly ten years of austerity under your Governments. Nonetheless, I note this is now being thrown out of the window in an attempt to woo Tory voters, not to mention the tens if not hundreds of millions of pounds that are being spent or earmarked for implementing your beloved Brexit plans. A small fraction of that wasted money would go a long way to providing safe cycling infrastructure in the Borough of Southend. Supported by the Government and implemented by the Council. Some hope!

Telling you opponent what his motivations are is not a way to have a meaningful debate.


Bonefishblues wrote:Follow up, accepting that your first letter was perhaps a little OTT, but explaining the above, which perhaps explains it, then pin him down for specifics.

...would be my approach.


This is really quite excellent advice!
I recall coming across a very interesting survey (From the US) in relation to new restaurants. In cases where first time patrons had a bad experience that was solved to their satisfaction, they were far more likely to return than if they never had the bad experience.
Resolution shows an ability to listen to the other party, understand their needs and the extra, and unusual, interactions help create a bond.
Remember, we make peace with our enemies - not our friends.

Oldjohnw
Posts: 1504
Joined: 16 Oct 2018, 4:23am
Location: Northumberland

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby Oldjohnw » 23 Jul 2019, 11:31am

One rule of thumb when writing reports or serious letters is to avoid at all costs negative adjectives. They tend to display a mind made up, a barrier which cannot be crossed and immediately make people defensive and close doors. You move from evidence based criticism of an action to a subjective value judgement and criticism of an individual.

An example is attaching the word 'pathetic' to some action or another.
John

Cycling and recycling

Tangled Metal
Posts: 5400
Joined: 13 Feb 2015, 8:32pm

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby Tangled Metal » 23 Jul 2019, 1:46pm

For advice for the op. I can't really add much but my pov which is in part a comment on the op and his (assumption) actions.

First off the op has passion for cycling. He has passion for campaigning for better facilities. As shown by his robust letter and later post about emails sent / received about infrastructure. I applaud your passion and your action to change things to the betterment of all.

Passion is a great thing to enable change. But it needs positive direction and control. Your email came across as mounting frustration and anger coming through and growing through the journey of the email writing.

IMHO the op needs to write such missives then print and save them. Take a break, go for a ride (not near the problem areas) and then reread his letter editing it to leave strong but calmer points. There's a difference between robust points and rudeness.

Another point I have is these sorts of campaigning letters are political but not in the way the op did it. They're more subtly political than slagging off the actions of one side or another. They're political in trying to affect change but they're apolitical wrt party politics.

By this I mean you could write the same kind of letter to a Labour, tory, LibDems or NOC Council. By avoiding party politics you allow any elected official from any party to focus on the matter in hand. Getting your viewpoints across is half he story. You're trying to get a response. Whether that's an answer to questions, a policy answer or explanation of a situation. Rough language or robust as you called it allows for them to ignore your points.

All been said before but I just wanted to put my pov out in case it helps. I just think the op has missed the opportunity by getting angry in his email.

simonhill
Posts: 2446
Joined: 13 Jan 2007, 11:28am
Location: Essex

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby simonhill » 23 Jul 2019, 4:50pm

Thanks again for all your replies.

As someone who travels regularly in Asia, I am well aware of what is often called saving or keeping face and it is something that I normally try to adhere to. The whole concept of 'loosing it' just reflects badly on you and gets you nowhere.

Nonetheless I think it would be fair to add that I also don't suffer fools glady, as alluded to by Hobbes and think that at times one needs a more direct approach.

In this case, this wasn't meant to be a game changing campaigning letter but a bit of a spleen vent after the frustration of over 20 years of polite emailing, letters to paper, speaking to councillor, etc, which have got me nowhere. I certainly didn't expect a Damascene conversion of Sir David to the cycling cause.

I do accept that I should not have added this to the Cycle UK form letter, but mistakenly thought it added a bit of context. I'll steer clear of them in future.

Thanks again for the constructive criticism.

User avatar
NUKe
Posts: 3654
Joined: 23 Apr 2007, 11:07pm
Location: Suffolk

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby NUKe » 23 Jul 2019, 5:05pm

Your MP is your MP regardless of whether you vote for them or not. But if you want them to work with you.
1 write your own letter, template ones are pointless
2 Never insult there politics. Unless it is just a letter of complaint about their conduct
3. State what you want back it up with reasoned argument.
John Selwyn Gummer used to be my MP and despite myself batting for the other side, we got on quite well and on several occasions he personally responded with a hand written letter or would call me up to find out more information and would follow up on anything he thought was Justified.
NUKe
_____________________________________

HobbesOnTour
Posts: 359
Joined: 20 Feb 2017, 5:12pm

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby HobbesOnTour » 24 Jul 2019, 7:29am

simonhill wrote:Thanks again for all your replies.

As someone who travels regularly in Asia, I am well aware of what is often called saving or keeping face and it is something that I normally try to adhere to. The whole concept of 'loosing it' just reflects badly on you and gets you nowhere.

Nonetheless I think it would be fair to add that I also don't suffer fools glady, as alluded to by Hobbes and think that at times one needs a more direct approach.

In this case, this wasn't meant to be a game changing campaigning letter but a bit of a spleen vent after the frustration of over 20 years of polite emailing, letters to paper, speaking to councillor, etc, which have got me nowhere. I certainly didn't expect a Damascene conversion of Sir David to the cycling cause.

I do accept that I should not have added this to the Cycle UK form letter, but mistakenly thought it added a bit of context. I'll steer clear of them in future.

Thanks again for the constructive criticism.


Well, I sure hope you weren't calling me a fool! :)

You had your spleen vent and had the reaction that was the most likely.

