What is lobbying and why is it important?
Lobbying is the process of attempting to influence the decisions made by officials in the government. As a member of the public, the best mechanism you have to do this is through the use of your local MP.
If you don’t attempt to inform and influence the decision making process then your concerns won’t be heard or considered. Don’t leave it to someone else to speak up for you, they might not know your concerns or desires, or worse still they might not care.
Members of Parliament are powerful national figures, who are elected to represent a constituency of about 90,000 people in Parliament, and this includes you!
How can I find out who my Member of Parliament is?
Go to this page and enter your postcode into the box.
What is my MP able to do for me?
Whether or not you voted for your local MP, or even agree with their political views, they are obliged to act on your behalf if it is an issue they can help with.
You can also lobby them to gain their help with your campaign, they are able to submit parliamentary questions, write a letter to the relevant minister, or even arrange a meeting with the minister responsible for the issue of concern to you.
Lobbying also enables you to force an MP to show where their allegiance lies on a particular subject.
So how can I lobby my MP?
You can lobby your MP in a number of ways:
- You can set up a meeting with them.
- Write a letter or email
- Using your local media by getting them to raise the issue or highlight a campaign, challenging your MP for a response.
How do I contact my MP?
Your MP splits their time between their constituency office, and their parliamentary office where they are required to attend debates and meetings in the House of Commons.
The usual way to contact your MP is either by writing a letter or sending an email. Many MPs gauge public opinion by the number of letters and emails they receive on a particular subject, so writing to them is important. If you wish to contact your MP regarding a national issue, such as cannabis law reform, I would suggest that you contact them at their parliamentary office. The address for this would be:
(Name of MP, e.g. George Osborne MP)
House of Commons
If you prefer email to snail mail, then your MPs email is likely to be in the following format:
If you wish to obtain any other specific details about your MP, then you can contact them or their secretaries by calling the House of Commons Switchboard on 0207 219 3000 and asking to be put through to their office.
Whether you write by post or e-mail, always include your full name and address, together with a contact phone number if possible, if you don’t do this you probably won’t get a reply.
What should I include in any correspondence?
A carefully considered letter is far more effective, and will attract greater support, than an intense, ill-thought out tirade. I know it is sometimes difficult to divorce your passion and emotions from what you write. Keep it short and to the point.
Remember that they are in a formal position, and as such are actively encouraged not to allow emotions to cloud their judgment, so ensure you put forward a formal, rational argument regarding your particular issue.
It is always advised to plan your letter or email carefully. Ensure you include your full name and address; MPs are only obliged to respond to their own constituents.
It is always important that you ask your MP something concrete; for example ask them whether they would support moves to reform current cannabis laws, or you could just ask them to clarify their position and give reasons for it.
If the issue you are raising is of particular relevance to you, then ensure you highlight your personal interest because your MP is more likely to pay greater attention it.
If you want your MP to raise your issue with a particular Minister, if you know their name, instruct them to pass the matter to the Minister on your behalf, again they are obliged to do this.
If you are feeling daunted by the idea of having to write a letter, why not use one of our templates and just personalise it a little?We have some template letters on the introduction page here
Other tips for writing to MPs
Every minister, including the Prime Minister, in the Government is an MP so they’re not only busy running a Government department but also representing their own constituents. This means that there is pretty much NO POINT in trying to directly contact an MP who isn’t yours! The correct procedure (and miles more effective) is to write to your own MP and ask them to pass on your concerns, suggestions, or enquiries to the relevant department and minister.
I have a tendency to talk a lot, and if not careful I can go off on a ramble…..AVOID DOING THIS IN YOUR LETTER!! I have done this myself, and on reflection, I probably came across as a bit of a madman, this does your cause no good whatsoever! A MPs office can be an extremely busy environment, and if you are concise it is likely to be greatly appreciated.
If you are lucky enough to have decent handwriting, I would highly recommend you handwrite your letters. MPs rarely receive handwritten letters from their constituents, so yours will stand out a mile. Despite it looking far more personal, it gives the impression that the issue is of great importance to you, and therefore makes it even harder for them to ignore.
We all know how MPs like to be seen kissing babies at election time, and after recent event around the country, they want to be seen engaging young people and tackling issues that are important to them. So if you are a ‘young person’ i.e. under 30 years old, ensure you make your MP aware of this. Without wishing to sound too cynical, it always looks good on their campaign literature to be seen helping the young or other ‘disenfranchised’ groups!
Other ways to lobby your MP
You can request a meeting with your MP at anytime. The easiest way, however, is to request an appointment during their ‘surgery’ hours. All MPs hold local surgeries, the dates, times and locations are advertised in advance, you can obtain this information from their own website or by contacting their offices directly.
All constituency members are entitled to a free tour of the Houses of Parliament by their MP, having forewarned them obviously! This is a good opportunity to raise any issues you might have. If you do, ensure that you have a side of A4 with all points clearly highlighted.
In addition to this you can attend any debates in the house, and every week each MP has two tickets to PMQs, if you contact their office they can book you in for free.
Another tool that we have at our disposal is a MPs ability to table or sign Early Day Motions. EDMs are good for publicising the views of individual MPs, drawing attention to a specific campaign or event; they can also be used to determine parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view. Write to your MP and say ‘I wish for you to table an Early Day Motion on the following subject ……. for the following reasons……..” be sure to use a convincing argument!
You can also ask them to sign and show support for an existing EDM that has already been tabled. You can look up all tabled EMDs here: Early Day Motions
What happens next?
Clear are in the process of developing a new strategy with regards to lobbying MPs. The CLEAR Campaigners Guide is intended to help equip you with the basics knowledge and skills you will need when we initiate phase one of our strategy.
What is Phase One of the strategy?
Phase one of our strategy will be to write to key Members of Parliament who have either voted, tabled motions, or publically spoken about more progressive methods of drug control. It is important that we establish a solid base of supportive MPs and Members of the Lords. Once we have done this we will be able to utilise them and their position on the subject to lobby other MPs and Members of the Lords.
I have prepared a list of key MPs and Member of the Lords, which is available via the link below.
Now let’s go out there and bring about change!
Move on to Phase One….. list of key MPs