by Sarah Goldthorpe
THE honeymoon looks to be over for David Cameron not only as Tory leader but also in his own Oxfordshire constituency. With disappointing opinion polls and claims of dissent in the Conservative Party ranks, he has now received criticism closer to home.
Mr Cameron has come under fire from constituent Dohn Prout (pictured left) who says the Chipping Norton MP snubbed him when he wrote asking for support with a life-threatening condition. Mr Prout, 62, of Worcester Road, Chipping Norton, suffers with the rare lung disease pulmonary hypertension which kills 40 per cent of sufferers every year. Mr Cameron, whose buzz phrase is 'compassionate Conservatism', has refused to sign an Early Day Motion, (EDM) supporting ongoing funding for its treatment. Mr Prout, the manager of the Rollright Stones, who has known Mr Cameron for several years, said: "David has supported many local issues in the past such as the fight to keep our hospital- but I guess there are more votes and photo opportunities in that than me alone. I guess I don't count." The motion was put forward by Labour MP Chris Bryant (Rhondda) in December. and has attracted 85 signatures from other MPs.
In his reply, Mr Cameron praised the Pulmonary Hypertension Association but said the NHS was already too overburdened with targets and there were real dangers in adding more directives. But Mr Prout says he is not asking for targets, just support and timely treatment for sufferers. "I'm saddened by his response," Mr Prout said. "I later found out this was a form letter sent out by all Conservative MPs to any constituent who asked for support. It contained some real gems of political speak and he is obviously now so busy that most of his constituents will end up being dealt with by minions. Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include breathlessness, dizziness, chest pain and increased lethargy. Mr Prout takes four different medicines and travels to a specialist centre in Cambridge.
Last September, before being elected Tory leader, Mr Cameron told the Banbury Guardian the people of Chipping Norton were his "inspiration". He said: "However busy I am, there will always be time for West Oxfordshire. My first and foremost responsibility is to people there and being MP is the most important part of the job I have. If I do succeed, West Oxfordshire will have an even stronger voice than before."
However, Mr Cameron has failed to return any of the Banbury Guardian's phone calls since becoming Tory leader in December. Stories on which we asked for his input have included threats to local mental health services, what life is like as Conservative leader and why he is not supporting Mr Prout. His press officer Gabrielle Bertin told us he no longer signs EDMs, but, back in February, he found time to put forward a motion congratulating fellow Conservative MP Dominic Grieve on being named Channel Four Opposition Politician of the Year. EDMs he has been willing to put his name to in the past include support for Anti-Bullying Week and many relating to health and the NHS.
David Cameron replies:
Local people are my priority
I thought that your report (Cameron snubbing us, claims upset constituent, Banbury Guardian, April 13) that I had somehow 'snubbed' local people in Chipping Norton was deeply unfair. Clearly, since becoming Leader of the Opposition the volume of correspondence that I receive has increased massively. I asked my office to check, and I have had 17,000 e-mails since January. However, I always give priority to constituency correspondence and try to send a signed response to each letter I receive - and more importantly to take up every case where action is required.
Anyone wanting to contact me about anything can either write to the House of Commons, London SW1A OAA or e-mail me at , marked 'constituency matter'. I am determined to be a good constituency MP while also fulfilling my other duties and have recently increased the number of surgeries that I do. For details please call my constituency office in Witney on 702 302.
Local issues matter to me. In the last week I have met with Morview patients and staff and attended the public meeting to save this vital mental health facility for west Oxfordshire, opened the Springfield school Easter play scheme, met with local housing campaigners, hosted a meeting with the CAB about NHS dentistry, met with Oxfordshire carers' forum and visited small businesses affected by road closures. This local work remains the best bit of my job.
In terms of Chipping Norton I am deeply committed to its future, it is my local town. I took part in the recent public meeting about the opening hours for the police station and continue to campaign for our local hospital and against cuts in the health service.
Another way of getting hold of me is usually on a Saturday, when I am either shopping in Chippy market square or going to 'family float' at the excellent pool!
David Cameron MP for Chipping Norton
Editor's note: It would have been easier to balance our story had Mr Cameron returned our phone calls. However, the fact that he did not only served to prove the point of the article and I note that Mr Cameron still fails to address the issues raised. In short, his response for publication is too little too late.