back to article NHS minister's bombshell: I get emails from dead people

UK health minister Simon Burns has provoked fury from anti-cuts campaigners by comparing the people who email him to zombies. Burns blurted the jibe in the House of Commons yesterday while responding to a fellow MP who had taunted him regarding his policies. Burns accused his opponent of "simply joining the ranks of …


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  1. amanfromearth

    Reg Fail

    "I get emails from dead people"

    Nope. That's not what he said.

    You need to get the hell out of our Reg and go back to tabloid land.

    1. jm83

      Yes you're right; zombies are undead people.

    2. Anonymous Coward 101
      Thumb Down

      The conceit of some people thinking that their MP should read every pro forma email sent to them is just breathtaking.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge

        Conceit ?

        yes, the conceit of these people, thinking their taxes entitle them to anything.


        1. rh587 Silver badge

          Yes conceit

          Filling a minister's inbox with thousands of identical pro-forma e-mails is a waste of his/her time. That is to say - a waste of your taxes.

          If you have something original to say, compose an e-mail detailing your thoughts and send it in.

          If you are incapable of forming structured sentences or considered arguments, then make your mark on a petition which allows said minister to read it once and say "Hmm, at least 40,000 people agree with that."

          D'oh, because that's how one feels after spending hours of public-funded time wading through identical emails.

          1. JimmyPage Silver badge

            How about

            the conceit of over a million people who decided to get off their arses and tell the government they didn't like the idea of a war ...

            It appears expending effort, and what you get back for it are not really connected in uk.plc

        2. Anonymous Coward 101


          "yes, the conceit of these people, thinking their taxes entitle them to anything."

          I've sent an e-mail to my MP demanding a billion quid, a new type 45 destroyer for my personal use, and an harem of concubines.

          I pay my taxes and believe it entitles me to 'anything'.

          1. JimmyPage Silver badge

            There's a world of difference

            between being a fuckwit, and not. You're not an MP are you ?

            There's a world of difference between a single frivolous loser sending an MP his Xmas list, and a few thousand citizens expressing valid concerns over proposals that may affect them. And if these thousands find themselves a little time-poor (no doubt due to the extra hours they are putting in to make ends meet) why does taking advantage of a template in any way diminish that concern. That an elected member of parliament feels it appropriate to insult these people tells us volumes about him, his party, and the right wing newspaper he sailed in on.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Hear hear!

      Leave tabloid journalism to the tabloids.

      Stick to proper journa... oh, hang on, this is The Register. Carry on.

  2. ScottAS2

    Zombies? Dead?

    "Differently alive", shurely?

    Mine's the one with the Fresh Start Club membership card.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      "Respirationally Challenged" I believe the correct PC terminology.

  3. Billa Bong

    Well if all they do is forward the template Email to him...

    Zombie: a person whose behavior or responses are wooden, listless, or seemingly rote; automaton.

    If you have an issue with something our government is doing, use *your* voice, don't just repeat word for word what someone else already said. As rightly pointed out, if he gets many Emails that are simply a reproduced template, he will filter them out and your voice won't be heard. And then you'll complain about it.

    I have issues with his policies. But I also have issues with the half-hearted way people engage with our government and then complain about it.

  4. Sam Liddicott


    38 degrees are The Peoples Democratic Lobbyists - and it's the only many voters are able to get effective representation.

    He should ask himself why his voters need to resort to a lobby group on order to be heard.

    Why people like me have to pay so that 38 Degrees can get independent legal advice on the implications (intended or unintended) of the NHS reforms are. (While the government is sitting on their secret report into the same thing).

    I strongly disagree with some things that 38 Degrees campaign for (like "don't build on the countryside" which as a consequence has every householder paying through the nose for scarce housing).

    I am grateful that SOME group will explain in a relevant way what our elected representatives are getting up to, and help keep them in check.

    I don't have a budget for secretaries like the MP's do, I depend on 38 Degrees to keep me informed; while I'm spending my time at community groups, school governors meetings and church and family responsibilities.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "gathered 41,911 signatures"

    fine number that, it include 419...

    plus a site that send pre-formatted emails!


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well if all they do is forward the template Email to him...

      While I do understand what you are trying to say and your reason behind it, you miss an important point: Not everyone have the ability/skill to 'understand', 'digest' and _write_ a good letter on an important issue.

      That is why we have lawyers, consultants and helping hands. Even though we need to get the job done, we can't do it when it is not in our line of work. So we seek the help of someone who understand to help us understand and help us put what we wanted/response into words.

      Note, you should always be careful while using sites like '38 Degrees', since their opinions are biased and self-serving..... just Fox News ;-P

      1. Billa Bong

        See my reply to Ragarath below

        "Wot 'e said" isn't a good argument. I perfectly understand your reply, but MP's have a hard enough time figuring out their arse from their elbow, let alone sorting people with a legitimate argument vs. "Me too"-ists.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      The template email has the option of including your own message, and I always do include something in my own words if it is one of the issues that I feel strongly about or agree with. 38° is kind of part way between signing a petition and writing a personal letter.

