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Campaigning – Political Lobbying
A short guide to lobbying politicians in general, and more specially in relation to the cuts in local government.
In the past, we have not made enough use of this important campaigning tool. It only takes about ten letters for an elected member to start to take notice. Imagine the impact of even ten percent of members making contact. Your voice as an individual voter is extremely powerful.
Why should you Lobby politicians?
Lobbying is the process of trying to influence policy by contacting politicians to highlight an issue of concern to you. UNISON Scotland is running national campaigns to protect public services but local lobbying is extremely effective. Politicians will tend to give more attention to a letter from a constituent than from an organisation – even those they support. They are sensitive to the opinion of their electorate. Few politicians have such large majorities that they can take voters for granted, and most want a reputation as a good MP/ MSP/ Councillor. Your letter/meeting could make all the difference in influencing what issues your MP, MSP or councillor decides to focus on.
Who to contact?
In order to lobby politicians, it is of course necessary to identify who your local politicians are. In Scotland you have a range of politicians to lobby about cuts in local government and you will need to identify who to approach with which message.
Local authority areas are covered by a number of MPs, there will be constituency and list MSPs and each council ward will have three or four councillors. Individuals must contact the appropriate members for their own home address. The details can be found in a number of ways. Local libraries will have lists of all local councillors, as well as details of local MPs and MSPs and their surgeries. Information about members of parliament at the Scottish and Westminster parliaments is available online via websites such as www.theyworkforyou.com. Further information on the Regional MSPs within your area is available from www.scottish.parliament.uk.
Who is in power on your council?
The move to proportional representation in local government means that councils are mostly run by coalitions or minority control. It is important to know which party/ies are in power in your local council, as you will be making a different approach to opposition members than to those who are part of the ruling group. It is also important to contact those who hold specific positions in the ruling group to ensure that member from their ward/constituency can contact the appropriate member with a targeted message. This information will be available at your council’s website.
Power has already changed hands in a few councils because of splits in coalitions or by-elections. Lobbying councillors over cuts can therefore be even more effective than in the past.
MPs and MSPs – how have they voted?
There are also some online resources available to check how MPs and MSPs have voted on certain issues. For MSPs you would have to search the Scottish Parliament website but for MPs there is www.publicwhip.org.uk and www.theyworkforyou.com. Similar information is available is available in Hansard (House of Commons) or in the Official Document (Scottish Parliament) and should be available from main libraries.
Is your MSP in the Scottish Government?
The Scottish government website also indicates which MSPs hold which position in government http://www.gov.scot/About/People/Ministers. If they are your MSP then you can use your position as a constituent to lobby them.
There are a number of ways to contact politicians, including telephone calls, a visit to their surgeries, via social media such as Facebook or Twitter, and by letter or email.
Surgery and contact details are usually available from your local library or local council website.
MSPs can be contacted via the Scottish Parliament website that gives email and postal addresses as well as a contact phone number.
However there are some key points to remember:
- Identify yourself as a constituent
- Be polite and concise
- If writing, keep the letter brief but do enclose any relevant reports
- Ensure the information you provide is factually accurate
- Stick to one issue to avoid over burdening or confusing the receiver
- Be clear about what you are asking them to do
- Request a reply
- Make sure you include your name, address and telephone number in any correspondence
- Write in your own individual style, as personalised communications have more impact than standardised responses than circulars.
Page updated: 2 March 2015