Jay Kennedy, Director of Policy and Research, DSC and Gabriella Poznansky, Digital Content and Communications Officer, DSC
Are you thinking about contacting your local MP about an issue or cause? Here’s some information on how they can help and how you can reach them.
Gaining support from your local MP could potentially add a lot of weight to your charity’s campaign or cause. Because of their political standing, they can help you gain more media coverage and influence the right Ministers to take on policies, or even change the law.
MPs are elected by you and therefore have a duty to respond to your issue, even if they do not always agree. If they feel strongly about your cause, they can help you in a variety of ways. For example, they can:
- Make a public statement;
- Submit an Early Day Motion, a parliamentary petition that other MPs can sign to show support;
- Submit oral or written questions to Ministers to get answers on public record (for example, for health-related topics to the Health Secretary);
- MPs can apply to hold an adjournment debate in the Commons. At the end of each day, backbench MPs can raise an issue and receive a response from the relevant Minister.
Even though most MPs are members of a particular party, they have a political desire to help their constituents, so don’t hold back when contacting them, it’s their job to help you after all!
To help you get started here are some tips on how to lobby your MP:
1. Find out who your local MP is and research them thoroughly. Go to www.members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP and enter your name, location or postcode. Do some background research on them to help you decide the best approach for your correspondence.
2. Make sure you’re a constituent, or a find a constituent that supports your cause to make contact Many MPs screen out requests from people who don’t live in their constituency. You can check constituencies at www.parliament.uk.
3. Written letters in the post carry more weight than emails or flyers that appear to be directed at multiple politicians. A formal letter to your MP is likely to be taken more seriously – especially if from a constituent. Again, find details of how to address your MP at parliament.uk.
4. Find your MP’s constituency office location and website. MPs have local offices as well as offices in Westminster. When Parliament is in recess, they will likely be doing constituency work such as local surgeries which are a good chance to discuss your issue, but you may need an appointment. Check the MP’s personal website for how to contact the constituency office. You can also find recess dates at parliament.uk.
5. Keep your letter to the point, and make a realistic, specific request. Succinctly outline the issue (one side of A4 max) and why it is important / what you want your MP to do about it. Then request a specific action, such as a meeting to discuss your issue, an invitation to attend a local event, or to sign up to support a particular campaign. Keep any detailed briefing or information for the next stage – MPs are super busy and won’t have time to read much.
6. Follow up any actions in a timely fashion. If you send a letter and receive a response that doesn’t meet your needs, write again (don’t be disappointed if you don’t get it first time). If you get an MP to attend an event or sign up to a campaign, send a letter to say thanks and keep the dialogue going.
7. Develop relationships with the MP’s staff. MPs will have various administrative and research staff in their constituency and Westminster offices. They will often know more about the MP’s schedule and commitments than the MP does. Establish productive relationships with these people by being helpful, polite and connecting your cause to the MP’s interests.
A political commentator once said: ‘persistence is as important as being right’. MPs have many priorities and pressure on their time, and you may need to keep working at it over a longer period to get results, so try different approaches with your MP to find what works best. Above all, don’t be discouraged, keep trying!