Emma Bridger met with her Conservative MP, who is also a Cabinet Minister, expecting to receive an uninterested response. However, following training from Hope for the Future she took a collaborative approach and was able to form the beginnings of a working relationship in her goal to take action against climate change. Emma shares her story...
Going to see my Conservative MP, I had no idea what to expect. After Hope for the Future helped me draft an email to my MP highlighting some of the climate issues that concern me most and asking for a meeting to discuss these issues further, I was horrified when he agreed!
I nearly didn't even call the number to arrange the meeting. I had expected him to thank me for my email and say that he was far too busy to actually see me. What could I possibly tell my MP that he didn't already know?!
Discussing this with a colleague, she told me the story of a friend who had been in a similar situation. During her meeting she expressed her concern for climate change to her MP. His response was to thank her for coming to see him, explaining that he is a representative of his constituents and he has to take forward the issues important to them. Over the last few months the majority of his constituency meetings had been about cleaning up dog mess from the pavements! He was thankful that someone was coming to him with an alternative issue that was very important to them and one that he was able to take forward in the name of his constituents. After this reassurance I booked my meeting.
Hope for the future helped me to prepare for all aspects of the meeting - from research to how to phrase things. One part which I felt may be particularly challenging was Jo's advice to make friends with my MP as he is a Conservative and has not exactly been an advocate for the environment in the past! However I took the advice on board, began by focusing on things that we agreed on and used inclusive language like 'we' and 'together'.
The result... the meeting went so well! One of the issues which I had decided to tackle was air pollution and the fact that I felt I was dying every time I walked to work! I decided to start with some of the easier solutions. I mentioned the Green Walls that are already in existence in a small number of places and asked if he would be willing to encourage more of these. Although he agreed and committed to encourage more of these I was in complete shock when he said that this was nowhere near enough. He fully supported a pollution charge for vehicles travelling in London and wanted to get 'dirty vehicles' off the road altogether. Green Walls were great but his desire was to tackle the real problem - the cars themselves. I couldn't believe it! My Conservative MP was encouraging me that we can do more to tackle pollution!
The conversation continued along these lines and he asked me to send him more information on the Eco school initiative as he had never heard of it but was very interested.
The fact that we had developed a relationship by the end of the meeting and I had been asked to contact him with more information was extremely encouraging. I have now sent him the information he requested and have begun to raise some other slightly more controversial issues. I now believe that building a relationship before I did this was key. The language of 'we' and 'us' and asking him for support and how I could support him really helped. It brought us both on the same side and allowed us to look at how we can move forward together rather than both pushing separate agendas.
The preparation from Hope for the Future was key. Focusing on the achievements and great things the Government is already doing really set the tone of the meeting. I would have gone in with a list of all of the things that make me angry and asked him why he isn't doing more. However with the help of Hope for the Future I can now see that wouldn't have got me anywhere and I would not have begun developing the ally I now feel I have in our joint quest to tackle climate change.