Dear Mr. Duddridge,
I am in receipt of your leaflet intriguingly titled: “A contract between James Duddridge and the people of Rochford and Southend East”. I like and support the idea of a contract and you respecting the electorate enough by asking they renew the contract that currently exists, based upon your track record and what you can offer if you were re-elected. I recognize between us there is a lot of common ground, for example we are both eurosceptics, have more than one cat and support Southend United Football Club. I also quite accept and understand why your emphasis happens to be to focus on continuing the economic recovery and balancing the budget.
In a few days time, along with many of the other electors in our constituency (I wish it were all), I will be going to the polls and voting for one of the five candidates standing. I fear, unless you have a Damascus Road conversion experience and heed what I am about to write, that it won’t be for you. I used to vote for your predecessor, Sir Teddy Taylor, and that was in spite of his politics, which I often disagreed with, not because of them. Sadly, I cannot do the same for you. For example, whenever I wrote to Sir Teddy, I usually received meaningful replies that addressed my specific concerns. Whenever I have written to you, while I do receive replies, more often than not they do not address my main concerns and read like press releases from Conservative central office. Not addressing the causes that have led to the recent sharp rise of food banks, the unintended consequences of legislating for gay marriage and the weakness in the law when it comes to prosecuting those carrying our abortions based on the sex of the baby, are three examples. Speaking to other of your constituents, I realize that mine is by no means a unique experience.
While Christian Concern is an organization that tends to resonate more with Christians “on the right”, I was disturbed to read there your voting record on some of the “free vote” issues I care about:
- Independent abortion advice: Bad vote
- Explicit ban on ‘gender-abortion’: Absent
- ‘Genetically-modified, three-parent’ children: Absent
- Redefinition of marriage (2nd Reading): Bad vote
- Redefinition of marriage (3rd Reading): Bad vote
- Conscience protection for marriage registrars: Bad vote
- Protection of beliefs about marriage (A): Bad vote
- Protection of beliefs about marriage (B): Bad vote
Interestingly, regarding your Southend West colleague, Sir David Amess, they put him down as “good vote” in all of these eight cases.
But even on the issues that particularly bother the Christian left you fall well short and I come away with the distinct impression you just don’t get it. At the hustings you attended on Wednesday, it almost beggared belief that you were dragging your heels regarding calling out for urgent immediate action to protect help fleeing asylum seekers, many of which have perished at sea, and that despite the overwhelming majority of those attending calling for that very thing. On the subject of benefits sanctions, you seem to have no idea of the suffering inflicted by those who have been sanctioned, often on spurious grounds. Even on the subject of mental health, something you feel you are qualified to pontificate on, you really don’t seem to get facts such as in the past year I have dealt with over 100 rough sleepers in Southend, over half of which have a significant mental health issues but are receiving little or no professional help because the system is broke. I could go on about food banks and the housing crisis that has sharply increased under the present administration, and all sorts of poverty / social disadvantage related issues. I have no doubt upturns in the economy will benefit the haves in our society and this may filter down to the have nots, but we cannot assume this will happen merely as a result of market forces. There used to be a phrase: “caring Conservatives” but I frankly find it difficult to see too much evidence of this nowadays.
I realize you are in an unenviable position trying to balance the sometimes conflicting views of those you represent and standing up for your own beliefs. While I disagree with your stand on gay marriage for example, I respect you may have acted according to your conscience, but it must be said this was at odds with the majority of your party here in Southend and those who wrote to you. I mention this because one of your stated commitments if you are re-elected is “standing up for you – making sure your voice is heard”. Because I don’t believe you on this matter, my conscience means I cannot support your candidature, although I wish you well should, as the bookies predict, you do get re-elected on May 7th.