In mid-October, Hope for the Future delivered training to Zero Carbon Harrogate, a group dedicated to seeing their local area reducing its carbon footprint. Hope for the Future’s co-founder and trustee, Jemima Parker is the Chair of this group and invited HFTF's Assistant Director, Sarah, to run a two hour session on how to contact MPs and local councillors about the issue of climate change. In the audience was a local Liberal Democrat Councillor for Harrogate, Pat Marsh. Pat was incredibly helpful to have there as she was able to offer her own perspective of how, as a local politician, she would like to be approached by local residents. Pat writes about how she found the session below.
The session organised by Zero Carbon Harrogate was very interesting because I was to hear from Sarah and others on how to contact your MP or local Councillor, and being a local Councillor it was something I was keen to hear.
Sarah led the Group through how to find contact details of your local Councillor and MP and how to research their existing interests thoroughly before making contact. We then heard about how to approach these people in a way that they would listen and reply to the concerns raised, such as the use of questions and finding common ground. One of the most important points was to not be aggressive, aggressive language would almost always result in a negative response. Sarah suggested that it was better to put your points succinctly and politely to start the dialogue as well as preparing possible solutions to the issue being raised. There followed a good discussion on those points and I was able to help with some of the responses.
The group then broke out into small groups and a role playing exercise was undertaken, one member acting as the MP/local Councillor and others taking the role of the concerned resident contacting them. Lots of serious discussions took place within the groups and some of the feedback was very interesting. Those taking the role of the politician felt under pressure and could see how difficult it could be for the person being contacted. As a result they felt that they had a better understanding on how to approach their local politicians.
I found it a thought provoking meeting for both those receiving the guidance, as well as for myself; the recipient of lots of communication from residents. Hopefully those attending found the session rewarding, I know I did.
Cllr Pat Marsh