Each month, RESULTS organises ‘Focus Calls’ designed to help members develop their advocacy skills.
On our latest call, entitled Building a successful relationship with your MP, parliamentary researchers Jo O’Neill (from the office of Mark Hendrick MP) and Steven Thomas (from the office of Julie Morgan MP) delivered some excellent advice on how to ensure that your MP really pushes forward the issues that you take to them.Jo and Steven both emphasised the importance of creating a personal relationship with your MP, making sure that you give as well as take from the relationship and that you always say thank you when your MP does something for you. Jo described the most successful advocates as ‘passionate people who set out a well-structured argument for why the MP’s help is needed’.
Other top tips included:
- If your MP does not hold surgeries or drop-in sessions, you could try inviting them to an event and speaking to them there.
- Be aware of the ‘political landscape’ – ie what is happening in politics at the time? Are there similar issues to what you are raising being spoken about in Parliament or in the media? Use this knowledge to support your argument that your issue is important.
- In the run-up to an election make sure that your MP knows that you and others will be deciding which way to vote based on candidates’ approaches to the issue you are discussing.
- If you can, relate your letter to local issues and talk about local people who have been affected by it, no matter how tenuously.
- Make sure letters to your MP are short, punchy and to the point. Have a very clear ‘ask’ – for example that the MP write a letter to a Minister, or ask a specific question in Parliament, or table an amendment to a bill. Make sure your letter is personal – standard letters are far less likely to get attention.
- An MP’s staff often act as ‘gatekeepers’ to the MP, deciding which issues to push the MP to take forward. It can be worthwhile cultivating a relationship with a researcher or caseworker in the MP’s office.
Clearly, this was a very useful call and we want to thank Jo and Steven for their time and insights. Stay tuned for upcoming Focus Calls to help hone other skills, and please email the office if you’d like to be included in the next one.