How to lobby your MP

Here in the Boingboing / CRSJ / Resilience Revolution community, we encourage each other and our pals to write to our MP’s when we think important changes need to happen in our communities. Writing to your MP might seem daunting but it is probably much easier than you think and really can make a difference. And remember – even if you feel like you don’t have much time to write that perfectly crafted letter – anything is better than nothing.

To help you to give it a go, we’ve put together this guide on how to lobby your MP.

Who to write to

Writing to your local MP is usually your best bet, as they are more likely to reply to someone in their constituency (even if you didn’t vote for them!) or forward on the request to the relevant Minister – who is obliged to respond to the letters they get from MPs.

You can find out who your local MP is at www.theyworkforyou.com or https://www.writetothem.com/.

However, your MP isn’t the only person you can write to. We also write to senior people in higher education, committee members, departmental ministers, headteachers and senior administrators in local councils. Think about who might have power in the system to make the changes you want to see.

Do your research

Your passion for your cause may have inspired your lobbying, but your message will have more impact if you can back it up with evidence. Is there any recent research you can point towards to outline the problem or highlight effective solutions?

Here at Boingboing we have various resources you might find helpful around mental health and resilience, in particular, we have several reports that have been put together as submissions of evidence which we have sent to the Government to raise awareness around the following issues:

Children and young people’s mental health
The long term impact of living online on people’s wellbeing
The economic impact of Covid-19 on young people
The disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on people with disabilities
The disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on people with disabilities: Follow up

In your letter highlight the evidence, who it is about and who has produced it. It will also help to provide a brief summary of the findings and conclusions of any research – a busy MP might need encouragement to follow links and open attachments. Also, don’t assume that your MP knows about the issues involved – it’s your job to educate them.

Make it personal

For your letter to have maximum impact it helps to make it personal rather than using a template or generic message. For best results make it personal to you, and personal to your MP. Writing a personal message shows the passion you have for your cause. Tell them who you are, where you live and work, and if you can give examples of how you or the people you support are personally affected by the issue.

To make it personal to your MP you might need to do a bit of good honest cyberstalking. Is your MP a member of any relevant committees? Do they have any roles that relate to or complement your area of interest? If so, don’t be shy about pointing them out in your letter – link their role to your cause and tell them why what you are sharing will be of interest to them.

Be specific

Be specific about what you would like your MP to do (i.e. table or sign an Early Day Motion, contact government bodies to raise your concerns, raise the issues with another Minister, ask questions in Parliament). As the young co-leaders of the resilience Revolution say in their blog on email activism – ‘be really clear in your mind what the purpose of the e-mail is. What are you hoping will happen as a result of your correspondence? What are you hoping to achieve?’

Check it twice

It’s great that you are passionate about your cause but watch that anger and frustration doesn’t bubble over into rudeness. You are lobbying your MP to get them on board – offending them could be counterproductive. However, this is about being respectful, calm and polite – not hiding your passion. As Angie Hart here at Boingboing says most of her lobbying skills come from crafting emails following the same general formula:

“yours a little bit miffed/sad from Brighton, how about you do this, I’m sure you really want to and then you will save lots of money and/or the world will be a better place”

 But if – like our Angie admits in the blog on email activism – you can be a bit hot-headed sometimes, get someone else to read what you’ve written before sending it or take a break and sleep on it before hitting that send button.

Plan your next steps

So, you’ve hit the send button – now what? Voicing your concerns can be a powerful move – but it doesn’t have to end there. Ask your MP to keep you updated and send you copies of any responses they receive from other MPs or relevant people. Don’t forget to include your address and contact details in your correspondence so they can. And if you don’t hear anything, follow it up. It can also be a smart move to send out a tweet about your email and copy in the target of your campaign.

Need a bit of inspiration to get you started?

Although we’ve said that a personal message is better than using a standard template, we do understand that sometimes nothing stops creativity more than staring at a blank page. So, here’s an example letter format we’ve used for our submission of evidence on children and young people’s mental health provision to show you how we’ve put our own advice into practice:

Hi xxxxx,

Hope all is well with you and your team. I’m emailing you with something I have been working on in our community organisation Boingboing and with our colleagues at the Centre of Resilience for Social Justice, University of Brighton. As a group of academics, students, practitioners, parents/carers and young people, working as and with disadvantaged communities we have just submitted evidence to The House of Lords Health and Social Care Committee on Children and Young People’s Mental Health. I know you’ll be particularly interested in this because of your role in [insert any specific interest they have in this area/committees they are in].

In the report they shared their thoughts on whether progress has been made by the Government in its ambition to improve children and young people’s mental health provision. There is a lot of detail in our submission about our critique of what has happened. We have been worried for some years about the over-reliance on mainstream CAMHS to be the answer to disadvantaged children’s mental health difficulties in any case. Bring on the Woodcraft Folk, choirs and other community-based activities etc. as recognised mental health interventions say…

Hope you find it useful and helpful. As you know young people’s mental health has suffered even more during the pandemic, and disadvantaged children have copped it worse than others – as usual. Our evidence submission is unusual because it is written by our unique partnership. So co-authors identify as having mental health difficulties (we have some Boingboing members who have been or are very poorly), some of us are parents/carers of children who struggle with their mental health, and others of us are academics/practitioners working in this field.

I would be grateful if you could read the response that Boingboing submitted to the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Parliamentary review: 

https://www.boingboing.org.uk/children-young-people-mental-health-evidence-submission/

To summarise, individual interventions (such as Mental Health Support Teams in schools) will have little impact on the ever-increasing number of children and young people experiencing mental health difficulties if they are not accompanied by wider systems change and addressing social inequalities, particularly for children and young people who are most marginalised in society and therefore at greatest risk. In our response, we also express deep concern about the safety and welfare of children and young people in inpatient settings, including the overuse of medication and restraint. We recommend increased funding in community-led, resilience-based approaches; addressing social inequalities, a review of how the education system impacts mental health, an immediate review of inpatient settings, and more mental health research funding to widen our understanding of what works for Children and Young People’s mental health.

It would be so great if you could use the attached for your own lobbying. This is such an important issue about which I care very deeply for both personal and professional reasons as you know.

Very best
XXXX

Useful resources

The Commons Library lobbying and advocacy pages: http://www.commonslibrary.org/lobbying-and-advocacy-start-here/

Equity guide to lobbying your MP: https://www.equity.org.uk/media/1497/guide-to-lobbying-your-mp.pdf

CSW Tips for writing to your MP: https://www.csw.org.uk/