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Of the People, For the People...(?)


From Rachel, comes the rather disturbing story of one Charles Clarke MP. Home Secretary Clarke was in his Norwich constituency recently talking to constituents, who happened to inclued her father in the crowd. Ill copy the rest here, do read it.

My dad, who is a parish priest and honorary Canon, read my draft article on Forgiveness ('The F-word') last night, and it so happened that he was going to to a clergy meeting this morning at Norwich Cathedral where the special guest was the Home Secretary Charles Clarke .

Clarke is my father's MP.

Clarke, in his speech to the assembled clergy, made much of the fact that he had spoken to the PM ''only yesterday'' and the PM was at the time considering the problem of an angry Sedgefield constituent about the closure of a school. Clarke remarked upon this system of top executives still being MPs and responsible to their constituents, how unusual this was compared to most Parliamentary systems. You lucky people, even though I am the Home Secretary, I am still also your M.P and here to help with all your little problems and enquiries. Etc.

He didn't actually say ' you lucky people'', Dad said, but that was the inference. Dad was pleased that he could finally ask his M.P, Charles Clarke, the question he has been keen to ask for some months. Dad waited eagerly to ask his question; he had already written to Clarke in December 2005 with his question. But Clarke had not replied.

Dad was therefore very keen to be part of what was advertised in the meeting notes as ''30 minutes of reflection'' after Clarke spoke. (In these meetings, ''30 minutes of reflection''means ''30 minutes of debate''. But it a clergy meeting, so they all ''reflect'', rather than shout and argue. It's more dignified and godly, see. )

Unusually, according to Dad, on this occasion there was not a debate and questions from the floor, as is usual with these meetings at which Clarke was the special guest today: there were instead only 3 questions which Clarke answered at length, the questions seemed to Dad to be pre-prepared to give Clarke an opportunity to talk about things like prisons and police in a self-congratulatory way.

Dad was not able to ask his question, the last question finished and it was announced that there would be Eucharist in 2 minutes. Dad was very angry that ''the Eucharist was being used as a filibuster.'' And still he had not had a chance to ask the question that was by now burning him up inside. It was time to break bread together; people began to leave the room.

My father tells me he at this point left his seat and strode up to Clarke, because he wanted to ask his question, and he said,

''Congratulations on fixing the meeting so that nobody can ask questions! You will have heard about Rev Julie Nicholson who is so angry she cannot forgive the bombers who killed her daughter on 7th July , well, I have a question, my daughter was feet away from the 7/7 Kings Cross bomb, and she and some other surivors have said they are not angry with the bombers, but with the Government, because there was no public enquiry. Why is there no public enquiry?''

Charles Clarke looked at my father ''in a very nasty way'', and then he said to my father

'' Get away from me, I will not be insulted by you, this is an insult'.

And he stormed past, and Dad was so upset he could not share Eucharist with this man,

and my father left the cathedral in despair.

Dad has cheered up a bit now, but he was almost in tears at being so insulted by Clarke when I spoke to him: he did not think he had insulted Clarke at all.

Why is it an insult when the father of a bomb survivor, a gentle man of God, who has never caused trouble in his life, asks for a public enquiry? Why is his question not answered?

You can write and ask Charles Clarke yourself, but I do not expect he will trouble to reply. If he does, can you leave a comment in my blog? My father , and I , and many other people would very much like to hear his answer.

While Clarkes action is by no means a gauge of the attitude of all or even any politicians, it does say something about the sorry and disconnected state of some Democracies when representatives feel aggrieved at having to answer to constituents in an open fashion and not just behind the privacy of the ballot. I worry that Clarke's attitude is part of a wider pattern of attitudes in the political class that sees itself as the Guardian elite rather than at the employment of the people.

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  1. Anonymous Mark Waters | 9:45 a.m. |  

    Willie O'Dea on Q&A last night answering the criticisms of the President of the Secondary School pupils union in effect said he should shut up and be happy with the quality of education he's getting.

    The conversation trailed off as Willie started to reminisce about the standard of education "in my day".

    Lucky for us Willie overcame these early handicaps and look where he is today.

    It just goes to show that anyone can grow up to be Minister of Defence. Hold on to that dream.

  2. Blogger Cian | 12:11 p.m. |  

    Yeah i spotted him getting misty eyed for the past and annoyed when the secondary students union reps kept giving him crap.
    Its clear that the bubble our politicians tend to live in keeps them from justifing their action to the people rather than the likes of Bowman. It seems to offend them when people speak up. Not all of them mind, but ones who have spent a while in government are rumoured to be worse.

  3. Anonymous Mark Waters | 3:09 p.m. |  

    Recent appointees Roche and O'Dea behave as if ministerial appointment has given them some superior wisdom and insight that they were not previously privy to.
    It's as if the Holy Spirit descended on them and gave them the gift of speaking in tongues.

    Except that it didn't.

  4. Blogger Cian | 3:25 p.m. |  

    Roche is particularly bad, he seems like a university professor who has descended to the realm of mere mortals.
    Its a serious deficiency in most democratic states that the political class come to see themselves as beknighted by the holy spirit privelaged in their knowledge.
    The need for greater public participation is clear when men of not too great ability come to see themselves as beyond reproach.

  5. Blogger Rachel | 8:19 p.m. |  

    Thank you for the link and the support,

    best wishes


  6. Blogger Cian | 8:25 p.m. |  

    Abolutely you deserve answers especially from your politicians-they work for you.

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