Back in April, we urged our supporters to write to their MPs (again) to ask them what they made of comments made by veteran Labour MP Alice Mahon, who had resigned from the party in disillusionment with the Government's failure to deliver on promises in the 2005 Labour manifesto, including a referendum on the EU Constitution - renamed the Lisbon Treaty.
We asked our supporters to send us any replies they received. For the most part, they were predictable, with the vast majority of Labour and Lib Dems MPs rolling out the same tired old lie that the Treaty was significantly different from the original EU Constitution.
However, sifting through the piles there are a couple worthy of note. To borrow from an old phrase, a month is a long time in politics, and some of the responses look that bit more interesting in the context of the upheavals of the last couple of weeks.
One is from Dr. Ian Gibson, the Labour MP forced to resign over questionable expense claims and barred from standing again as a Labour MP. He was loyal to the Government back in March last year and obediently voted against a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Parliament . However, needled on it by a constituent in April this year, he sounds a lot less sure of himself, and shows he basically hasn't got a clue. He says:
“Thank you for your letter regarding the Lisbon Treaty. I acknowledge your concerns on this issue and I have written to the Government to state why they have not proceeded with a referendum on the treaty.”
He then sent another letter which said:
"My position on a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is that it is irrelevant to a certain extent. My point being is that there needs to be a full debate on Europe as whole (sic) with a subsequent referendum on the issue. Both arguments must be heard and the public must be comprehensively informed but I think it is important that this subject is resolved once and for all."
In a similarly confused (and illiterate) email he told another constituent (this is copied and pasted in exactly as he wrote it):
"There will be atime for a referendum but there has not been a seriousdebate where all sides of the argument are put It reqires an honestdebate based on facts I believe it is an issue which will be seriouslydebated in the next few years"
Clear as a bell, eh. Forwarding the messages on, the first constituent told us:
"I detect a big embarrassment in his words 'I acknowledge' - he has never used them before in his previous reply letters on other subjects! So he is very worried about his election local majority prospects... Recently he has spent a lot of effort in the local newspapers trying to distance himself from the expenses scandal, and is now suddenly very supportive of any local issue – very worried about his future!"
A much more intriguing one was from Jon Cruddas MP, a good guy who unfortunately in the end did not vote in favour of a referendum last year. He said:
"I think we have to wait for what happens in Ireland- but think a vote is still a possibility- but will look into it again".
But probably our favorite response is this one-liner from Conservative MP Douglas Hogg, whose constituent simultaneously asked him about "ending the abuse of MPs' expenses". Remember this was back in April, before we found out, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph, that The Rt. Hon Mr. Hogg had kindly billed the taxpayer for the cost of clearing his moat, tuning his piano and having stable lights fixed at his country manor house.
Mr. Hogg told his constituent:
"I am in favour of a refendum and the abuses do need to be curbed."