While our politicians may be known for spinning the truth, a new MP on the block is currently taking it to the next level. Ana Key (gettit?) is fooling people online by pretending to be the Socialist and TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) MP for the non-existent constituency of “Deptford and Greenwich”.
If you overlook the pun in her name, miss the fact that her constituency isn’t a real one, and forget that no politicians in the Commons currently represent the Socialist Party or TUSC, her Twitter feed looks rather convincing:
She also has a slick-looking website, with pictures of her campaigning, slogans (“Struggle. Solidarity. Socialism”), pledges, a contact form, blog posts, and even constituency surgery details. The website calls her the “First Socialist Party MP Elected to Westminster”, and includes prominent links to the Socialist Party and TUSC’s websites.
Her real name is Ellen Kenyon Peers, and she is a student doing an art project. The Telegraph reports her saying that her online presence shouldn’t confuse constituents because “everyone should know who their MP is”.
The Labour MP for Lewisham and Deptford Vicky Foxcroft has reported her to the police, citing concerns about data protection and her surgeries confusing constituents, and people online are suspicious of Key’s motives. One Labour campaigner is questioning the legality of her online presence, and accusing the Socialist Party and TUSC of pretending they have an MP:
Surely this has to be illegal. TUSC and the Socialist Party have decided to pretend they have an MP. pic.twitter.com/gyrfqZYPPd
— Tom Wilson (@feedthedrummer) August 1, 2017
A House of Commons spokesperson said:
“The designs and symbols of the House should not be used for purposes to which such authentication is inappropriate, or where there is a risk that their use might wrongly be regarded, or represented, as having the authority of the House. We are aware of this matter, and appropriate steps will, if necessary, be taken after it has been investigated by the Metropolitan Police.”
A spokesperson for the London branch of the Socialist Party says they have “worked with her before”, but that she is not a parliamentary candidate of theirs and is “just a student doing an art project”. They are neither encouraging nor annoyed about what Key is doing under the party’s name. “It’s a bit of an art project,” they repeat.
The TUSC is a little more concerned. Its national election agent Clive Heemskerk says the organisation “knew nothing about it” and says he’s “never heard of her”. He even asks me her name and laughs at the pun. However, Peers has run as a TUSC candidate in the past.
“There are some ethics [problems] there,” he says of the surgery details. “People might go for an urgent housing case, urgent immigration issue, if they were suspended at work – people go to surgeries for real reasons and it’s not good that TUSC’s name is involved with that.”
Heemskerk emphasises that TUSC’s former Coventry MP Dave Nellist – who was elected as a Labour MP in 1983 and was in office until 1992 – and the group’s councillors are “very assiduous” about their constituency work. “While I’m intrigued by the student project, we have a history of taking our constituency surgery responsibilities very seriously,” he adds.
Peers has been contacted for comment via voicemail and email but has yet to respond. Here’s her automatic email response:
Peers has tweeted the explanation of her conceptual art project, saying it “aims to explore what could happen if the boundaries were changed in 2018 and a Socialist MP was elected in the new constituency”. She apologises for the surgery times, but says that, “if people don’t know who their MP is following a general election (when the project was launched) then we have a serious problem on our hands”.
It may be true that some MPs should be engaging more with their constituents, but it is hard to defend showing this up by potentially misleading people with genuine cases to take to a surgery. But there is one thing you can’t argue with: her assertion that this news day has been “evidently slow”.