Not everyone has the time, inclination, or in some case skills to properly research their MP, let alone feel the need to approach them (if they are even approachable, as some like to consider themselves aloof from mere voters).
Sometimes though, like now over Brexit, when the status and democracy of the country is at stake like rarely before, you need to poke them and remind them that whatever personal agenda they may have, MPs are public servants, elected by local constituents, paid for by the taxpayer – you. This is something a great many choose to forget!
(You can read all about the history of parliament here, if you are curious).
You might also want to read about the Nolan principles, which are the basis of the ethical standards expected of public office holders. These enshrine the The 7 principles of public life. (A much longer set of guidances applies to ministerial code).
The seven principles (which nearly all MPs broke with the expenses scandal, and other scandals) are:
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
Holders of public office should be truthful.
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
First port of call: Parliament
The first place to look is Parliament UK, where you can enter a postcode, constituency or MP’s name and find out about them. This isn’t my local but I’ve picked Stephen Gethins out for a reason, as you’ll see, though I could have picked more prominent names like Amber Rudd for the same reason.
At a glance you can see his email address, Facebook, Twitter and website. Also his constituency address and telephone number. I could have chosen to read his (parliamentary) biography, activities, or, as I have, the election results.
You might note the large turnout (71.3%) (41,833), or how the other parties faired in the election (Labour did poorly) – or that fact he won by just 2 votes. TWO. Important to bear that in mind.
Did I mention Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, (well, she has a ‘colourful’ past. Hint: That’s the politically correct way of saying scandal her recent past). Google and Wikipedia are also your friend when you are researching MPs, for most people.
Anyway, arguably, not only should she, in the eyes of many – including over 200 MPs – not be in the post, she only clung on to seat by the skin of her teeth in the last general elections. Just 346 votes (0.6 %) separated her from Labour’s Peter Chowney.
Second port of call: They Work For You
They Work For You really does have an impressive amount of facts and data about MPs and parliament.You can search for MPs by name, topic or (default) postcode. You can also search for debates by name, keyword or phrase
Democracy: itâ€™s for everyone
You shouldnâ€™t have to be an expert to understand what goes on in Parliament. Your politicians represent youâ€¦ but what exactly do they do in your name?
TheyWorkForYou takes open data from the UK Parliament, and presents it in a way thatâ€™s easy to follow â€“ for everyone. So now you can check, with just a few clicks: are They Working For You?
You have to explore the site for your own MP (and another, as I have, here), but picking on Ms Rudd again, I note that while she one one of the few MPs that voted against investigating the Iraq war (why?), she other wise does exactly what she’s told by the party. To me, personally, that suggests she’s a career politician that does what does told and therefore lacks the intelligence and/or backbone to take her own stance in anything. And if she does, you can only wonder why.
Note that I have no particular grievance or feeling towards Ms Rudd, other than a personal and generalised dislike for self-important ‘yes men’, and an even greater distaste for publicly disgraced figures that crawl back to the sewer they were thrown out of, smelling of roses.
Aunty Beeb and co.
Whatever else you may have to say about the BBC and other media outlets with their own biases, they do tend to be reliable with facts, especially for elections and the like.
For instance, you can go to the BBC’s EU vote: Where the cabinet and other MPs stand, enter a postcode, constituency, or name an MP, and see how they felt about Brexit in 2016. No surprise that Ms. Rudd is pro remain:
No search option, but you can also click over to Sky news and see Brexit: Full list of MPs and how they are expected to vote on PM’s deal. Scrolling down, again no surprise,
Conservative – Amber Rudd – FOR
The parties’ own websites can be useful too, for instance Conservaties Home include a page containing Our estimate of how many Conservative MPs oppose the deal
I have another page which might be useful as well, Brexit by the stats, which includes a searchable Comparison of MPs Brexit (2016) vote to support for Mrs Mays WA deal, verses their constituents.