Make it personal
Keith Best is the Secretary of the National European Movement, Vice-Chair of London4Europe and a former Conservative MP. Here he sets out what communications really have an impact on your MP.
This blog is one of a series including advice from a local EM branch on how to get to see your MP, a model letter, a table on where your MP stands on the People’s Vote (referendum on the terms of Brexit with the option to Remain) and a briefing note for the meeting.
Which MPs should you contact
It is vital that you are a constituent of the MP. MPs are deluged with emails and requests for meetings (and many have automated replies warning that if you are not a constituent they cannot deal with the matter).
Moreover, it is best (if possible) to show that you are an influential constituent and speak for many others or have credibility in the constituency.
There are exceptions. In general shadow ministers will be interested in policy ideas (though not casework) about their subject. So for example Labour shadow spokesman Sir Keir Starmer has said that he is keen to hear from anyone about Brexit policy. Similarly, some MPs have policy areas that they are taking forward as backbenchers and will be interested in views and evidence on those.
How to make contact
Face-to-face meetings are always the best way to make an impact on people. MPs are no different. So the best way is to fix a time at one of the MP's surgeries. The MP’s website will have contact details. You can usually find a link to it on the Parliament website.
What to say
When you are preparing for the meeting it is preferable to point out that the matter affects you (and preferably other constituents) personally eg maybe a loss of business or financial uncertainty for retailers etc.
Especially if the seat is marginal you can always express concern that the other party may appear to be more credible to you on a certain question and that you would like your own MP to be more specific on the matter than her or his own party publicity.
Preparation and follow-up
It is best to take along a written statement of your views/questions. That will help you prepare for the meeting and ensure you use your time well. Best is to have questions prepared because then the MP will feel obliged to send you a written answer later or give you oral answers at the time.
Take a notepad with you to write down anything that is said (so that you are accurate in your record).
I think that MPs are realistic about their discussions with constituents, especially when it is on not a personal matter but one of general public interest, and expect their views to have a wider circulation (so long as they are reported accurately). But if you intend to publicise what is said you might check with the MP’s office beforehand.
It is always courtesy, of course, to alert the MP that you intend to publicise her or his views. You should do so before the statements are made public.
If you write in direct follow-up to a meeting your letter may have a better chance of getting through to the MP.
Writing and e-mails
You should not expect letters on general policy issues to be read by the MP. That does not mean that writing letters is worthless. MPs read some of their correspondence, and are more likely to read a clearly personal letter than a pro forma.
The MP’s staff will keep a record or an idea of how many letters they are getting on a subject and in which direction they tend. That aggregate information will be passed to the MP.
However, purely mechanical letters written just by inserting your postcode into a letter-writing programme are less likely even to be counted. So some effort is needed.
You can find the address of your MP here.
MPs of course are subject to an enormous amount and variety of influences. The views of any one person count for little. However, when you are asking yourself whether your action is worthwhile just imagine where we would be on Brexit if no committed Remainer had ever contacted their MP after 24 June 2016. Quite.
So, go see your MP, and if you cannot then write a personal letter.
Articles on this page reflect the views of the author and not necessarily of London4Europe