Last week I was bold enough to say that the 38 degrees process, by which hundreds of people by means of a single click send off identical letters to MPs, was amongst the least effective forms of lobbying. I stand by that, but would hope to reassure those who have written to me since that disliking the way in which they make their views known to me does not mean that I dislike those views, nor necessarily disagree with them; it's just that that is not a very effective way of expressing them. Write an old fashioned letter; send an individual email; best of all drop into one of my surgeries; those routes may be harder work, but they are much more likely to be effective.
It was heart-breaking to hear from the farm near Malmesbury who have had 200 cows slaughtered in the last 12 months through Bovine TB that they are to have another 64 killed this week. I visited them with BBC Radio Wiltshire and Points West TV, and through that, and through action in Parliament, hope to try to help find a way to help stamp out this terrible disease. It is awful for the farmers, of course, for the Government who are spending a fortune on compensation; for the cows doubtless; and even for the Badgers who are dying an agonising death underground with TB. Only a scientific cull, together with bio-security and other measures can stamp out this scourge of a disease.
I won a little battle this week. I have been fighting hard to maintain the 1000 year old tradition of using, 5,000 years lasting, vellum for the preservation of Acts of Parliament. Without it we would not have Magna Carta, nor Domesday Book; we would downgrade the importance of the law of the land; and we would risk the business of the last vellum maker in Britain, who operates near Milton Keynes, thereby losing his ability to repair and restore the millions of vellum books and documents in our libraries and museums. And anyhow, keeping vellum costs little or nothing. Successful lobbying by the various interests involved resulted this week in an announcement from Matt Hancock, the Minister responsible, that the Government would intervene to ensure the survival of this ancient tradition.
I have been spending a great deal of time lately with NATO, the Defence Select Committee and the Government, discussing what to do in Syria, and especially about our relations with Russia. Do we hit them with a big stick? Or do we keep some kind of dialogue going; 'jaw, jaw, jaw' rather than 'war,war,war'? That is why I went for lunch with the Russian Ambassador in London - an action widely misinterpreted by the press. It's not because I approve of what Russia is dong in Syria. Of course I do not. But I do want to try to find ways of persuading them of the wrong-ness of it. And my suspicion is that President Putin does not react well to bullying. It's an iron fist in a velvet glove that will reap rewards rather than a great big nasty club.
All of politics is about persuasion- seeking to make people do the right thing, even if that is not their natural inclination. It applies as much to the 38 degrees campaigns, to TB eradication through a limited badger cull, to preserving vellum, and to trying to find a way through the Middle East maze.