I believe very strongly in participating in politics. Well maybe I should say "participating in discussions about society". I think what you write on Twitter and Facebook and blog about are very powerful actions and help shape society.

I was prompted by Avaaz to email my MP about the current refugee crisis. It's something I feel very strongly about, so I put rather more effort than usual into these emails.

I hope I had some impact on David, but ultimately I was surprised and a bit disappointed that he simply gave up discussing the point so quickly. He didn't try to counter my objections with any statistics or evidence. Which is a shame.

I ultimately came away with the impression that David is a very standard Conservative-party-line MP, with not much independence. As TheyWorkForYou puts it, he:

Consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
Consistently voted for replacing Trident with a new nuclear weapons system
David Mackintosh never rebelled against their party in this parliament

In case anyone else is interested I'm publishing the emails below (as well as on gist.github.com here, here and here).


Me to David: I am ashamed of the government

On Tue, 8 September 2015 at 10:39
From: "Robin Winslow" <[email protected]>
To: "David Mackintosh MP" <[email protected]>

Dear David Mackintosh,

I am ashamed of our government's response to the refugee crisis.

The UK is lagging far behind all other wealthy EU nations in their commitment to sheltering refugees of the Syrian crisis. I am aware that David Cameron recently stated that the UK will take 20,000 migrants over the next 5 years, but this is still a tiny drop in the ocean and pales in comparison to the response from other EU nations: Germany let 20,000 migrants into the country this weekend alone.

I have also heard the rationale from the government: that Syria needs to keep its skilled workers nearby; that we shouldn't be encouraging people to make the dangerous journey etc.. I don't agree with this position at all. I believe it's a position born out of a xenophobic desire not to welcome Syrians and others, and an arrogant belief that our government knows whether people genuinely need to flee the area better than the people themselves do.

I was very impressed by David Miliband's comments about the crisis. As CEO of the International Rescue Committee he gave a clear and non-partisan explanation of why Britain has a responsibility to do more.

I not only believe that the UK isn't doing enough to support the rest of the EU in this crisis, I also believe that the EU itself should be doing a lot more - starting with revoking EU directive 2001/51/EC as mentioned in a video by Dr. Hans Rosling.

Therefore I urge you to encourage the Prime Minister and the cabinet to massively expand the UK's commitment to assisting in this refugee crisis. Until they do I will continue to feel deeply ashamed of Britain's role in the international community.

Yours in deepest sincerity,
Robin Winslow Morris

David to me: They're not all refugees

On Tue, 8 Sep 2015 at 15:56
From: "David Mackintosh MP" <[email protected]>
To: "Robin Winslow" <[email protected]>

Dear Mr Winslow,

Thank you for contacting about me about the humanitarian crisis happening in the Mediterranean. These photos that we are seeing on the news are clearly shocking.

I believe that the present situation in the Mediterranean is intolerable. Gangs are profiting from the misery of their fellow humans, selling them false promises before loading them on to dangerous vessels and sending them, in many cases, to their deaths.

This problem is not new but it is growing. It demands a clear response from European nations, and if we are to stop it, we must adopt the right approach. We cannot do anything which encourages more people to make these perilous journeys - or which makes it easier for the gangs responsible for their misery. That is why the UK will not participate in a mandatory system of resettlement or relocation. The UK has now sent the Royal Navy's flagship, HMS Bulwark, along with three Merlin helicopters and two border patrol ships.

I do think that in providing support to address the immediate situation, we have to make sure we are not doing anything to make the problem worse. We must distinguish between those genuinely fleeing persecution and economic migrants crossing the Mediterranean in the hope of a better life. While the UK has a proud tradition of providing refuge for those who need it, we must not provide new incentives for those simply seeking to come for economic reasons.

The EU should work to establish safe landing sites in North Africa, underpinned by an active programme of returns. We should use military, intelligence and crime-fighting assets to deliver search and rescue mechanisms, and also to crack down on the traffickers who are putting people at risk.

As well as this, we are working to stop the problem at source, such as pledging £900 million in aid to support refugees from the Syrian crisis. In addition to this financial support, we have granted protection to almost 5,000 Syrians since the crisis began and continue to tackle the organised trafficking gangs seeking to profit from this human misery.

As I have said, not all those trying to cross the Mediterranean are refugees who I believe should be prioritised for help and, for those who are not refugees, we need to slow down their travel through transit countries, encourage them to return to their country of origin, if safe to do so, or help them make their countries safe so they can build a better life in their homes rather than trying to make the dangerous journey to Europe.

I was in the House of Commons chamber yesterday for the Prime Minister's statement in which the Government announced that the United Kingdom will help 20,000 Syrian refugees fleeing so-called Islamic State. I will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Best wishes,

David

David Mackintosh MP Conservative Member of Parliament for Northampton South

Me to David: Do you have any sources?

On Wed, 9 Sep 2015 at 14:11
From: "Robin Winslow" <[email protected]>
To: "David Mackintosh MP" <[email protected]>

Hi David

I am not very satisfied with your response to my letter for a few reasons highlighted below:

I believe that the present situation in the Mediterranean is intolerable. Gangs are profiting from the misery of their fellow humans, selling them false promises before loading them on to dangerous vessels and sending them, in many cases, to their deaths.

I agree that the way in which migrants and refugees have to make the journey to Europe are dangerous. To be honest I don't think the profit the "gangs" are making is the biggest issue, except where it causes harm to people. Given that it is definitely causing harm to people, your focus should be on providing safer methods for refugees and migrants to make it to Europe. This is where EU directive 2001/51/EC that I mentioned is relevant: If the government really cared about this perilous journey, they should be making sure that refugees and migrants who feel the need to leave the area are able to fly or use other safer methods of transport, rather than forcing them to take deadly illegal boats.

We must distinguish between those genuinely fleeing persecution and economic migrants crossing the Mediterranean in the hope of a better life. ... we must not provide new incentives for those simply seeking to come for economic reasons. As I have said, not all those trying to cross the Mediterranean are refugees

You seem very worried about accidentally helping people who aren't technically refugees. Do you have any sources for estimating the comparative numbers - how many of the 3,000 people currently living in tents in Calais, for example, are not technically refugees? It seems to me that if well over half are in fact refugees, as I believe them to be, then it is simply inhumane to put off helping them for the fear of accidentally helping others.

I also don't accept as self-evident, as you seem to, your statement that "we must not provide new incentives for those simply seeking to come for economic reasons". There is no solid evidence that migrants put an undue economic strain on the country. Migrants from the middle-east would never be able to make use of UK benefits without being officially registered anyway. If someone is willing to risk their life to take the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, they clearly have a pretty keen need for a better life, regardless of whether they are technically a refugee.

I urge you again, as my representative in parliament, please do what you can to encourage the government to massively increase the UK response to the crisis, in particular by allowing an order of magnitude more refugees and migrants from the middle-east to enter the UK.

Sincerely,
Robin

David to me: This is clearly something we disagree on

On Wed, 9 Sep 2015 at 20:26
From: "David Mackintosh MP" <[email protected]>
To: "Robin Winslow" <[email protected]>

Dear Mr Winslow,

Thank you for your email. I'm sorry you are not happy with my response but this is clearly something we disagree on how we approach this. Thank you for letting me know your views.

Best wishes
David

Me to David: You're probably right

On Thu, 10 Sep 2015 at 00:26
From: "Robin Winslow" <[email protected]>
To: "David Mackintosh MP" <[email protected]>

Hi David

I guess you're probably right. Thanks for replying all the same.

Kind regards, Robin