Power to the people - listen to the public

MP for Buckingham and Winslow, John Bercow, on listening to the public in his monthly column.

It is a frequent lament that politicians don’t listen to the people who elected them.

In the past couple of weeks, something has happened that blows out of the water such received wisdom, and the notion that it’s not worth engaging in the political process.

Just after Christmas, the Government announced its plan to sell off England’s forests. The response from the public was swift and pointed; according to some reports, as many as half a million people signed an online petition against the proposal, and many thousands got in contact with their Member of Parliament objecting to the plan.

I received 240 letters and emails on the subject and, to put this in perspective, this is the single largest number of representations I have received on an issue in the last twelve months, aside from HS2.

Like many other MPs, I wrote to the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, to inform her of the strength of my constituents’ views, and the huge volume of communications I was receiving. A few weeks later, the Government announced its intention to shelve the policy.

If the public had not been collectively enraged against the forestry proposal, it would now be working its way towards the statute book. With this in mind, I would encourage all Buckingham constituency residents to keep up the pressure against HS2, the reintroduction of parking charges in Winslow, and the Calvert incinerator. The lesson is simple: people power works.