The following is the email I sent to my MP, Don Foster regarding the DRIP Bill. Left here for posterity.
Dear Mr Foster
Over many years I’ve heard the lament from politicians that we, the electorate, have become unduly cynical. A cynicism that reached it’s apex with Russel Brand’s declaration that he had never voted, never would, and his encouragement of others to do the same. I strongly disagree with him, but it is a position that is becoming increasingly hard for me to argue against because of the decisions made by governments of all colours over the last decade or so.
From Labour’s decision to start a war in Iraq despite massive public opposition, to the breaking of strong manifesto pledges after the last election (tuition fees and the Tories’ pledge of “no top down reorganisation of the NHS” being prime amongst them), the major political parties have reinforced the perception that they hold the British electorate and their views in contempt, that democracy is merely a series of five-yearly popularity contests, between which they can do whatever they like with no regard to what they may have promised in the past, or the views of those who, like myself, supported them. Anything, no matter how counter to a party’s principals it may be, seems to be allowed under the arguments of expediency, necessity or emergency.
This week you will be confirming the worst suspicions of the cynics and deeply disappointing those of us who still have some faith in our democratic system by voting for the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill without adequate scrutiny. Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of DRIP, the fact that MPs are prepared to pass legislation of this kind with so little consideration and open debate will convince many that you regard the British people with the same contempt with which they increasingly view you.
I am resigned to the fact that barring an extraordinary u-turn DRIPB will be passed without opposition. However I would strongly urge you to vote to amend the sunset clause to six months rather than the current two and a half years.
Such an amendment would demonstrate that both elected MPs and unelected Peers at least understand the importance of this bill and the significant levels of concern and distrust about it’s purpose, execution and presentation. It would demonstrate that you understand the deep unease many feel about the hasty and secretive manner in which this bill was prepared and in which it will be voted for.
All the parties have agreed to the principal that the legislation should be re-examined at a later date, but there is no good reason to wait until December 2016. Many will see the distant sunset date as a cynical attempt to kick it into the long grass. This small but significant change would go a long way in convincing people that MPs still value our democracy, and that the parliamentary process is more than just a rubber-stamping exercise.