How does one build and maintain a good solid working relationship with their MP and ensure that they act in a manner that reflects their constituents wishes? and how to act when your MP goes rogue and totally goes against you – here’s a case study in point.
The first thing to hit Inam Khan and other Muslims in Kettering was the shock. Their MP Philip Hollobone hadn’t been perfect. But “first do no harm” is what the doctors say, and he had at least lived up to that.
The funny thing is that a good proportion of the 350 Muslims in Kettering helped elect Hollobone in 2005. Then, he was the only candidate they allowed to address them because they were so angry about the war in Iraq. With their help, a Labour/Tory marginal swung Tory. In May, Hollobone increased his majority to 9,000. And now this.
Khan, chair of the Muslim Community Association, tells me that most thought it best not to overreact before the recent election when Hollobone began railing against the iniquities of the niqab. That’s how politics is, they told themselves. Some of the women wrote to the MP asking for a chat. The answer: silence. And surely he’ll drop it once the election is over, they thought, but that hope was also dashed. Let’s ban the burqa in public, Hollobone said. I won’t see any constituent who comes to my surgery wearing the niqab.
Cue whoops and cheers from the right. “We realised then that it was all empty rhetoric,” Khan says. “He doesn’t even have any constituents who wear the niqab. I know that. I know everybody.”
Hard to know everybody: but Khan does know Muslim police officers in the town and staff at the hospital, and many others who help make Kettering Kettering. People who have long believed they make a contribution and now wonder why their MP apparently seems willing to make life harder for them. Locals, who have started to wince whenever a passing car slows up and the window winds down. Forget sticks and stones. Words can hurt.
They are not the only ones who feel something has gone awry. There’s parish priest Dominic Barrington, who penned a protest letter with Khan. He signed the letter with a heavy heart. He likes his MP. But something needed saying. “Philip has been a good MP in many ways,” he says. “We just need to show him that this is wrong.”