Hi my name is Len and I am an RSPB Campaign Champion Activist. I recently met my MP to talk about a number of environmental concernsI have, and thought it would be good to share my experience and offer you some hints and tips so you get the most out of meeting your MP when the time comes.
The role of Campaign Champion Activist will involve you meeting with local policy formers including councillors and your local MP. Unless you are practised in such matters, meeting your MP for the first could be a daunting prospect. However, if you are properly prepared things are more likely to go smoothly and successfully. Having already gone through this process I offer the following commonsense advice.
- Learn as much about your MP as possible, nearly all MPs will have a website where you can see what they has spoken about the in the House of Commons and any parliamentary questions that they have asked, it will also give you an idea as to what their outside interest are and where They stand on local issues. There are also many websites that offer “Pen pictures” of MPs
- Make an appointment with your MP. Most MPs will only available to you on Fridays although some London MPs may hold “surgeries”more than once a week.
- An MP will typically offer you a ten minute slot. You must be aware that MPs usually have very limited time to offer it is up to you to make the best use of this time.
- Decide what you can realistically cover in the time that is available. Don’t crowd the agenda, but equally have something in reserve in the unlikely event that you run short of material.
- Carefully research the subjects that you want to discuss. The RSPB site and any briefing provided by them is the obviousstarting point. However, if you can relate national policy to local issues this will be of a bonus. Write a brief for yourself in your own language.
- Be clear in your own mind what outcome you want to achieve on each subject.
- Depending on your MP they may or may not know a lot about the subjects that you raise. You will probably find that at your MP will be quick to grasp the pertinent facts from your presentation and will appreciate brevity. Unless detail is highly relevant it is best to deal in general terms outlining the important policy issues rather than go into too much detail. However a fact or statistic will not come amiss! If clarification or further detail is required your MP will normally ask for it! Try not to get sidetracked into discussion of minutiae. Try not to get into political debate
- On the day of the meeting arrive early, as I said previously an MP’s time is vital you are unlikely to get more time than allotted for the appointment.
- Dress smartly but a jacket and tie are not required. Wear RSPB logoed clothing if you have it! This may help to give you a certain authority and a sense of purpose.
- Take the brief you prepared with you if you feel this would help you. Be prepared for the meeting to be attended by a third party- usually the MPs researcher, secretary or case worker
- Once the formalities of introductions are over make sure that you give explain the Campaign Activist role briefly and then setout your agenda for the meeting. Speak clearly and slowly. If you get stuck refer back to your brief – that is what it is there for!
- Keep a check on your time, if you are behind time try to make a decision to cover the most important subjects. You can takeup anything you missed later by e-mail or letter
- At the end of the meeting run over what has been agreed as a course of action on each subject. This is likely to be that theywill take the issue up with the appropriate Minister or Government Department or Local Council usually by letter or e-mail. This is the usual first gateway into the policy arena. Subsequent action could include a written or oral question or Early Day Motion in the House or meetings with the Minister.
- Always, Always, Always thank your MP for the opportunity to discuss your /RSPB’s concerns. If possible agree how you willdeal with further issues as they arise- hopefully a further meeting will be offered (as and when issues arise) however you might also like to keep your MP briefed through e-mails.
I recently met James Duddridge MP for Rochford and Southend East. At my meeting we discussed the Marine Act and the need for the Government to act more quickly on the consultation and implementation of the European legislation he promised to look into this further with three Minister (Benyon). He was particularly interested as hedidn't seem to be aware that the proposals included his constituency. Though he was aware that a neighbouring constituency had raised some concerns through it's harbour master. I also pointed out that downwind of one of the proposeddesignated areas was also an important wintering ground for Brent Geese and that designation would also help to preserve this. It would also help in arguments against the revived call for an estuary airport. I knew in advance that my MP was opposed this.We also discussed the Big School and Big Garden Bird Watch and he agreed to publicise the latter both through his website and through a press release.We also discussed the RSPB local reserves currently being developed in the area.
We did not have adequate time to discuss the Chancellor’s Autumn statement on development but I subsequently e-mail the MP with my concernsabout this asking them to take this up with the relevant Government Departments.
Hopefully this gives you a brief insight into face to face meetings with MPs,
Thanks so much for this write up Len, that is really useful and provides a great insight as a first hand account of how to go about meeting your local MP. I'm sure many people will be interested in reading about this and will benefit from the hints and tips you have provided above. If anyone wants to share any of their experiences of meetings with MPs or other types of campaigning, please feel free to comment on this thread or start one of your own like Len!!
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Well done, Len - sounds a good meeting - and an important start for pursuing further issues with MP. Excellent advice re getting to know their voting & speaking record & personal interests beforehand - helps you know what you're dealing with.
Excellent advice - thanks for sharing!
Great advice for new Campaign Champion Activists, has anyone else met there local MP?
Not yet, but I have exchanged emails, and have sent emails out to my local MPs and MEPs requesting a meeting.
Dear Len, all,
With thanks for the informative post - I look forward to putting your advice into action. Just need to pluck up the courage to meet with my MP now!
Couple of queries; do you sign of correspondence with 'RSPB Campaigns Champion' or similar and where can you get the RSPB clothing you mentioned from?
With thanks in advance.
Dear Jonny, for all of our campaigns where we will ask you to visit your MP we will provide you with detailed information and briefings to help you prepare for your meetings. Currently we do not provide RSPB branded clothing for our Campaign Champions as we really want to keep the focus on the grassroots and branded clothing could give the wrong impression.
Just remember that the first visit will be slightly nerve wracking but, once you have got that first meeting out of the way, I am sure you will feel empowered and enthused to do it again! RSPB staff are on hand to offer support and guidance if you ever have any questions!
Good luck and it would be great to hear about your first MP meeting!