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School of Politics and International Relations

Why MPs' postbags have been so important in the Cummings row


The sort of issues that can provoke people into writing - or get them steamed up on social media - are not necessarily those that really matter to most of their constituents, according to this opinion piece for The Times, written by Professor Philip Cowley from Queen Mary University of London. You should always treat MPs' claims about their postbags with some scepticism, especially claims from opposition MPs, who in a case like this have an incentive to accentuate the negative. But enough Conservative MPs, even those who have been strongly supportive of Dominic Cummings, are admitting receiving a flood of correspondence over the affair. Professor Cowley goes on to compare this with his previous writings on the pressure Conservative MPs faced from their constituents over the poll tax - with a huge similarity being that they got a lot of post. He writes that the nature of that inbox sounds remarkably similar to now: largely uncoordinated, personal, detailed, not from the usual suspects and mostly one-sided. He also comments on how now, compared to 1990, those handwritten letters have been replaced by emails, making the process faster and more immediate, and that Conservative MPs should note that the nature of their reply matters.

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