Working with Conservative MPs

“We are called Conservatives with good reason. We believe in conserving what is best — the
values of our way of life, the beauties of our country. Our countryside has shaped our character as a nation.”
— Margaret Thatcher
This graph by Carbon Brief illustrates how Conservative MPs show less consistency in the view that climate change as a result of human activity is an established scientific fact. 

This graph by Carbon Brief illustrates how Conservative MPs show less consistency in the view that climate change as a result of human activity is an established scientific fact. 

Climate change is a global issue that requires political attention. However, as an article on YouGov explains, climate change ‘refuses to sit comfortably with the normal rhythms of political contest’. Whilst political parties usually focus on short-term decisions that will benefit the nation in the 5 years they are in power, climate action requires long-term decisions. As a result, it is essential to have consensus among the opposing parties. However, research has shown that climate change tends to be considered a ‘left-wing’ issue, as illustrated by the graph on the right

As climate change is increasingly seen as a left-wing issue, it is essential that the arguments for action on climate change are framed in a way that also resonates with those on the centre-right of the political spectrum. Words such as ‘justice’ and even ‘global’ are examples of the left-wing language that currently surrounds climate change. Identifying centre-right language can enable us to broaden the political diversity of those engaging with the issue.

Table sourced from Climate Outreach's How to Communicate Climate Change With the Centre-Right (page 5). Click on the table to see a larger image. 

Climate Outreach (formerly COIN), a climate communications research charity, have produced excellent resources on how to appeal to the values, frames and narratives of those on the centre-right of the political spectrum. Their report, How to Communicate Climate Change With the Centre-Right, argues that people pay most attention to communicators whose language and stories speak to their values.

When talking about climate change with a Conservative MP, you are most like to have a positive conversation if you can speak to their values. The table to the right highlights key centre-right values alongside language that would resonate with each value. 

The report by Climate Outreach outlines key narratives that can be used when communicating climate change with your Conservative MP. In summary, these are; 

  • The positive opportunity of energy transition. Centre-right values do not fit well with emphasising our dependence on the fossil fuel industry, or the air pollution it causes. An effective narrative would focus on the choice we have to make the right decision for our futures. For example "Britain is a leading nation on clean energy. This clean energy is reliable and secure, offering comfortable, warm homes to everyone."
  • Climate change is a threat to conservative values. These include our duty to care for the most vulnerable, the importance of fairness, purity and an aspiration for a good life. For example "Climate change threatens the most vulnerable, such as the elderly. It is a threat to the local environment, causing damaging change to British landscapes and countryside. Flooding can cause thousands of pounds of damage to property that people have saved and worked hard for their whole lives."
  • Your centre-right values require that you respond to this issue. Centre-right values suggest taking action against anything that might harm the sense of purity such as corruption and pollution. For example "Conservative values mean a duty to serve and protect the natural world, leaving it in a better state for our great-grandchildren. Conservatives claim the British values of fairness, hardworking and being disciplined."
  • A sense of common purpose. Loyalty to the group is a strong centre-right value, meaning they are proud to pull together with others to protect the things that are most important to them. For example "Dealing with climate change can bring the country together with a shared objective. Britain should learn from other leading countries with long term energy strategies and earn a sense of pride, ownership and responsibility for the energy produced and consumed." 

As well as speaking to your MP's values, it is important to frame yourself as an ally. If you don't agree on something, try to avoid this topic altogether and instead find an area that you can agree to work together on. To find your MP's areas of interest, research them and your local constituency to find areas of common ground that you can bring up during your conversation. For more advice on preparing for a difficult conversation with your MP, and how to research your MP and local area, click on the buttons below. 

“We make a living by what we get. But we make a life by what we give.”
— Winston Churchill
Campaigners meet with Conservative MP for North East Hampshire, Ranil Jayawardena. 

Campaigners meet with Conservative MP for North East Hampshire, Ranil Jayawardena. 

Hope for the Future campaigners meeting with Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire, Lucy Frazer.   

Hope for the Future campaigners meeting with Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire, Lucy Frazer.