Contacting and lobbying your MP

While there's a lot UCU can do nationally to raise the issues that concern members, members of parliament (MPs) really like to hear from people who live or work in their constituency. If you are seeking support from people outside your workplace for an objective, your MP is a potential supporter.

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In this advice 'MP' includes members of the UK Parliament, Scottish Parliament (MSPs), National Assembly for Wales (AMs), and the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland.

The support of an MP can carry weight in your institution, help you get media coverage and help you influence ministers where necessary. MPs are elected by you, your colleagues and students and are there to provide a service for you. Even if they don't agree they should still listen. Working with UCU can give MPs access to a large number of politically active constituents which may prove useful when elections come around.

It's important to remember that UCU is not affiliated to any political party and to bear that in mind in contacts with local politicians.

Here you'll find advice on:

How MPs can help

You can ask your MP to do a variety of things, What you choose depends on the nature of the campaign.

Things you can ask an MP to do:

  • Make a public statement in the media
  • Write a letter to the vice-chancellor/principal
  • Meet with your institution
  • Appear at a public meeting
  • Write to, or table a question to a government minister
  • Use an example from you in a speech they are making
  • Put down an Early Day Motion (a kind of parliamentary petition which can be signed by other MPs to show support)
  • Hold an adjournment debate in Westminster Hall or the House of Commons chamber (MPs can apply for these and, if granted, the minister has to reply to their speech).

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Will they support your campaign?

One of the key judgements to make is whether or not your MP will be prepared to support you. It's worth being realistic about this but don't be put off approaching them - if only to make them aware of the issue. Finding out about your MP's background, interests and record will help you decide on the best approach. Always remember, the larger the MP's postbag the more they are likely to listen.

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Finding out about your MP

It's important to do some research. Did the MP go to university or college? Did they work in education? Do they have a trade union background? Are they, or were they, a UCU member; or a member of one of the predecessor unions AUT or NATFHE? Are they on a relevant parliamentary committee (the innovation, universities, science and skills, and children, schools and families select committees, for example) or a back-bench group?

To find out more, contact UCU's public affairs staff who will be pleased to help. The UCU Scottish, Northern Ireland and Wales regional offices will be pleased to help too.

Email publicaffairs@ucu.org.uk

Or you can use one of the websites listing politicians and their interests such as  www.ePolitix.com or books like Dod's Parliamentary Companion or the Times Guide to the House of Commons.

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Getting in touch

MPs have huge amounts of local casework at any given time so the first impression they have of you and your issue is important. It's also worth remembering that your initial contact to their local office will be handled by constituency staff (an MP rarely has more than one or two staff members) so it's a good idea to stay on the right side of them.

Always be clear about the issue you are campaigning on, why you think the politician should take an interest, what you want them to do and how they can best contact you. If you can tailor an approach to their background so much the better.

To get in contact about an issue or to arrange a meeting you can call or write to them in their constituency office (your local phone directory will have the number and address) or at:

House of Commons
London, SW1A 0AA

The Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh, EH99 1SP

National Assembly for Wales
Cardiff Bay
Cardiff, CF99 1NA

Contact them for free on www.writetothem.com.

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Writing to your MP

Members of Parliament receive a large amount of mail on a regular basis. You can increase the chance of correspondence being acted upon by being concise and precise.

MPs tend to measure the importance of issues by the weight of the mailbag so it can be very useful to encourage colleagues to send letters making similar points.

Tips for writing to your MP

  • Be brief - restrict the letter to one side of A4 paper only.
  • Restrict the number of issues mentioned. 
  • Personalise your letter. If you're encouraging others to write, make sure the letters are not mass-produced.
  • Always ask her/him to take positive action on your behalf and for written confirmation that they will do it.
  • Make your points clear and concise. A good idea is to bullet point each point in a logical progression.
  • Let them know how best they can contact you.

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Arranging a meeting

Going to your MP's surgery or arranging a specific meeting is a really good way of conveying members' concerns to a person who may be in an immediate position to help. An MP is elected to listen to constituents, so make sure that those who meet the MP are either living or working in the constituency.

You could arrange to take some people to the appropriate parliament or assembly to meet their local politician or a group of local politicians. If you want to meet MPs in parliament or in the assembly you'll need to get one MP/MSP/AM to help you book a room. Or you could invite them to speak to your local branch/LA or executive.

Always prepare for a meeting. Time will be limited so you need to muster the points you want to get across and what you'd like your MP to do. They may well have ideas about the best route to take but may look to you for guidance if they're not familiar with where the power lies in your college or university.

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Follow-up

Always write to thank your MP(s) after the meeting - whatever the level of support.

Make sure you follow up on any promises that they have made to you, for example writing to your vice-chancellor/principal or the relevant minister. Always ask them to send you copies of any correspondence sent on your behalf and any replies received.

Always check with them first if you plan to publicise any help they offer you.

Keep them informed on the progress of your campaign.

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More resources

A simple web search using any search engine will throw up lots of useful links. Here are a few.

An introduction to Parliament

Information about the House of Commons and House of Lords in the United Kingdom Parliament

Directgov: public services portal

Parliament live TV

This week's parliamentary information bulletin including timetables for this week's business

Early Day Motions

Parliamentary Legislation - list of current Bills going through parliament

Business, Innovation and Skills Committee

Communities and Local Government Committee

www.theyworkforyou.com - Use the 'Search Parliament' option to search everything said in the Commons since 2001, or for an MP or constituency.

The Public Whip - The Public Whip is a project to watch MPs, so that the public (people like us) can better influence their voting patterns

MP statistics from Guardian Unlimited

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)

Department for Education

Department of Education Northern Ireland

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Last updated: 6 January 2016