Mar. 7th, 2010 04:59 pm
duncan: (downwiththissortofthing)
Last weekend I went to see Oxford West and Abingdon MP Evan Harris talk at Skeptics in the Pub, where one of the subjects he brought up was homeopathy. Afterwards I had a chat with him about EDM 908, where some rather silly MPs are gathering to support homeopathy being available on the NHS.

According to Evan Harris, many MPs will sign pretty much any EDM that more than one of their constituents writes to them in support of. I assume this is the excuse he'd give for seven of his Liberal Democrat colleagues having signed EDM 908.

This means it is crucial to inform your MP not just when there is something they should sign, but also when there is something they really really shouldn't. You could save your MP the embarrassment of joining what Ben Goldacre recently referred to as a convenient one-stop list of parliament's most scientifically ignorant MPs

My MP never signs any EDMs, so I didn't need to mention it to him in this letter I just sent via WriteToThem.

Dear Andrew Smith,

I am writing to you today on the subject of homeopathy. As I am sure you will be aware, the Commons Science and Technology Committee has recently published a report titled 'Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy' (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/45/45.pdf). This report concludes that there is no evidence that homeopathy works beyond the placebo effect. In fact, it goes further and states that the question of whether homeopathy works is settled, that there is no point in wasting resources on further trials, and that it would be unethical to put patients through such trials rather than giving them real treatments.

In these times of reduced means, it is important that the NHS spends our money on treatments that are known to work. But more importantly, any NHS involvement in homeopathy lends this frankly ridiculous pseudo-medicine credibility, and may well confuse patients into doing things like taking homeopathic 'remedies' instead of vaccinations.

Please encourage the government to accept the report in full and implement all of its recommendations.

Yours sincerely,

Duncan Parkes
duncan: (downwiththissortofthing)
Dear Andrew Smith,

As I am sure you are aware, it was announced today that the BBC proposes to close the 6music digital radio station by at the latest 2013.

Closing 6music would be a catastrophe for the UK music industry. 6music is the only UK radio station which gives any significant exposure to new and unsigned bands: it has no commercial competitor. It is the radio station listened to by music connoisseurs, and musicians themselves, and the effects of it closing would extend far beyond its direct audience. The people who search out new music and start the ball rolling by recommending it to others listen to 6music.

This issue directly impacts on Oxford East since Oxford has a vibrant music scene and many local bands have had their first real national exposure on 6music. We need this channel to help unknown bands get their first chance to show the world what they can do: this is definitely the kind of public service the BBC should provide.

I know you never sign EDMs, but please take a look at the content of EDM 963 as proposed by Tom Watson, and use any influence you can to help keep 6music going.

Thanks for your help, yours sincerely,

Duncan Parkes

PS BBC Asian Network is also scheduled to close at the same time. This is not a station I personally know about or have strong feelings for, but I'm sure its loss will affect many of your constituents, and you might like to raise its case too.
duncan: (downwiththissortofthing)
I have my first electoral leaflet of the upcoming parliamentary election, so I thought I'd share some thoughts about it on here with anyone who cares to listen. You can find my photos of the leaflet at The Straight Choice.

The most striking thing about this leaflet is that it is full of attacks on the Liberal Democrats (perhaps not surprisingly, as Oxford East is a Labour/LibDem marginal). The bulk of the attacks are on the third page, under the heading DANGER - what LibDem-Tory savage cuts would mean. This, as you might expect, is full of half-truths and misrepresentation.

Picture of the leaflet containing the quotes referred to.

Firstly, we have the following:

But two shocking reports by the thinktank Reform show what savage cuts on this scale would mean. They recommend sacking 1 million frontline public sector workers such as teachers, police officers and nurses, as well as taking winter fuel payments, free bus passes and even privatising the state pension, and axing child benefit from middle income families

Who recommends this, I wonder? Does Reform recommend it? I seriously doubt they can point me to a statement from either the Tories or the Liberal Democrats saying that they plan on cutting teachers, police officers and nurses. This is deliberately pretending something made up by Reform is Conservative and Liberal Democrat policy. Expect a lot more of this tactic from Labour in this campaign.

There is an assortment of other nonsense here in the same vein, such as Tory MPs called for tax breaks for bad landlords. I assume the Tories plan on assessing all landlords and only giving tax breaks to the bad ones.

The biggest lie here though, and probably the most important one, concerns what the Liberal Democrats would do in the event of a hung parliament:

...newspaper reports suggest that the Lib Dems are planning to prop up a Tory government if there is no overall winner at the General Election.

Not only is this from the wonderfully reliable source newspaper reports, but it also fails to mention something that is abundantly clear even from the small collection of newspaper headlines they themselves picture. From The Sun:

He [Nick Clegg] has vowed to support David Cameron if the Tories win most seats in a hung parliament.

That's right: the Liberal Democrats have said that they will probably work with whoever has the most seats in the event of a hung parliament. The LibDems are at this point no more supporting the Tories than they are supporting Labour. It's important for Labour in Oxford East to try to make out that the Tories and the LibDems are in cahoots - this is a Labour/LibDem marginal, and they want to pretend that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is effectively supporting the Tories.

PS Amusingly, if you look carefully at the small print at the bottom of this leaflet, you will see that it was Printed by (INSERT DETAILS HERE)
duncan: (Default)
Ever wondered about all those photos in election leaflets? Well over on Newspeak they've done a little research on the internet, and it turns out that in this leaflet from the BNP which came through my door last week all the photos are from IStockPhoto.

The builders are from Oregon, the Doctor was taken in the US in 2006, the pensioners are called Deanna and Mario and are Italian, and even the Spitfire on the front is Polish. None of these people or flying machines are going to be voting BNP.

In fact the only image on the leaflet which is genuine is the family on the front cover: apparently that's Nick Cass, 2nd on the BNP list of candidates for Yorks & Humber in the forthcoming European Elections.
duncan: (Default)
The first really offensive leaflet of the current election campaign tries to divide our local community by demonizing a minority group who live in the area. To quote from the leaflet:

"Its[sic] a disgrace how common vandalism to car wing mirrors and wipers is. We will work with Brookes to ensure that the university has its porters out on the streets to prevent this happening..."

There is substantially more of this offensive nonsense. This leaflet tries to blame students from Brookes University for all the local crime. I would be interested to see what evidence these idiots have that students are responsible for vandalism to car wing mirrors. It feels like the students are getting the blame for all the litter in the area as well.

That some of the students are having better parties than the rest of us and are sometimes slightly noisy is probably fair, but the rest of this is just a cynical attempt to try to turn the local community against a minority for political gain. Saj Malik, Hussain Manzoor, and everyone in the Oxford Labour Party should be ashamed of themselves.

Update (28th May)

Today I got another leaflet from Saj Malik and Hussain Manzoor, and it contained their phone numbers, so I thought I'd give Mr Malik a chance to explain himself. Apparently, the quote above isn't accusing the students of anything. When I pointed out that it quite obviously is, and he said I would have to draw my own conclusions. I have, and so should you.
duncan: (Default)
Some of the guys from mySociety have set up a website thestraightchoice.org where you can upload photographs or scans of the election leaflets which you receive.

The idea is to make a public record which everyone can see of as many as possible of the flood of leaflets that come through our doors. We can then reference this in the future and make sure that the politicians are doing what they said they would.

I'm going to be uploading and tagging all the leaflets that come through my door, and I hope you'll join in too!


duncan: (Default)

March 2010

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