Helen did. Here’s how
The most effective method of lobbying your MP is to meet her or him. It takes persistence, planning and a bit of luck. Helen Rennie-Smith, Chair of a South London EM branch, sets out her lessons for how to get in and then to have a successful meeting. This post is part of a series including: A model letter to write to your MP, A blog on what lands with your MP, A briefing note about where your MP stands and Briefing for meetings with your MP.
Recently I had a surprisingly positive meeting with my MP. On a direct question she assured me that she will vote for a referendum on the final deal. That is good for me to know. But it was also an opportunity to show the MP has real support from her constituents for when she has to vote against her Government.
I had a long and winding road to this meeting, and I'd like to share just a few experiences with you so that you don't give up.
Support is available
An EM branch organised a workshop with external facilitators on How To Lobby Your MP. Key lessons for me included:
- Make it personal: think through why EU membership is important to me.
- Research your MP’s voting record and favourite topics. Find some common ground with your MP and ask to see them to discuss that angle of Brexit.
- Be persistent in seeking a meeting.
I highly recommend you organise a workshop locally. Contact me at [email protected] if you want more info on how it’s done.
Everywhere is different
Your local EM branch is worth contacting in any event. They may have people who have seen their MP and can help you. They may also have a view on campaigning tactics, for example they may seek to have a steady stream of constituents talking to the MP about Brexit. A workshop may help you or - thinking of the time left before the Meaningful Parliamentary Vote - you may wish to approach your MP straightaway.
Don't give up
Since the referendum I have repeatedly asked to meet my MP but the assistant has always gracefully declined.
A few days after the workshop I again called my MPs’s constituency office to ask for an appointment. I was asked to write an e-mail because my MP is very busy and they would consider my application. It would be at least three weeks.
Take your chances
Luck had it that we organised a fundraising dinner with Charles Tannock, MEP, the following day. I mentioned the difficulties I was having in fixing up a meeting. He promised to talk to the MP. Just a few days later I received an e-mail from the assistant saying that my MP would love to see me. A few days later I had a confirmed appointment.
What did I say to her?
This is crucial: I did not go as chair and representative of EM Wandsworth. I went as an ordinary constituent. Just as you will. I told her my personal story and why remaining in the EU is important to me - "and many of your constituents". Towards the end of the meeting I reminded her - in case she had forgotten - of my connection to the EM and told her what people in the area say when we're out campaigning. I showed her the Brexitometer from our local market and she asked when we'll next take it to her constituency because she'd like to come and say hello.
I also gave her our Brexit Audit which we did last winter. My MP was very interested, started browsing, commenting on the statistics and promised toread it more carefully later. It was obvious that the MP was not aware of our Audit, even though we had sent it to her in March.
So it’s a meeting that makes the difference
The bottom line is: sending letters and e-mails is fine. They are unlikely to reach the MP. But an efficient office will tell the MP in general terms about what is coming in. So it is worth doing.
But if you really wish to have an impact you have to see your MP.
No matter if your MP supports Remain or Brexit or is on the fence, you need to see them and talk to them. The Remainers because they need to hear that they have support. The Brexiters because you need to tell them a Brexit without a People's Vote will not be accepted by The People. MPs on the fence, of course, need a little nudge in the right direction.
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