Much of my work as a government Minister was spent dealing with the issues arising in areas of the country dominated by Labour MPs and Councils. These areas attracted the largest sums of money in public spending, looked to government much more for the answers to their social and economic problems, and expected a good service from Ministers.
Ministers are in office to serve the whole country. They are there to reach judgements in the national interest. If areas controlled by the opposition need more help, it is the Minister’s job to give it, or to discuss better ways of solving the problems. Democracy only works where the majority understand their duty to the minorities, and where the minorities accept the need to oppose in democratic ways.
It is the same for an individual MP. You campaign as a party representative, but you do the job seeking to represent all and to understand those who disagree with you as well as those who support you. I do not try to find out how people vote before taking up their cause or looking into their case. 53% voted Conservative in Wokingham in 2010, but that does not mean I can or should ignore the views of the 47% or regard all that they say and do which is different to my view as wrong.
I would guess from the emails and letters I receive that I spend far more of my time dealing with the views and queries of those who do not vote Conservative, than with those who do. Many of the people who write in on policy issues write from a UKIP, Green or Lib Dem viewpoint on a range of issues, and some write in regularly on issue after issue. I do not tell them I will not deal with their points because UKIP only got 3% and the Greens 1% at the last Wokingham General Election . People who back single issue parties, or parties that are associated with single issues, are often more vocal and persistent than the majority. They sometimes raise difficult and important matters which MPs need to tackle.
Indeed, I sometimes have sympathy with what UKIP are saying and am trying to secure a referendum on the EU which is one of their demands as well. I have sympathy with the Greens when they are seeking to defend great countryside from inappropriate development or have good ideas for reducing the use and therefore the cost of energy.
It is a sign of a flourishing democracy that those elected regard it as their duty to represent those they disagree with. Government needs to lead, to argue, to convince, to impart a sense of direction. But it also needs to be able to compromise, to understand the other viewpoint, and to make timely concessions that are welcomed but do not derail its strategy. Getting the right balance between strategic direction and tactical accommodation is the art of elected politics.