Ideas for engaging with your MP from Campaign Coordinator, Jo Musker-Sherwood.
Some people have a brilliant relationship with their local MP. They trust that their views are listened to and they can depend on their MP to properly take their concerns on board. For many, however, this just isn't the case. Often it can feel pointless to contact an MP who sends back the same stock replies to their letters and dismisses their constituents questions with clever political talk that doesn't result in real action.
How then can we can give ourselves the best chance of really making a connection with our MP so that the conversation can go somewhere constructive?
How can we make a real connection with the human being behind the glass wall?
Often we have found that it is a few dedicated constituents who are their MPs' main source of information about climate change (when else would they learn about climate change in their 'MP training'?!). But we also know that even with all the facts available, people still struggle to really take the issue on board. The question then of how we communicate our message is just as important as what information we hope will be received and acted upon.
Here are some of our ideas of how to give yourself the best chance with your MP.
If an MP is already convinced that you don't respect where they are coming from, their chances of listening to you are greatly diminished. Being hopeful that you will find a way to work together and showing an appreciation for where they are coming from, may open the way for them to reciprocate the same attitude.
Chances are, you're not going to make a climate campaigner out of an MP who really doesn't see climate action as a priority (although we have seen it happen!). But you might be able to create a little more openness to the idea and a little less resistance to those who are fighting for change. Start small- perhaps they can forward your letter to the Minister for Energy and Climate Change, maybe they could put something on their website in support of climate action, or you could ask them to take up a relevant local issue such as better cycle paths or more green spaces... it's something to build on and if every MP was doing this, we would start to see some real change.
No one wants to feel used as a means to someone else's end. Showing your MP you're here to stay and interested in building a relationship with them may make them more willing to work with you. Strong relationships with their constituents is survival for MPs- at the very least, they will need considerable help during their next election campaigns! If you show an interest in your MPs long-term agenda, they may be more willing to show an interest in yours.
Find some Common Ground
We have seen some MPs and candidates deny the urgency of the current environmental crisis only to have a real change in heart when they find some common ground on the issue. It may be that they are a keen cyclist, have spent time in a country affected by climate change, or share the same faith as you. Finding common ground can establish trust and enable more constructive conversations to follow. It might even be as simple as finding that you support the same football team!
Don't Give Up
If you find your MP still isn't listening, see where you might be able to find some allies. Find others in your constituency to sign a joint letter or who might want to visit your MP with you. If enough constituents are concerned about an issue an MP will begin to take notice. Hope for the Future are here to offer support to anyone interested in engaging their MP on climate justice. Please contact us if you would like further ideas, or take a look at some of our resources.