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Dissent and Disagreement

This quick blog is to thank all the people who have been in touch about the extension of UK air strikes against Daesh. Not just those members and other local people who supported my final decision to support the air strikes, but also all who respectfully disagreed.

It is inevitable that not everyone will agree with the choices I have to make on behalf of all constituents. There are more than 100,000 people living in Bermondsey and Old Southwark, and almost 90,000 voters. Part of my role is to reflect the views and needs of everyone. My local Labour membership has reached almost 1,500 which is excellent. If every member gave me their divergent views I'd still not have heard from 1.5% of constituents. The idea appearing recently of 'deputised' votes or MPs as delegates for local parties does not take this into account. MPs must reflect their whole communities, not just fractions of them.

 

More importantly, where disagreements occur it is important to remain respectful of difference. We're not an authoritarian state and are able to hold contrasting views without society collapsing. Most people reflected this in their correspondence with me since the vote:

 

However, a tiny minority were unable to express themselves without resorting to vile threats and abuse. This flared up on Wednesday and Thursday in particular, with a knife threat on Twitter peaking media interest but other threats arriving via Facebook and including from a handful of local people.

 

My responsibility is towards my staff, volunteers and constituents seeking to see me. I have helped 4,000 people since May and don't intend to become introverted or inaccessible as a result of threats. Sadly, the police attended my surgery on Friday morning in case anyone attempted to attack. That should not be a necessary use of their time when we know we've lost 200 police officers and PCSOs since 2010 in Southwark. The police are taking additional measures to improve security for my team in Southwark, but hopefully things will now calm down and I can continue with the job.

 

 Below are a selection of some of the emails I have received from constituents, Party Members and those further afield

"Thank you for your email. I was saddened to hear that you have you had physical threats in regard to your 'yes' vote. Such behaviour should not be accepted in a democratic society."

"I respect your decision although I do not agree with it.
I hope you will be as good as your word and hold the government and parliament to account on the issues you raise below."

"Thank you for this full, and most thoughtful, response.  I really appreciate that you shared how you have come to a most difficult decision with your constituents.  I am so sorry to hear that people have been aggressive but you will know that that is a tiny minority."

"I would just like to say that as a Southwark constituent your have my full support over your decision to vote in favour taking action in Syria. I think it is a principled and brave thing to do.  It is disgraceful that you have been subjected to threats and abuse and even sadder to think it may be labour supporters who are doing it. Let’s hope these people are caught and punished appropriately as soon as possible."

 

"Just saw the story in the Huffington Post about the death threat. I am a local member and volunteer often. Just to say that although I don't agree with your vote, you have my full support and I will continue to assist you in any way I can.
I am sure I speak for all of us at the CLP when I say we are right behind you all the way, through thick and thin, rain or shine."

"I am one of your constituents and  a Labour Party associate member.  I just wanted to send you a message of support for the way you voted in the Syria vote. I understand that it was a very difficult decision and I agree with you that the right thing to do is to rid ourselves of the evil that is Daesh."

 

"me and my girlfriend are long time labour supporters and unfortunately we were also at the bataclan on the 13th of November.

I know people have been sending you a stream of abuse for your stand on air strikes in Syria. I just wanted to tell you I'm incredibly proud of the stand you took and I think it was incredibly brave of you to stand with your convictions. The people doing this to you are ill informed cowards and don't represent the views of the vast majority of real labour supporters.
Stay strong you did the right thing and thank you for representing people like me."

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