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You wouldn't go to a Whitehall department, because Whitehall is even more hermetically sealed against the public than Westminster is. Tell the Department of Whatever that you don't like what they're doing and they will laugh in your face.

The idea is that you go to your MP because your MP is allowed to deal with the relevant authorities, while you most certainly aren't.

Local councillors are mid-way between the two. They get some local power over local issues, but they still have to defer to Whitehall and Westminster on most issues.

So it's actually easier to talk to an MP because s/he will be one point of contact and can find the correct pressure point. If you try to find that point yourself you're more likely to end up being bounced from one place to another, with no one taking an responsibility - never mind bothering to answer your letters and emails.

Metaphorically, people in the UK are subjects, not citizens, and the political environment still reflects that.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:26:57 PM EST
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I suppose, then, that electing an independent MP isn't actually an improvement.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:33:34 PM EST
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Nope, utterly useless.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 05:39:05 PM EST
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The largest cracks seem to be in local council elections. People mostly don't care who gets elected and don't see them as important - turnouts are reliably low. So if - hypothetically - a group of people decided to infiltrate one of the major parties and make the lists, it would be a lot easier to make a difference than in almost any other way.

The media and academic battle is still the most important one, I think. Think tanks and consultancies are far more influential than MPs or councillors are. With the right leverage you can make a far bigger difference with far less effort, time or money.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 07:18:34 PM EST
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The European Parliament elections also have reliably low turnouts, but the constituencies are much larger so a much larger number of votes are needed to get elected (for instance, 160k votes in London), and the number of candidates is much smaller so the parties have an opportunity to exercise much more control over the shortlists.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:02:33 AM EST
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... people in the UK are subjects, not citizens ...

Great quote, I'm going to steal that and use it out of context. ;)

by Number 6 on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:20:59 AM EST
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