James Duddridge MP; Party or Person?
In the past week, I have done two “political” blogs: “Why I can’t support Reform UK and where my true hope lies” and “What about the Heritage Party?”
Other than considering leaders of political parties, my main concern was what their parties stood for and how I rate the parties going forward in the UK and specifically England. When I shared this on my Facebook page, two friends got back to me. The first pointed out I had written: Funnily enough, I am helping a new local party (Confelicity) who I would like to see do well (e.g. win seats in the May Local Elections) and maybe unseat our disappointing Tory MP when we do have a General Election. He also recounted how he had found our MP, James Duddridge, personally helpful. Another friend chipped in to point out that our MP does a lot of good on behalf of his constituents, often behind the scenes. I also recall him coming one evening to a homeless night shelter I was managing and he made a good contribution – without ostentation, and was interviewed by my son for his school citizenship project.
But the fact of the matter, I still did not vote for him last time round because of my disappointment and as for next time it is still too early to say. Long ago, I dispensed with the wisdom to vote for the party rather than the person, partly because of my disillusionment with the main parties and partly because the good, a good elected representative can do for his/her constituents (imho), outweighs that of the party with policies I more agree with. I am also mindful many elections are rigged but not I believe in the UK but in the UK the first past the post system means in non-marginal constituencies the candidate whose party is “in” usually gets elected despite the merits of the alternatives. As for me, with perhaps a couple of exceptions, I do not vote tactically and I have always voted (although once I spoilt my ballot paper) and for many of those times the candidate who I judge, based on my limited knowledge (and I know a lot more than most), would serve best his/her constituents. I well recall, in recent years, on that basis, voting for UKIP in the national election and Green locally.
So back to our James: when I voted nationally last time, it was for the Labour lady, an old friend: Ashley Dalton. Reasons included: I thought she would serve her constituents well if elected, I found her more convincing on the social justice issues that have been a part of my community activism, I agreed with her approach on three local issues at the time and she turned up at hustings and other public meetings, unlike James, who gave (imho) flimsy excuses. Ok, it is a bugbear of mine but giving out political leaflets, is often not worth the paper they are written on, so hustings is one way to find out. For example, in the hustings that preceded that election, besides being unconvincing on where is the money going to come from to do all the stuff she promised, Ashley’s response to my Brexit question and pointing out two thirds of Southenders want out was also disappointing. But where was James to give a rebuttal – at least his West counterpart, David Amess, turned up at his hustings?
Southend has been served by two outstanding MPs in my time: David Amess and Teddy Taylor. Sir Teddy was my MP and with a single exception I voted for him every time and this on the basis of person rather than party. I recall one election being written to by John Major who made the point as a BT shareholder this was as a result of privatisation. I wrote back giving ten reasons I would not be voting Tory but would be voting Teddy who he had earlier expelled over his euro-skepticism. I copied this to Teddy, who wrote back – agreeing. Many meaningful exchanges, typically through letter, were highlights of my relation with my MP (the biggest being him presenting me with a citizen of the year award). Maverick he may have been; his own man he certainly was but the overwhelming consensus is (like his West counterpart) he was a superb constituency MP, despite disagreeing politically.
Teddy was aways going to be a hard act to follow. One thing I discovered early on was I rarely got meaningful replies to my letters from James, which could just as easily been written by Conservative Party HQ. Moreover, issues I regard as important: Abortion and Marriage, unlike David Amess who agreed with me, that was not the case with James, evidenced by his voting record in Parliament. A third one is religious freedom, now being impinged on more than ever clamping down free speech, I see no signs of hope from James. It seems on current Conservative nonsense like on “vaccines” and Ukraine, not even a whimper of dissent, and while creditably standing up for Brexit and against the woke ex-Speaker of the House of Common, John Bercow, he seems someone not to cause ripples over issues that matter.
In the general scheme of things, Sir James Duddridge (whose recent knighthood I do not begrudge) may be better than many MPs but then with Sir Teddy Taylor and Sir David Amess, and past heroes like Enoch Powell and Tony Benn, I have been spoiled! I am open to correction, e.g. by my two Facebook friends, but overall and on balance I remain disappointed with JD!