Merton councillor calls for public apology from Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond after constituent email

Merton councillor Paul Kohler expressed ‘concern’ in an open letter to Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond last Sunday, following accusations of unprofessionalism.

Stephen Hammond’s office manager Sally Hammond was accused of ‘unprofessionalism’ in her response to a constituent’s enquiry on 25 October.

Copse Hill resident Caragh Logan, 35, published her email exchange with Sally Hammond.

Logan told South West Londoner that she emailed Stephen Hammond’s office to ‘hold him accountable’ for his vote against October’s Commons motion to extend free school meals over school holidays until 2021.

Sally Hammond’s reply began: “It would be lovely to open up my emails on a Sunday and not receive yet another hostile email.”

She continued: “Stephen has sometimes voted against the Government but was elected as a Conservative MP, whether you like it or not, and MPs are generally bound by collective responsibility.”

In response to Logan’s accusation that the Government’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic has been ‘an absolute shambles’, Sally Hammond said: “What would you like to see happen[?]  

“Whatever the Government does will be wrong.”

Logan subsequently accused Sally Hammond’s email of being ‘dismissive, aggressive and confrontational’ and alleged that ‘with one email you have demonstrated the disdain I assume Stephen has for his constituents’.

Sally Hammond denied the allegation: “There is certainly no disdain for constituents. Our workload has doubled since March so we have worked all day every day with a considerable amount of abuse, so you can imagine how we feel.”

She continued: “I apologise if you took my email the wrong way.”

Paul Kohler, councillor for Trinity Ward, wrote an open letter to Stephen Hammond calling for ‘respect’ and asking for ‘a proper apology’, following the exchange’s publication.

Kohler wrote: “I am also concerned that the email appears to misunderstand your role as an MP, which is to serve your constituents and your country, rather than your government.

“I am alarmed at the suggestion that you operate under collective responsibility, which is a convention that applies to ministers but not backbenchers.

“I would consequently be grateful if you would confirm publicly that you accept you are not governed by collective responsibility and are free to vote in the best interests of your constituents.”

Logan told South West Londoner she ‘really appreciated Mr Kohler being proactive’ but that she is ‘not fussed about an apology’.

Logan said she had not been contacted by Stephen Hammond’s office since publishing the exchange.

She added: “I want to know what training Mr Hammond’s office will undertake to improve their communication with constituents in the future.”

Kohler told South West Londoner that Stephen Hammond had not responded to his letter.

Stephen Hammond defended his vote against October’s free school meals motion in a statement saying: “It is best if this direct support is provided by Local Authorities.”

Stephen Hammond’s office has not replied to requests for comment.

Image licensed under the Open Government Licence version 1.0

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