      Megaphone: Not much use if everyone has one.

      1. MrCheese
        Thumb Up

        Right on the money

        While some are braying on about the "wot 'e said" argument not being a valid one (they are wrong, see: petitions), mass production lobby sites should only form part of your voice, I completely agree with using their template material and following it up with a personal statement of your own.

        1. Billa Bong

          Missed the point - again

          You're arguing yourself into knots you guys. What I'm saying is that sending duplicate Emails (with the possibility of you not having understood the issue in the first place) is dumb, the unspoken part of the argument is "because that's what petitions are for".

          You've basically said that I'm wrong because of petitions. Er... hello? These people are *NOT* adding votes to a petition which is a perfectly valid thing to do and *NOT* what I'm saying is broken. They're sending an Email that says exactly the same thing as everyone else's. Get a grip.

    3. MrCheese

      You have 41,911 new emails

      Would you prefer that a lobby (or any other group) mass-mailing you all use a common subject line and template or would you rather read 41,911 unique emails? If you chose the latter option, how far would get before giving up, how much of your valuable time would it consume?

    4. alexh2o

      You ask why the voters have to resort to a lobby group, but I think his point is that they don't. Sending him the same pre-formatted emails over and over is not going to make him read and take note of them.

      These voters should be writing directly to MPs, raising their own personal concerns, in their own words. If you can't be bothered to do that, and believe 'signing a petition' or whatnot is you taking part in democracy, then you need to be re-evaluating why nobody is listening...

      1. Graham Marsden
        Thumb Down


        "How *dare* these plebs think that they should have a say in the decision making process? They should enjoy the Bread and Circuses of the Dole and X-Factor and not worry their little heads about things that are above them...!"

        Yes, writing to your MP might (depending on who they are) get a response, but why should it be necessary when all you want to say is "I agree with this"? Just because the web makes creating a petition and getting people to sign it easier doesn't make it any less valid than one signed by people in the street.

        Of course the fact is that many Ministers like Simon Burns are so arrogant that they don't think they have to listen to the general public in the first place, so whatever sort of petition you raise, it will still be ignored.

  6. Ragarath Silver badge

    So people are Zombies because, they may not be able to write a properly formed letter / email about their issue and use a template?

    I think that he just knows that if these sites did not exist then the complaints would be less. This is because of the people that are not confident with their writing skills or just simply do not have the time in today's busy world.

    For me to write a letter to my MP being at least confident enough to do so would still spend a good while getting it right and making sure that my poor English skills did not make me out to be an idiot.

    This is the problem with our system, from my point of view I do not see the MPs as working for us.

    1. Billa Bong

      Nothing to lose?

      "I think that he just knows that if these sites did not exist then the complaints would be less."

      Only because people who normally don't care enough to make a legitimate case for their argument suddenly don't have a one-click way of joining the mob. I'm not saying these sites are bad, but I want to know what proportion of people who use them actually think about what they're joining.

      You do make a valid point about not being confident in your writing skills and not wishing to sound like an idiot. I'd argue that the only way to not sound like an idiot is to make a good case for your argument irrespective of the language you use or your punctuation and grammer. Saying "Wot 'e said" is not a good argument.

      1. Graham Marsden
        Thumb Down

        @Billa Bong

        I notice that your post above has three Upvotes, so that's three people who are basically agreeing with "Wot 'e said".

        So please allow me to be the voice of dissent (or "Not wot 'e said") as I Downvote you.

    2. MrCheese

      Same reply to you

      So now if 80 - 90 percent of the population feel exactly the same about a policy (think climate change, war in Iraq/A'stan etc.) we all have to articulate it slightly different to avoid being written off as drones do we?

      Logic Fail

      1. Billa Bong

        No, logic pass

        See reply to Mr. Cheese above, and stop duplicating threads which is how this whole FAIL happened in the first place.

    3. TRT Silver badge

      But what if your MP is Oliver Letwin?

      An actual, physical, snail-mail letter to an MP isn't anywhere NEAR as easy to get rid of as an e-mail. And MPs take great care with letters sent to them by their constituents.

      1. Magnus_Pym

        No they don't. They pass it on to some department or other who sends back a boilerplate reply that shows that no one read the letter at all.

    4. TRT Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Sarcasm icon missing


      I was being sarcastic. Oliver Letwin hit the headlines a few weeks ago for dumping letters from his constituents in bins in parks near Westminster.

  7. sandman

    Waste of oxygen

    I would suspect his ability to use technology (Gmail filters) is about on a par with his ability to run a health service.

  8. The BigYin

    Template emails?

    I thought the House of Commons would have filters in place to deal with template emails, they're just another from of SPAM. I thought this was why lobbying groups tended to give you a list of points/ideas and ask you to write in your own words.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Template emails...

      You mean like the form letters that my MP almost always sends in reply?

  9. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Is this the character Ian Hislop

    joked about getting a 3rd at Uni on HIGNFY ?

