How Not To Write A Letter To A Politician – My participation in democracy

After seeing people on my social media feeds complaining about the same issue over and over, and often at times joining in, I decided I would write to my local politicians.

It did not go well.

Writing the body of the letter was one thing. I went through several drafts, wanting to make it perfect. With the help of a couple of people who proof-read it, it was virtually unrecognisable by they time they finished. What was emotional had become professional and profound. It was now brilliant.

I wanted it to be less than one page – concise and to the point. That did not happen. Once the date, their name, title, address (yes, even if their address was a post office box, looks ridiculous, but can’t be helped), the salutation is added we are half way down the page. Then comes the conclusion (Yours faithfully, lower case ‘f’), my name and address, and the end result is, there is no space left for the letter.

Finding the addresses should be easy – you would think, as there would be a directory of politicians some place (List of Senators does not include PO Boxes for all senators, some only have Office addresses, way to make it awkward, go rent a PO Box please). The page for Representatives kept coming up with a 404 error message. Inspires confidence in our Parliament.

So, began a quest to find actual addresses for the politicians I intended to send my letters to. There is at least one NSW politician who has no online presence at all: no twitter, no facebook, no personal website. He or She makes the constituents do the work if they want to find out what he or she is saying in parliament, inquiries they are working on, community service or what they have achieved for the people who voted them in. Not really serving the voters. They have made themselves digitally inaccessible. It is the 21st century, yet this politician thinks that they are too good for regular people. Politicians like Kevin Rudd, Rob Oakeshott, Mike Kelly, Malcolm Turnbull regularly talk to people on social media.

The next step is all those ridiculous other things, formatting the letter correctly, such as, typeface (serif or sans-serif), font size, how many lines between paragraphs, spaces at the end of a sentence, how to line up the text. There was some twitter debate if it was one line or two between paragraphs, but one space at the end of sentences and all straight down the left hand margin. Although, a sample letter of how each politicians would prefer to receive letters on their website might help people participate in democracy. After all, we aren’t just here to serve them.

After much frustration, of ensuring each letter and envelope was addressed correctly – you must address politicians differently if you are writing about electorate matters as compared to ministerial duties (explained here How to address senators and members badly), it was done.

I’m sure I’ve done something wrong, called the wrong person “the Hons.” or failed to, or some other protocol. They don’t teach this at university. How does someone who is barely literate or not really literate just not in English cope. What does this over-excessive formality do for our access to the corridors of power – the doors are locked.

In the end I had my little pile of letters, printed, folded, enveloped, stamped. Off they go. Lets see what happens from here.

This is not an experiment in whether they do respond. My letter was serious. This is just an example of how overly complicated it has become to play even a small part in democracy. Too bad I don’t own a mining empire, then I could be guaranteed that politicians would listen to me.

I could always sprinkle some red dust or metal filings in the envelop, a politician may react by instinct at anything that hints at mining. Too harsh? Too cynical!

the letters, sent at 1130 am, 5 june… and the wait begins

The letters were sent to two rural MPs, every non-LNP Senator from my state – excluding Bob Carr, who is busy with other things, and the relevant Minster in charge of that portfolio. A total of 8 letters were posted.

My prediction is, if I get a response from 4 of them, it will be a good result. Of that 2 will send a form letter that gives no indication that they even read it (thank you for your letter, the Senator is very busy, but appreciates your blah blah blah). Perhaps 1 of the 8 will send a letter, most likely written by a member of their staff, that suggests they (member of staff) glanced at my letter, but will be a form response with one sentence that refers to my topic, maybe even signed by a staff member.

The other one gets lost in the system and Australia post fails to deliver, or I sent it to the wrong address.

I understand that they are busy (hey surprise, we all are), but this is my expectations from my participation in democracy – perhaps One will acknowledge not just the letter but also the topic. Perhaps. I have no expectations beyond that.


2 Comments to “How Not To Write A Letter To A Politician – My participation in democracy”

  1. Oh you silly person! You have made the bold assumption that politician’s can read. Why do you think they have personal assistants and staff?

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