Should we scrap EDMs?

Just had this email through, from a campaign to scrap parliamentary Early Day Motions.
It’s a point that has occurred to me in recent times, although some constituents and organisations place great importance on whether or not their MP signs up to an EDM, as a sort of public ‘nailing your colours to the mast’. In the days when I could sign EDMs, constituents would be delighted that I’d signed up to something on, say, an animal welfare issue or something in support of one of the many health campaigns (Cardiac Risk in the Young, or Breakthrough Breastcancer, for example). It was also a useful way of demonstrating support for events such as Carers Week, and in doing so flagging it up a bit higher on the political agenda.
EDMs can also be influential in persuading MPs to vote one way or another when actual legislation comes forward, in that it makes it more difficult for an MP to backtrack on their position, hence the CWU’s relentless drive to get as many as MPs as possible to sign up to the Royal Mail EDM. On the other hand, I suspect many MPs sign them just for a quiet life, just because someone has asked them to do so. And – as befits a mechanism often described as ‘parliamentary grafitti’ – they can sometimes stay around long after an MP has changed his or her mind on an issue, or the facts surrounding an issue have changed so as to make the original motion obsolete. MPs are then accused of back-tracking or U-turning, when it could be that they’ve just had more of an opportunity to look into the facts and have discovered it wasn’t so simple as it first seemed.
Anyway, time to go and vote. Here’s the text of the email:

“There is much talk about reforming democracy and making Parliament both more effective and more efficient. One area where reform could show a real cost saving without damaging the effectiveness of the role of an MP or the role of the House of Commons would be through abolishing Early Day Motions. It is estimated that the cost of an Early Day motion is £300 each. Indeed according to a
House of Commons factsheet, “The printing and publication costs associated with early day motions in financial year 2005/06 were approximately £627,000.” In this day and age, there are easier and more cost effective ways for elected representatives to raise an issue of concern, or generate some local publicity for an issue they care about. We are contacting all Members of Parliament and asking them if they support a proposal to abolish Early Day Motions. We would be extremely grateful if you could let us know your thoughts on this matter.

Best wishes, Scrap EDM’s
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