Open letter to Simon Hughes, MP

Cross-posted from the BioLOG.

Dear Simon

Thank you for signing Early Day Motion 767. This implies you support continued (if not increased) public funding of scientific research, along with many of your colleagues in the Coalition. Today we learned that your science funding has been ring-fenced for the next four years. While I am happy that science funding has not borne the brunt of the CSR’s bad news, it is disappointing that your administration has not seen fit to invest in an area proven to deliver economic growth.

But that is not why I am writing today. I helped organize the Science is Vital campaign, which saw over two thousand scientists and their supporters demonstrating outside the Treasury on Saturday 9 October. We arranged a lobby of Parliament and filled Committee Room 10 with over 100 constituents and some two dozen MPs. More MPs sent representatives. We delivered a petition of nearly 34,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street two days later. I wrote to you asking if you would care to meet me at the lobby–as did at least one other member of your constituency. We filed a green card to let you know we were there. You did not turn up, nor even have the grace to send a message.

Now, I know that Vince Cable was speaking to the House at that time. We waited until questions had finished, waited until the chamber had emptied. You, I am told by somebody who saw you, met with other members of your party in the committee room next door–yet you did not attempt to meet me.

I also wrote to you last May, about libel reform. You didn’t respond to that letter either. But you did send me a Christmas card. I’m not quite sure what to make of that.

Do your other constituents wait in vain for a response from you on matters important to them? Do they, like me, make the effort to come to Parliament to talk to you (taking time away from their own work or family or leisure), only to be ignored, without being offered even the most basic courtesy? A message that you were unavoidably detained would at least have signalled you were aware of my existence.

There is no room for complacency in democracy. If the people of a constituency feel that their MP no longer represents them, they will replace that MP with somebody else. This is not merely their right, but their duty. And the lesson I have learned from the Science is Vital campaign is that in a democracy, determined groups of quite unlikely citizens have extraordinary power.

Yours sincerely

Richard P. Grant

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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