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Ask a silly (Olympic) question…. 'Parliamentary' answer part 2

Why does an MP ask a question of a Minister? A simple question you might think. Take a look at the following. First is the question asked by Andy Love, Labour MP for Edmonton.

'To ask the Minister for the Olympics how many local authority tenants will be displaced from their housing as a result of the 2012 Olympics; how their housing needs will be met; and if she will make a statement.'

Curious that an MP in a constituency with no apparent connection with the Olympics or Clays Lane should ask about the fate of those ‘displaced’ by the Olympics I decided to ask Mr Love why he had taken an interest in us, after I sent him a copy of my response to Jowell’s written answer (see GM article: London 2012 Olympic evictions: Jowell's 'Parliamentary' answer and an evictee's response).

His first response came from an assistant who said Mr Love would send me a letter and asked me for my address. This was then followed up by an email which said Mr Love could not act for me as I was not a constituent, something I had not asked him to do. I pointed this out. I said I was aware of the convention that MPs did not involve themselves in the affairs of other constituencies. This is, of course, not a law and in fact MPs often ask questions on subjects outside their constituencies. But as Mr Love was now hiding behind this convention it seemed all the more curious that he had chosen to ask about people for whom he had no responsibility. I had originally enquired whether he had any former Clays Lane residents in his constituency, which might have explained his interest.

I therefore repeated my query as to why he had put his question to Jowell. In his response he did not deal with the issue of former Clays Lane residents in his constituency. As far as I am aware there aren’t any. In fact his question would have been rendered nonsensical if he had said there were as it was posed in the future as if the ‘displacement’ hadn’t yet occurred.

Another assistant came back with the following answer:

‘Thank you very much for your email to Andy Love MP this week. Andy has made a careful note of your concerns. I asked Andy about this issue, and what was his reasoning behind asking that question, and he gave the following reply, which he asked me to pass on to you:

“I asked the question because there are rumours circulating in my constituency that large numbers of tenants in the Olympic Park had been relocated to Enfield. This is a variant of a regular rumour but it is important to get the facts so that I can counter the negative interpretation put on this type of rumour by our political opponents.”’

Curiously his question to Jowell fails to mention his constituency, fails to ask where the ‘displaced’ would be going and fails to ask how many would be going to Enfield, ‘would be’ because his question was posed in the future. Apparently his only interest was to mind Labour’s back in Edmonton/Enfield. His question suggested some concern about or interest in our fate and indeed his assistant goes on to say he has made a ‘careful note of (my) concerns’. But it seems this was just a smokescreen. He was actually only concerned that the ‘displaced’ should not end up in his constituency in case this gave some advantage to his opponents. This would certainly be a very negative outcome!

His asking the question in the future was also curious. This suggested he was unaware that the ‘displacement’ had already occurred despite the statements made by Livingstone and others, including to the Commons Culture, Sports and Media Select Committee, hailing the successful relocation of all those to be moved within the expected timeframe, which, of course, was not the case. So maybe he was genuinely confused by these inaccurate remarks! Still there has been plenty in the media about the Olympic timelines for relocation, demolition, remediation and construction. Maybe Mr Love is one of those MPs who spend a lot of their time in their constituency and is a bit behind on events elsewhere. He certainly seems to be a very worried MP.

However, in his answer to me he refers to the rumour that large numbers of tenants had already been relocated to Enfield. Once again his question to Jowell seems to have been slightly off the point. If he was concerned with scotching the rumour of a mass migration into Enfield I would have thought he should have asked how many had already arrived not what was going to happen to a mass of about to be ‘displaced’ tenants. I guess the other possibility is that he too thought a whole lot of Olympic refugees were already on the ground and he was preparing for another wave!

Interestingly Mr Love is quite happy to declare he is only interested in minding his and his party’s back and outmanoeuvring his opponents! He seems to think this is a very adequate and understandable explanation for his asking the question and, presumably as he is so open about it, thinks I will agree with this! I cannot see how he could have gleaned the idea from my response to Jowell that I would be interested in assisting him in countering ‘negative interpretations’ about the Olympics. But plainly he regards it as an overriding consideration and central to his role as an MP. I might commend his honesty or, possibly, naivety. It is certainly refreshing when compared with all the guff from the LDA about sustaining communities, but also a trifle depressing!

Either way he seems to be a mightily relieved, although somewhat confused MP, who has no more information now about the number of the ‘displaced’ who have ended up in his constituency than he had before he asked the question. I’m sure his devious and negative opponents are also confused and rendered silent by his skilful and principled manoeuvres to outwit them!

So his question to Jowell seemed to have little to do with Enfield/Edmonton. Maybe it was just a way for Jowell to sign off on the removal of Clays Lane residents. Makes me wonder whether someone put him up to it! Jowell, perhaps.


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