My long-term readers may recall something I wrote in November 2003 about an eccentric misrepresentation committed by then MP Anne Campbell in her constituency propaganda. To refresh your memory, she published this plot of her election majority over time,
unaccountably omitting the much larger majority she won in 1997. As I pointed out, a more honest version of the graph would have looked like this,
creating an altogether different impression of the trend she was trying to depict.
Some time ago one of her other constituents emailed her to ask why she thought this sort of thing acceptable. A copy of her answer came into my possession. I wouldn't usually publish such correspondence -- and I do so here without the permission of either party -- but in my view an MP's opinions of her constituents are a matter of legitimate public interest, as is dishonest propaganda. So here we go: (my comments are interspersed with the text)
The idea that the graphic is misleading is astonishing and could only have been insinuated in the way that it has by a LD supporter which I am sure Chris Witter is.
Note here (a) the slightly surprising confusion of the URL of my web log and my name; (b) the bald, certain and quite wrong claim about my political affiliation. Regarding the latter I am reminded somewhat of a story -- recounted, I think, in one of John Simpson's volumes of autobiography -- of Brian Redhead interviewing Nigel Lawson, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the Today Programme. In response to some difficult question other Lawson blurted out, ``You're only saying that because you vote Labour.''
Redhead calmly turned off Lawson's microphone and said, to the listening nation, ``We will now have thirty seconds' silence in which you can reflect upon the enormity of claiming to know how I vote in a secret ballot, and the nation can reflect upon the failure of your economic policies.''
We continue from culumny to irrelevance:
Is he implying that I am somehow ashamed of my 1997 majority and that a large majority in 1997 somehow diminishes a very healthy majority in 2001. If anyone should be trying to hide the 1997 result it is the LDs who did worse in 1997 than they have done for many years.
-- and from irrelevance to sophistry, and on to dishonesty:
I did promise to vote against top-up fees in 1997 and I did - immediately after the election when the government legislated to prevent universities from charging top-up or variable fees. I repeated the promise in 2001 and I am saying the same thing now, even though the government appear to have changed their minds. I have been wholly consistent.
I wrote a clarification on this point back in 2003. I had said `top-up fees' when I meant `tuition fees'. Anne, also, was apparently confused on this point. In 1997 she promised that ``Labour will not allow universities to introduce tuition fees''; yet in 1998 she did not vote against the Teaching and Higher Education Act which brought in tuition fees; nor did she even back this rebel amendment which would have satisfied her commitment to a ``new system of financial support [i.e., grants] [which would] ensure that students have enough to live on while studying.''
I don't understand why Parties do this kind of thing except of course, that occasionally people do get taken in by it. I do have a higher opinion of the Cambridge electorate.
I close with a picture of Anne as she chose to be depicted in a recent issue of Anne Campbell Reports, under the headline, ``Safer and Cleaner Streets'':