For what it's worth, I think it's a shame that someone with your history of campaigning would steer clear of the likes of Cycle UK form letters in the future. To me, that seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. People who are passionate and willing to give time to a cause are exactly what is needed!
It is, perhaps, an opportunity to look anew at goals, objectives and methods. For instance, more face to face communication as opposed to email campaigns?

I'm always a little bit amazed that online forums can be populated with people who can be obnoxious, patronising and predicting doom and gloom, yet I never meet these people on the road! Maybe there's something about face to face contact that makes us more.......human. :)

By the way, the dialogue with your MP is only over if you decide it is!. I still think Bonefish's advice is spot on.

Tangled Metal
Posts: 5400
Joined: 13 Feb 2015, 8:32pm

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby Tangled Metal » 24 Jul 2019, 8:25am

If course there's obnoxious people on forums and real life.. Not sure who the obnoxious people are in this thread so I guess the idea that if you can't sort the trait in others it must be in you applies here.

As an aside your MP's personal qualities can apply to their replies to constituents (constituent's communication phrasing aside). I have relatives fortunate to live in a constituency with a genuinely nice mp. He won the seat from another party, kept the seat and rose to prominence in his party within his first term as mp.

The member of my family wrote to him for help/guidance on a matter. He visited her with his constituency manager and wrote back to her a few times. He couldn't help but he sent her a copy of his communications with the organisation she needed help with and minutes of meeting he had with their local management. Nothing happened but there was a lot of evidence of his actions. Genuinely good constituency mp despite having a key position in his party's hierarchy.

Our local mp is kind of described as nice but dim, the ghost and someone who will vote with his party no matter what. Someone with his own pointless campaigns that everyone knows will never succeed but cynically he uses to keep his local existence in his constuents' attention. He's into his second or is it third term because of May's snap election. So far he's been hard to get hold of and winds locals up when he does turn up. He's lucky there's enough people living there who would vote for a wheelie bin with his colour rosette! If vote for such a candidate over him too!

I now get the OP's venting spleen thing now. It feels good. :wink:

HobbesOnTour
Posts: 359
Joined: 20 Feb 2017, 5:12pm

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby HobbesOnTour » 24 Jul 2019, 9:57am

Tangled Metal wrote:If course there's obnoxious people on forums and real life.. Not sure who the obnoxious people are in this thread so I guess the idea that if you can't sort the trait in others it must be in you applies here.



For the sake of clarity, I referred to online forums - not this forum, nor this thread.

The point I was trying to make, and clearly failed, was that direct, personal contact as opposed to email and other electronic contact is probably more effective.

Tangled Metal
Posts: 5400
Joined: 13 Feb 2015, 8:32pm

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby Tangled Metal » 24 Jul 2019, 10:26am

HobbesOnTour wrote:
Tangled Metal wrote:If course there's obnoxious people on forums and real life.. Not sure who the obnoxious people are in this thread so I guess the idea that if you can't sort the trait in others it must be in you applies here.



For the sake of clarity, I referred to online forums - not this forum, nor this thread.

The point I was trying to make, and clearly failed, was that direct, personal contact as opposed to email and other electronic contact is probably more effective.

Aah! I did wonder. It confused me because I didn't see obnoxious in this thread.

User avatar
RickH
Posts: 4437
Joined: 5 Mar 2012, 6:39pm
Location: Horwich, Lancs.

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby RickH » 24 Jul 2019, 9:01pm

What we write & the tone we are using in our head as we write it is not always the tone in the reader's head as they read it!

The color of irony
A light hearted suggestion to avoid misunderstanding the tone a message is written in.

Carlton green
Posts: 126
Joined: 22 Jun 2019, 12:27pm

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby Carlton green » 25 Jul 2019, 8:32am

I’m a member of a few forums covering my hobbies and interests. One feature that I have noticed is quite loud voices from the left of politics, sometimes they are blunt and aggressive too. Without intent to criticise anyone posting here one should be mindful of what you can usefully say in different circumstances. By way of rough example a Man City supporter wearing his team’s colours could expect to receive a hostile welcome from Man United supporters. I would suggest that when writing to one’s MP one considers ways to make the message not unacceptable to them, and that Cycling U.K. would prefer you to stick to or very near to their own (diplomatic) approach.

I note that the MP’s letter makes reference to his Surgeries and wonder whether careful face to face conversations might work better and if so who the best local cyclists to attend such a meeting might be? Certainly (IMHO) a conciliatory response from the OP to the MP wouldn’t be inappropriate - well not if the intent is to move cycling forward. Interestingly the MP’s letter mentions the conflicting views of his other constituents; as individuals on forums we often forget or ignore what others think but to do so is, I think, not wise.

To my mind it would be a pity if the OP stopped his campaigning and better if he learned from the experience instead. Everyone makes mistakes and errors of judgement - I’ve certainly made plenty - but what matters most is how we put things right and how we learn from what we have previously done (and hence change our actions).

Finally I’d like to thank Simon for sharing his experience. The original post and thread are something that I have found helpful to learn from, and no doubt others can take something useful from it all too.

pq
Posts: 964
Joined: 12 Nov 2007, 11:41pm
Location: St Antonin Noble Val, France
Contact:

Re: MP's reply to additional comments to recent Cycling UK form letter.

Postby pq » 30 Jul 2019, 1:26pm

Well at least he read your letter and responded. My MP has a secretary deal with letters on his behalf, so all I ever get is whatever standard letter seems most appropriate to whatever subject I've raised. I always respond, pointing out that he's addressed none of the points I raised, but that's ignored. Safe seat unfortunately, so he couldn't care less what I think.
One link to your website is enough. G