Wrong to use the MIU for political gain

I wrote a letter to The Haslemere Herald last week and it was not published on the letters’ page but, parts were used in this article here:
MP accused of exploiting minor injuries unit fight.

Here is my letter in full:

Dear Sir,

As an independent local councillor, I have consistently said that community issues should not be the football of party politics.  If ever this was true, it is now, in the face of a proposal to close down Haslemere Health Centre’s Minor Injuries Unit (MIU).

I was therefore shocked and dismayed that Jeremy Hunt MP is using the town’s campaign to keep the MIU open as an opportunity to campaign as a Conservative Party candidate in the anticipated upcoming General Election.  Last week Hunt made a campaigning letter drop across Haslemere. Although it purports to raise awareness about the MIU and seek residents’ views on it, the letter crosses a number of red lines in my view:

  • Hunt requires registration through his election agent / party office for the “public” meeting in Haslemere Hall on December 6th
  • Hunt thereby collects email addresses and personal data on everyone wanting to go to the meeting
  • Hunt’s survey on the MIU includes asking how a resident will vote in the general election
  • Hunt’s survey includes asking whether a resident wants “help” with postal voting.

From my understanding we had been led to believe that this meeting, about a vital community asset, was genuinely a public meeting – open to all those in the community concerned, independent of any politics. It is clear however from the letter, that this public meeting to save our MIU is being explicitly used as part of an election campaign with entry to the meeting only granted once our personal data is shared, which could then in theory be used to select who attends, let alone for gaining an advantage in election campaigning in due course.

The blatant abuse of the MIU campaign for political ends continues.  I feel passionately that we need to work together, across all parties, to save our vital MIU.  Furthermore, it is exactly the type of issue where Town, Borough, County and National elected representatives should be collaborating closely and I am disappointed that our MP has taken this cynical path of action.

I AM PLEASED THAT OUR MP HAS SHOWN AN INTEREST IN A LOCAL MATTER, HOWEVER, I urge Mr Hunt to uphold the principle of a genuinely open and transparent public meeting,  welcoming all those who are interested in attending on a first come first serve basis. If ticketing is required to control numbers, it would be easiest to simply use the Haslemere Hall ticketing website (or alternatively organise through the Town Hall) in a way that is neutral and community based.

Saving our MIU is a critical community issue and must not be used for political purposes.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Nikki Barton

Town Councillor and Haslemere’s Surrey County Councillor Scotland Lane Haslemere