    Apparently he's known as 3rd degree burns. Not sure if that's "affectionately" or not.

  10. Jedit


    So, that would be the people who have died due to Tory attacks on the NHS then? It just goes to show how bad the Coalition government are, that people will rise from the grave to complain about them.

  11. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    I wrote an email in my own words to my MP about BT and Phorm.

    Did he ever ask a question about it in Parliament? No!

    How do I know? I signed up with "They work for you".

    Will I vote for him again? No!

  12. HamsterNet

    Someone just needs to show Burns how to use Gmail filters. ®

    That would mean an MP knew that they could get free email and not have to pay billions for it :)

    1. Magnus_Pym

      I didn't vote for my MP because I didn't agree with the policies he supported. I'm in a minority in this constituency so that's OK. My MP's views are not represented in parliament as the Whip's office reduces his role to a rubber stamp for his party. In the end his party did not get enough votes to completely remove the need to ever win a debate by force of argument. Instead an amalgamation of parties formed the Government and made up some new policies on the hoof.

      I'm left wondering how my views are taken into account in this democratic process.


      Michael Gove MP

      (Secretary for Education) is doing it already.

      To evade FoI requests, allegedly.

  13. Danny 5

    seriously though

    what use is there in sending the man a mass amount of email? surely he'll delete the lot of them without as much as giving them a passing glance, doesn't that defeat the purpose?

    If I'm an MP and i get 5 email regarding a certain matter, then it would likely pique my curiosity, but if 5000 emails arrive, I'll be damned if i even read one and in the unlikely case i do read one, i will instantly be in favor of the exact opposite of what's in the email.

    I see little to no use in these mailbombs, other then being totally counterproductive.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Glad you're not an MP then

      I can see what you are saying, but if you'd really avoid reading one because of the amount you received that's pretty poor!

      If you receive 5000 emails, it generally means that 5000 people have an opinion on the matter. Sure you couldn't really read all of them, but a good MP should at least be reading a selection!

      Let alone the comment about opposing the content on the basis of the number received. On the plus side, if those 5000 come from your consituency of 7000 there's a chance they wouldn't elect you next time!

      I was once told that 1 letter should be considered as representing the views of 1000 people. Not sure that quite applies nowadays (especially with automated systems like this), but opposing the views of a group of people because of the number of emails received does not make for a good pol!

  14. Lamont Cranston

    A Tory MP, showing contempt for the electorate?

    If this is newsworthy, can we expect a serious editorial on ursine defecation habits, next?

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      MPs are equal opportunity when it comes to contempt

      I am sure there are Labour and Lib Dems MPs who are the same.

    2. BoldMan

      Just delete the word Tory and I've got no argument... they are all the same, none of them care what we think.

      1. Titus Technophobe
        Thumb Down

        Any MP's attitude to the electorate

        Think back to Gordon's broadcast from Rochdale.

  15. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    The British public didn't put Simon Burns where he is today.

    The Liberals did a dirty deal after the election. They put Simon Burns where he is today.*

    Is it me, or does "Simon Burns with David Cameron" at look like Simon's not very good at Photoshop? And is taking smiling lessons from Gordon Brown, but needs to take more? Mind you, if David Cameron was sitting next to me...

    * Probably not Madam Discipline's Dungeon for Naughty Boys, in Soho, but ring up anyway and ask, there might be a story in it. Say there's an emergency vote and he's needed. Oh no, you're probably not allowed to do that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Prolly not shooped.

      He does look a bit outlined, as if he had been cut and pasted in there, but I think it's actually just the light coming through the window behind him causing a halo effect. (There may have been some post-processing done, I found a Paint.NET tag in the image file, but that could just be a bit of cropping and sharpening.)

  16. mark 63 Silver badge

    you havent got an MP Rick, you're an anarchist

    ok well I shall write to the lead singer of Echo and the Bunnymen

  17. Da Weezil

    So... lobby groups are ok when they represent industries that want the law canted in their favour, or other groups looking for a fix that benefits them... but not for the voters?

    Some democracy! with this bunch its the only way to be heard.. like most bullies, they only listen to those with muscle

  18. CD001

    Politician holds electorate in contempt

    ... well colour me shocked :\

  19. Pete Spicer

    I think there's a bigger problem here.

    We've seen recently where people were signing a petition on the government-instituted site, expecting the contents to be taken at least modestly seriously and debated in Parliament, only for it to be shrugged off with 'we don't have time'.

    Now we have a politician complaining that people are sending him emails about something they're not happy about.

    While the method itself may be less than desirable, surely there is a bigger point at play here that MPs are simply not listening to the people that voted them in originally...

  20. Gio Ciampa

    Pot, Kettle, Black

    Just checked his voting record

    Since 1997, 2803 votes cast - just 10 against the party

    Who's the zombie, Simon?

    1. Magnus_Pym

      Precisely. Does it really make sense that any constituency's views are 99.5% aligned with the party that the returned MP supports.

      And they complain that they are not paid enough. All the job entails is saying 'Yes, Prime Minister'.

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