Blog 3: Your MP’s values
Briony Latter, 25th January 2019
This blog series explores different aspects of climate change communication. Talking to people about climate change and trying to engage them with the subject involves more than simply getting your facts straight. It’s really important to think about who your audience is and how you talk to people. In this third post, we share some information about the importance of values when discussing climate change with your MP.
Values, which can be defined as “principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life”, can be an important consideration when talking to both groups and individuals about climate change. Listening to and having conversations with someone who shares your values can make a difference to how you respond to the subject and how much you trust what they have to say.
A good example of one of these “trusted sources” is climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who is an evangelical Christian and whose “lectures are effective at informing evangelical college students about climate change”. Another example of using trusted sources was at our recent event, Green Christianity in a Fragile Planet: An evening with Jo Johnson MP, which was held at Orpington Baptist Church. As mentioned in our previous blog post, climate change was discussed in a way that related to Christianity. But what can you do when you think your values are different to those of your MP?
Although you might not see eye to eye with them, it is important to find common ground with your MP so that you can start to have a constructive conversation and help them to take action on climate change. As Jamie Clarke from Climate Outreach states, we must find “shared values that unite us” and it is also important to remember that “effective communication involves listening as well as speaking”. Searching for shared values means that you can find topics that both you and your MP can have a productive discussion about and that you both agree are important to take action on. This article in The Guardian demonstrates some excellent examples of finding common ground. It details five pairs of friends in parliament from different political parties and despite their obvious differences, they have managed to find common ground from which trust can be built and friendships formed.
As stated in an article by Adam Corner, Ezra Markowitz and Nick Pidgeon, “disagreements about climate change are more likely to be about values than about the underlying science”. Our page about working with Conservative MPs runs through some useful narratives and values to think about and use if you are working with Conservative MPs.
As we say in our vision, ultimately our language must speak to the values of those we seek to engage. Understanding your MP’s values can help you to better communicate with them about climate change. In order to find common ground, research your MP to get an idea of their interests and political values. Trying to identify shared values can help you to build a meaningful relationship with your MP and we can help you to get there. Visit our training pages for more information about how we can help you to work with your MP.
Hope for the Future Case Study
We delivered training for a group in Lincoln who are keen to engage several MPs in the area on climate change. Hope for the Future did background research on all the Lincoln MPs to try and uncover their existing interests and identify the main values that the MPs might hold. We were lucky to be joined by local MP, Karen Lee’s office manager who was able to give an insight into Karen’s core values. A local advocate, Karen’s key concern is alleviating poverty in Lincoln and beyond. Climate change is predicted to have the greatest effect on society’s most vulnerable such as those living in poverty, so we recognised this as the key issue with which to engage Karen. The group are now working to organise a constituency event on climate change and poverty with Karen Lee MP in attendance.