Mark Pritchard is an MP whose existence had not imprinted upon my conscience until this week. He holds the seat for The Wrekin for the Conservatives and on Thursday the Commons decided in favour of a ban on circus animals following a motion moved by Mr Pritchard.
Sunday, 26 June 2011
The decision is not binding on the government but it does put them in an awkward place politically given their current position on this subject. Much of the coverage has been about how the MP was allegedly threatened and bullied by the No 10 machine to try and get him to withdraw the motion (which he stood up to and refused).
But the thing that caught my eye most about the story was how a number of Labour activists and sympathisers on Twitter started making comments like "It's all very well sticking up for circus animals, but what about people on benefits.." etc.
This is something I see happening a lot in politics. I have seen it referred to in the past as "Whataboutery" which I think is an appropriate term. It is a way of attacking something without necessarily disagreeing with it but diverting the discussion onto different terrain. Probably lots of the Labour people who were doing this actually agree with the proposal but are trying to make out that Mr Pritchard is somehow wrong to be focusing on it.
I disagree. Lots of MPs have special causes that are dear to them for particular reasons and they should be commended when they use their positions to spark an honest debate and ultimately persuade lots of their colleagues to agree with them and perhaps do something about it.
I confess I do not know much about the details of the motion or the current state of how circus animals are treated but I admire the fact that this back-bench MP has been able to make the weather on a subject that he clearly feels very passionate about. I would certainly not try to diminish what he has done on the grounds that there are other causes that are more dear to me (which of course there are as regular readers of this blog will know!).
I am sure there will be plenty of time to debate all the other things that the activists who piped up last week also want covered. It doesn't mean it is wrong to try and make changes in other, possibly less important areas too.