I read today that a newly elected Conservative Member of the UK Parliament asked for his email address to be removed from certain sites, despite him freely handing it out during the election period. I’m writing about this because it is very familiar to what happens in Iraq. Once an MP gets in to parliament, suddenly his number changes, or someone else answers the phone and they are never ‘available’ when you call. As for having an accessible (i.e outside the Green Zone) office or surgery where members of the public who voted for the MP could turn up to, then forget about it.
The vast majority of MPs in Iraq do not meet with their constituency regularly, do not have town hall meetings and do not allow their constituents to contact them. I say this with full confidence because I have experienced it on numerous times. Just recently in the pre-election period, my friend and I were in touch with an influential MP-to-be (I wont mention his name because it is not fair to single any one out when nearly all of them are the same). He was actually seeking some help and support for himself and his party from several districts in Baghdad where no clear candidate had an advantage.
Having put him in touch (regretfully) with some people who did indeed help him secure more votes, I was surprised that after the election results he was not in touch to say thanks or even just an update on the political situation. Eventually I called (on his mobile) to congratulate him and to my surprise he would not pick up. Despite messages I left, my calls were not returned. I thought perhaps he was out of town or ‘unavailable’ and deferred judgement, in accordance with the saying that says ‘make 70 excuses for your brother’.
A few weeks later I happened to be in Baghdad, having again tried to contact the MP, with no luck. One day I was turning up to a meeting at the al-Rashid Hotel (key meeting point for MPs, diplomats, executives) and guess who I literally bump into? My dear friend the new MP! Of course he was all smiles, but I was having none of it. I had a right go at him, in front of his two aides, telling him that I was somebody he knew personally and did not want anything from him, yet he did not want to even answer my calls. What about the poor person who voted for him and was in desperate need of his help?
Cue the excuses, the stuttering apology and an intervention from the aide saying they were running late, and without even a handshake of goodbye he was off. I was left absolutely fuming, despite not having voted for him (I couldn’t I’m not registered to vote in Baghdad), but feeling cheated and used. And this is me living in London, not suffering the daily struggles the people of Iraq and especially Baghdad have to go through. So when I read about the aforementioned Tory MP, I was reminded of our predicament. At least this MP still has a surgery, postal address, local party association and blog through which he can be contacted. I wonder if he will answer his mobile though?