I note that Nature Network‘s homepage informs us that it is now a year since the photo portrait of Stephen Curry commenced residence. Now, I’ve nothing against Stephen Curry – face or otherwise; in fact, I very much enjoyed his blog and his interaction when he was over here; however, since he and a few others sashayed eloquently away to a new virtual base, I’ve also, geographically speaking, been on the move, and so have not been keeping up. But while I might find it irritating that a link to a post that has not received comment for a year is still boringly displayed on the NN homepage (Come on NN techies – can you not sort this out?), I have, for reasons outlined here, just been prompted to go back to it, and (via his NN farewell) to Stephen’s blog, reasoning – correctly – that I might get an update there on the Libel Reform thing, having picked it up again with my MP…
In response to an e-mail from the Libel Reform Campaign in March, I wrote to my MP urging her to sign Early Day Motion (EDM) 1636 (tabled 21 March this year by Julian Huppert MP, a respondent to the above mentioned Curry question) – and to confirm to me that she had done so. She quickly replied, detailing the forthcoming draft Defamation Bill, and providing the predictable party line of how committed the government is to (re)addressing a matter seriously neglected under the previous government. Blah, blah. All pretty positive. And so, in my solitude-seeking travel distraction, I allowed it to seep out of my consciousness. But the other day, I went back to the e-mail, and confirmed that my MP had seemingly ignored or overlooked my specific question concerning the signing of EDM 1636; she didn’t mention it. So, I e-mailed again to ask whether or not she had done so. And again, I received a (refreshingly) rapid response, informing me that she generally does not sign EDMs, as she considers them an expensive and ineffectual waste of time.
Which I took to be a ‘No’, then. Hmmm. I decided to get into research mode. Besides a Curry-ed update, I also perused Parliament’s website and sussed out the EDM pages, in order to check out whether my MP’s anti-EDM position held fast. (Along with their voting record, I thoroughly recommend this, by the way: as well as the motions tabled on genuinely important issues, such as Libel Reform, you can amuse yourself at some of the banal, inconsequential tosh with which some MPs waste their – our – time.) My MP did not, indeed, sign EDM 1636. In fact, for such a fundamentally important issue, neither did too many other members, it attracting only 71 signatories. Whether this reflects a failure on our part to provoke our MPs into supporting; or informs that the majority of MPs either do not support the case for libel reform; or are just not bothered (with EDMs), I couldn’t say. But the bill is progressing, so let’s not grumble about that.
My MP was elected (for the first time) last year, and so searching the just ended parliamentary session, I find that she has actually signed 17 EDMs (including tabling one, and sponsoring three). Of these 17, twelve were tabled by members of the coalition parties (six each), and five by Labour MPs (although I’m not claiming these stats signify anything). Interestingly, this includes EDM 432, calling for an end to, err … EDMs, which she signed early this month (4/7/11), though it was tabled a year ago (7/7/10), since when she has signed (besides 432) eight of the 17 (including one two days after signing 432). Now, I’m not suggesting much here, merely questioning her now declared stance on the tabling of EDMs (and looking at some of the stuff in the list, I’m pretty much with her). And to be fair, her now adopted stance on the EDM per se is reflected by the fact that 1636 was tabled during a six month period when the ink in her EDM pen seemingly ran dry. However, though she may have only recently come to her position on EDMs, she was still signing the occasional one after the tabling of EDM 432. So, I’m not wholly satisfied with the reasoning in not signing 1636 back in March.
Okay, boring and by the by. What also bothered me, however, as I perused her ticklist, was that she did sign (on 5/7/10) "EDM 284 ":http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-11/284 (tabled 21/6/10), entitled, ‘BMA Annual Representative Meeting Motions on Homeopathy’ (a superb double entendre, don’t you think?), and expressing concern at the British Medical Association’s call to stop the commissioning and funding of homeopathic remedies by the NHS. Again to be fair, she hasn’t signed any more of the homeopathy EDMs that have been tabled since. But why does my anti-EDM MP, who considers EDMs a waste of money, sign this, but not the later EDM 1636 (I have written again to ask)? Money better spent on other things?
Still with me? Now, who tabled this homeopathy-sympathetic EDM? One David Tredinnick, Conservative MP for Bosworth – yes, the very same flagged up by Stephen Curry a year ago. Unlike my MP, Tredinnick positively loves EDMs: in this session alone he has signed 79, of which he has tabled nine as primary sponsor – including 284 (the one signed by my MP) and several others on homeopathy.
I provide these details here, because I consider that, aside from the big party issues, it is worth considering taking an interest in what your MP is up to. Scientific ignorance pervades much of public life, and, it seems to me, there’s a fair dollop of sympathy for pseudoscience being served up by one or two wanting to promote their particular pet agendas. Whilst it is true that most EDMs never see the light of debatable day, do not forget that the media are more interested in MPs because, whether it’s themselves or their political pronouncements, they generate more newsworthy stink than scientists. And a few are adept at ‘promoting the controversy’ that, in the public eye, can place rock solid science on rocky ground.
Although we don’t need to be met with the Curry visage, its anniversary still points to a question that warrants further attention. Check out your MP’s activity.