How we supported the Time is Now lobby in Manchester to engage with their MP on aviation and green transport. This is part of our ongoing Hopeful Heroes series, where we show the impacts we - alongside the constituents and groups we support - are having on climate and nature issues.
Building a constructive relationship
When we first started working with the constituent group at the start of 2020 they described their MP as someone who would do 'anything for a quiet life'. His background shows an MP who is personally engaged in climate and environmental issues - he was the first Carbon Literate MP, and he gave up his car in 2017 because of a concern for the planet. However, he had only spoken about climate change a handful of times in Parliament. He broadly agreed with the constituents on environmental issues but didn't turn words into action enough. The constituents also described him as seeming to feel jaded and powerless on climate issues. After the Time is Now lobby, their MP agreed to meet the group for quarterly meetings about climate and environmental issues.
Recognising what your MP can and can’t do
When Hope for the Future were asked for support, we worked on a strategy that was tailored to the amount of ambition he could show as a party whip and his political interests. In that first meeting that we supported the constituents they didn’t ask him to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill as they understood that his position meant that he couldn't, but instead asked him to work on other issues where he was able to take action and make a difference.
By supporting the constituent group to understand and have empathy for their MP and his position, we fostered a greater sense of reciprocity that has given the group a more positive outlook on their work. We asked the MP what issues he would like to understand more, to develop a mutually beneficial relationship where he benefits from expert input and an opportunity to explore ideas. The first issue he chose was hydrogen, and one of our researchers delivered a presentation at the next meeting on hydrogen and its opportunities and challenges. We specifically did not include political asks on these segments to build feelings of trust and security to explore ideas.
The group regularly meet with their MP. His first action was to write a letter to Kwasi Kwarteng asking that shipping and aviation emissions are included in the sixth carbon budget. He completed this ask posted about it on Twitter
We have since worked on aviation issues, with the Time is Now group proposing several asks on the aviation sector including limiting growth of the sector and frequent flyer levies. Aside from the specific actions we asked him to take, he has become more active on transport issues in parliament. At a debate on transport in June 2021, he asked about the carbon impact of the £27bn RIS2 and the disparity in support between the Eurostar, which is crucial to the net zero agenda, and aviation.
After the political turmoil of early 2022 we decided to focus efforts on how working with this Labour MP could help influence the party’s manifesto for the next election. The MP sent letters to Ed Milliband on wood burning power stations and questions about local transport. Linked to this the MP has asked questions explicitly about if the North is being neglected in terms of rail services and on Greater Manchester’s clean air zone.
The ambition is to push this MP to take further actions whilst the relationship between him and the group becomes stronger. The group is highly skilled and wanting to get more out of the engagements. We also see this being an important relationship as Labour look likely to form the next government.