Earlier this week, I published James Duddridge’s reply to my letter about his expense claims. His reply, almost two months in the drafting, is entirely unremarkable, being exactly the combination of ‘Not up to me, guv”, and disinterest of a safe-seat Tory that I had expected.
I’m still debating whether to take his suggestion and write to IPSA about how I don’t think it’s acceptable for my MP to spend nearly £12k of my money on London hotels and apartments because he doesn’t want to make the same commute which I make on a daily basis. I can’t decide if it would be better to be ignored by a civil servant than my elected representative.
But James’ lacklustre and disappointing response aside, he has shown a worrying aversion to actually engaging in discussion. I’m not, generally, rude, and I don’t think I have been in this situation. And yet, for some reason, the MP for Rochford & Southend East, my MP, has blocked me on Twitter.
If this seems like a fairly minor issue, then yes, that’s because it is. Blocking someone on Twitter is almost a non-event. Except that, when you consider why James has blocked me, it feels a bit aloof, a bit unaccountable, a bit arrogant.
Since the Echo broke the story of James’ expenses, I have been trying to get some comment from him on Twitter. I’m not alone, other constituents have been equally trying to elicit a response. There is a real sense that he needs to recognise the strength of feeling on this issue. I have been repeatedly questioning him, without ire or malice, though it did needle a little when (at the same time as he was drafting his non-response and refusing to engage with the public over his expenses) James was spouting the below:
To be honest, I’m finding it hard even to get angry. I don’t believe that he can be ignorant of the strength of feeling over his expenses claims. Not only this recent episode, but back in the midst of the expenses scandal, when he promised to publish all of his receipts (Yeah, what happened to that, James? -Ed). That sense of betrayal from five years ago hasn’t gone away. And if he isn’t ignorant of the strength of feeling, then I have to conclude he just doesn’t care.
Yes, I’m an opposing activist. Yes, you could say I’m bound to criticise him. But to not even offer a statement, to just ignore the issue altogether… I challenge even a Conservative supporter to justify it.
James Duddridge has climbed the ladder. He was elected in a safe seat, to which he feels he needs devote no time or effort. He has obeyed the Conservative whip until he was tossed a junior ministerial position. Despite his protestations, James Duddridge isn’t “#workingforyou”. He is self-evidently “#workingforhimself”, and Southend deserves better.