Do One Thing is a regular series where we bring you a simple idea for reducing your impact on the planet. The latest instalment: how to lobby your MP to take action on climate change.
Every Member of Parliament (MP), no matter where they live or their political party, is there to do one job, and that is to serve you, their constituents. They have been elected to represent your interests, and can help to influence UK government policy in many ways. To do that, however, they need to know the opinions and concerns of their constituents, and you can make sure this happens by lobbying them. It sounds daunting, but it’s actually pretty straightforward and a great way to make real change happen, particularly around climate change and the environment. Here’s what you need to do.
Step 1: Do your research
- Find out who your MP is by entering your postcode at theyworkforyou.com. Here you’ll be able to learn more about their political party, their voting record and data on any speeches they’ve given.
- You can check out their website, social media or even their Wikipedia page, to find out more about them and what they stand for.
Step 2: Know what you want to say
- Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert to talk to your MP. Remember they work for you and are used to being lobbied. Make your concerns about the environment known and ask them what actions they are taking to protect the environment. In particular, policies that reduce pollution from cars and industry are worth promoting.
- If you have a particular objective in mind, such as cycle paths, preventing development on a piece of land or holding a specific company accountable for environmental damage, state it. If possible, bring any information you have about the case.
- Unfortunately, for some MPs climate change and environmental concerns are at the bottom of their agenda – you’ll usually be able to ascertain this by looking at their voting record, website or manifesto. In this case, your lobbying powers are best put to use by encouraging them to make green issues a priority. The Climate Change Coalition has resources here. If you want to encourage your MP to raise a particular topic on your behalf – for example written parliamentary questions or formal letters to a minister – be sure to ask.
Step 3: Make contact
There are three ways of lobbying your MP.
Write a letter or email
- Start by introducing yourself, stating your concerns and explaining why you’re writing.
- Tailor the letter to their interests to give a sense of personalisation.
- Always be polite – rudeness or aggression will usually earn you a generic reply (if one at all).
- Try to keep your letter to one or two sides of A4.
- Always ask for a response.
- MPs have regular surgeries to meet constituents. This is the perfect opportunity for you to make yourself heard face-to-face (or via video call). Find their contact details online, or call their office to make an appointment.
- Explain why you’re there as concisely as possible – again, have facts and figures ready to back up your point.
- Remember, MPs aren’t experts on everything, so don’t expect them to have all the answers then and there.
- If your MP goes off topic, try to steer them back to the matter at hand.
- Make it very clear what you’re asking of them. Do you want them to write to their party leader? To vote a certain way? If you can, try to get a specific commitment from them.
- Follow up the meeting with a letter or email reaffirming the action they’ve agreed to.
- If they’re on social media, send them a public tweet thanking them for their time and outlining what was discussed during your meeting – this helps keep them accountable.
- Getting your MP involved in a local event is a great way to engage them with your cause, especially if they’ve made climate change a priority. Inviting them to awareness-raising events gives the wider community the chance to talk to them, and gives your MP the opportunity to demonstrate that they’re passionate about the issue.
- Send them a personalised invitation to the event, explaining what will be happening, what you hope to achieve and how their presence will be helpful.
- If they agree to attend, take steps to publicise the event. Tell social media that they’ll be in attendance, contact other local groups and let local journalists know. MPs love having their photo in the local paper!
- After the event, make sure you follow up with a letter or email of thanks.
Step 4: Follow up
- If you write a letter but don’t receive a response – follow it up. If your MP agrees to take direct action on something but appears to be dragging their heels – follow it up. If something changes that affects your cause – perhaps new research is released, for example – make sure your MP is aware of it by, you guessed it, following up!
- By establishing a good relationship with your MP and their staff, and also applying gentle and consistent pressure, your cause is more likely to be higher up their agenda, thus helping you to drive real change.
The bottom line
Talking to your MP about climate issues may seem daunting, but remember that they are there to work for you, so it’s your job to make sure they’re aware of your requests. Some MPs will be more receptive than others, of course, but don’t underestimate the impact of people power – the more individuals there are banging the drum for the climate, the harder it will be for MPs to ignore the increasingly pressing issue.
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