Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Apparent misuse of Parliamentary facilities

Whenever I have a large pile of post built up whilst I have been away, I go through it to open the hand written envelopes first. There was a very large pile of post waiting for me when I got home for the weekend and in it were plenty of handwritten envelopes. It was shortly after midnight on Sunday morning when I opened them.

Letters from constituents and lots of petition replies. But it was the last one I opened that most caught my attention. It was a letter from Dave Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon, the constituency where I live in Gateshead. At first I was a bit surprised that Mr Anderson should be writing to me. "Dear Friend" it started. And then went on to talk about the Labour leadership contest, how Labour needed to remain united and his hopes for a 4th election win for Labour.

It may have been because I had had a long day working on Focuses and campaigning but the cogs in my brain were not working at full speed. Why, I thought to myself again, would this political opponent be writing to me on House of Commons headed notepaper about internal Labour matters? But the penny dropped when I looked again in the envelope in which the letter arrived. There I found a used House of Commons prepaid first class envelope with the recipients address cut off. Someone had anaoymously sent me a letter from Mr Anderson that was meant only for Labour members or supporters.

I read the next paragraph of the letter in which there was an appeal for people to help Labour candidates in the local elections in May. Mr Anderson took the opportunity to attack opposition councillors in the constituency ( who are Lib Dems - there are no Conservatives here). According to Mr Anderson, we are all "second rate" and people do not deserve to be represented by us!

Well, my understanding is that Parliamentary stationery and mail should not be used for party political purposes. And I phoned Norman Lamb on Sunday morning to check my understanding was correct. The person in the Labour party who sent me this presumably believes I am well suited to ensure an investigation takes place into a possible misuse of Parliamentary facilities! So I sent it to the Serjeant at Arms who confirmed that it would be looked into.

Understandably, a matter of such public interest wasn't going to stay out of the media for long! It was in both the Journal and the Evening Chronicle today. A member phoned me tonight in Cowley Street to tell me she had read about it in the Chronicle. I'll see it tonight myself when I get home (I'm on the train to Newcastle now.)

I wonder what else awaits in my mailbag when I get home!?

Sent via BlackBerry

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