ConservativeHome has rung round Tory MPs about Afghanistan, and asked them how many constituents have contacted them about it. Here are a dozen responses.
- “Very few. When I asked my team on Friday, we had had 15 e-mails. Nine of them were a campaign e-mail. The six others wanted to know how we were going to find accomodation when we’ve already got people on waiting lists for housing.”
- “Around 100, including computer-generated ones.”
- “I have had 120 e-mails, around two thirds to three quarters of them consist of two standard e-mail templates organised by campaign groups. The two are “Secure Kabul airport and begin evacuation immediately” and “Please support Afghan refugees”, which calls on the UK to take 20,000. So not loads, but not nothing.”
- “Probably about 100, all saying we should help them.”
- “A lot more than I had expected. At least 300. Probably more. Can be summed up as “Do Something! (But not quite sure what.)”
- “In the last 36 hours: absolutely zero. Since it all started about 60. Forty of which were a 36 Degrees campaign. A third of the remainder were more interested in Cat Man than geopolitical failures. And one potential actual case of someone trying to get out of Afghanistan – but we tried to help and found it was church campaign aimed at several MPs (we think). Comparison: I had 500 on badgers.”
- “Only a few – and more about Pen Farthing than anything else. Mostly pro from leftie fruits.”
- “Very few bespoke, but my caution on that is that if you bump into a member or a supporter, they immediately raise in hushed breath.”
- “About ten UK citizens (Afghan origin) seeking help for a family who are stuck. Also a local security business that had ten Afghan nationals working for them in Kabul. Delighted to say we got the latter all safely to the UK, but no news on the family of local people.”
- “A couple of dozen.”
- “Very few about the policy or the Government handling of it. A few about individual constituency cases. More e-mails about illegal immigration across the channel. It is surprising that there are so few about such a huge issue. I guess people think the Government is dealing well with a terrible situation caused by Joe Biden.”
- “An eclectic mix: all in all, a bit of a reverse Falklands effect. But I’ve got a lot of individual cases coming through. And the city near my suburban seat is taking a lot of traumatised desperate people.”
Given Britain’s political and military investment in Afghanistan, Joe Biden’s failure to consult his allies, and the implications of America’s withdrawal for its role in the world, this is in media terms a very big story indeed – and worth the coverage.
It is also late August, and there’s not a lot of other political news around.
But there is a gap between the media focus and voters engagement, at least if what these Conservative MPs have told us representative.
A hundred or so e-mails would not be a contemptible total. And it’s clear from our conversations that more correspondence is coming in from urban and suburban seats that from provincial and rural ones.
But discount the Pen Farthing-related representations, place a lower value on campaign-generated e-mails then those which constituents write themselves, and the overall picture is one of voter disengagement.
To very many Brits, Afghanistan is a long way away – and the only direct impact it will have on us will come from refugees and migrants.
You may not agree. Or think that voter sentiment, immediate or later, can’t be the last word on the matter.
Nonetheless, it counts. So it’s worth getting a sense of what it is.