In order to represent their constituents appropriately, MPs must listen to their opinions, struggles, values and passions and allow this to influence the arguments they bring to Parliament. This relationship between constituents and their MPs is one which must be protected, maintained and enabled to flourish in order to establish a healthy representative democracy. At Hope for the Future, we believe that this relationship is the bedrock of democracy and a vital vehicle for social change.
Through researching the conditions of MP-Constituent engagements, we aim to establish how this relationship can be better supported to create a fairer and more representative society, particularly with regards to climate change.
Accompanying constituents for over 100 MP meetings over the last three years, we have dedicated our time to understanding why so many campaigners feel frustrated with their engagement with their MP. We have met with many MPs of different political persuasions and values. Whether they are an MP that devotes their time to work in Parliament, or one that places greater importance on their work in the local constituency, we find that the vast majority of MPs have a strong sense of respect for the integrity of the relationship between constituents and themselves.
Along with our first hand experience and hearing from MPs themselves, we draw on recent political research in order to establish the conditions for a constructive MP engagement.
One such area of research was that of political anthropologist, Emma Crewe. In her book, The House of Commons: An Anthropology of MPs at Work, Dr Crewe explores the motivations and values of MPs. She delves into the mysteries of what is going on behind what Hope for the Future has described as the ‘glass wall’ - a metaphorical barrier that campaigners face when attempting to engage their MP.
Another significant influence in our research was from the work of Peter Bull, a political psychologist at York University. Dr Bull’s research into the defensive behaviours of MPs suggests that MPs have three ‘faces’ - or an image - which they must portray to the public and protect when under scrutiny; their personal face, the face of supporting and non-supporting others, and the face of their own political party. Dr Bull used these faces to explain the way in which politicians respond to questions in interviews by avoiding direct answers or giving ambiguous responses.
Drawing on research such as the examples given above, our approach understands how constituents could break through this ‘glass wall’ to find the individual with similar hopes, dreams and fears to their own, and begin to work together.
Our research allows us to train constituents in how to work constructively with even the most challenging of MPs. It empowers constituents who need further experience, support and confidence to take control of their relationship with their MP and work for the change they wish to see in the world. We accompany constituents across the UK to meet with their MP so that we can gain a better understanding of what works well in an MP meeting, what the challenges are, and how we can use this experience to provide better support for others.
By working with us in discerning the most effective way to engage your MP on climate change, our supporters are contributing to our ground-breaking approach to lobbying MPs. We hope that as more people work with us in this way, we will be able to restore balance to MP-constituent meetings and promote a healthier, more representative democracy where citizens know that they can have their voices heard and make real change in our society.
Thank you to all our supporters for being a part of this exciting development in our move towards a sustainable future.