|from the Independent Group
How To Lobby Government Effectively
At its simplest, lobbying is simply letting those who
make decisions know what you think. You might be trying to reach your
member of parliament, a minister or a civil servant.
its most complex, it's about getting those people to take the decision
you want. You might want to put road humps outside your child's school
or CCTV in a local car park. You might want planning permission refused
for someone trying to build flats on a playing field. You might want
to support the removal of an act of parliament.
Maybe you just want to persuade your local MP, MSP, AM
or MEP to come along to your youth club and tell the members what a
good job they're doing.
short, then, lobbying is talking to the establishment.
|First steps as a
You need to decide exactly what you hope to achieve by
lobbying, who can help, what motivates them, who could catch their eye.
You need to be clear about your facts. Lobbying isn't about persuading
people to do something by the force of your personality. It's about
giving the right people the right information at the right time in the
deciding who you need to speak to, you need to ask yourself a series
has the power to take the decision I want?
will interest him or her?
else would they listen to?
|How can I make it easy for them
to agree with me?
isn't easy. Whatever politicians say, all governments hide themselves
away from the people they represent.
how do you get access to the government machine?
your MP. He or she has access to ministers. But remember that most backbenchers
have little clout.
or joining an effective pressure group. These carry weight. Get a group
behind you. Appear more representative. Grab headlines
the press. Even more than most, this government responds to the media
agenda. Go for the Daily Mail and the Sun.
|How to approach
|Write to your
MP at the House Of Commons, but be aware that most MPs simply pass on
all constituents' correspondence to the appropriate minister for their
comments. It's possible that your MP just becomes a bureaucratic post
office between you and the government.
and see your MP at the House Of Commons. If you can, fix an appointment
before you go. If you can't, you can go to Central Lobby and fill in a
card for the attendants to find your MP and bring him or her to you. This
often doesn't work.
to your MP's constituency surgery. Some MPs meet their constituents on
a first-come first-served basis. Others insist on appointments being made.
Check with the constituency office or the MP's House Of Commons office
whether an appointment is necessary before you go.
|What's the best
depends on your MP. Some are very active on constituency matters, and
respond very positively to any approach from constituents. Others will
do little more than act as a post-box unless the issue particularly interests
them. So when you approach your MP:
to work out what will interest him or her, and make sure this is highlighted
in your first approach.
|If possible, make it clear
that you represent a group of his or her constituents, that you're not
just acting on your own.
sure you understand what position he or she has been taking on the issue
before you make your approach. Read your local newspapers. Check whether
your MP has a web site. Check Hansard to see if the issue has been raised
in the House Of Commons and whether your MP has made any comments.
|Know what you want him or her
to do. MPs will often ask you what you want to do to help. If you know,
and you have a plan by which you can involve them, you can respond positively.
If you don't know, you don't have a plan, you'll be losing a golden opportunity.
|Going directly to the minister
|You can try
going straight to the top, but:
do not reply to letters from members of the public. If you write simply
as a citizen to a minister, you're likely to receive a reply from a low-ranking
departments are organised so that ordinary citizens find it difficult
to speak directly to ministers.
are unlikely to see letters from "ordinary people". These are
filtered to a civil servant for reply.
make sure that the minister sees your letter, you need to do one of the
it as a constituent. Ministers' offices ensure that ministers see all
of their constituents' letters immediately. The minister will give a personal
reply - though the letter will still be drafted by civil servants.
as a representative of a nationally recognised body or a local body with
plenty of clout. If the minister's office believes that you represent
a significant organisation, it's possible that the civil servants handling
the letter will ask the minister to sign a personal reply will ask the
minister to sign a reply himself or herself.
can always try opening the letter: "As a lifetime Labour supporter..."
(obviously so long as it is a Labour government). It sometimes works!
|How to motivate
press interest. Contact the minister's local newspaper or try to contact
the Lobby (political) correspondents of one of the serious newspapers.
Under New Labour, "serious newspapers" includes the Sun and
the Daily Mail as well as the more traditional broadsheets.
|Personal interest. If the issue is something the minister
has campaigned about in the past, your campaign may spark an interest.
risk. The minister will act if there's a risk of being criticised for
neglecting your issue. You need to make it seem likely that the risk exists.
advantage. The minister will take a personal interest if there's a chance
that taking your side will result in a popular decision.
|How to generate
people who matter to the minister:
advisers. All Cabinet ministers have one or two special advisers in their
departments. Special advisers are political appointments (technically
appointed as temporary civil servants). Their job is to give their ministers
political advice alongside the official advice offered by the civil service.
Some concentrate more on policy development (the so-called policy wonks)
while others concentrate on their ministers' public image (the so-called
private secretary. All senior ministers have a PPS, an MP who acts as
the minister's eyes and ears in parliament and among the minister's political
advisers and researchers at party headquarters.
constituency agent and chairman of the local constituency party.
|Some local councillors within
their constituency. Relationships between councillors and MPs vary dramatically
according to personalities.
|Meetings with civil
the offer of a meeting with a civil servant. Bear in mind that:
servants advise ministers on policy from a non-political standpoint.
will assess your case on the basis of facts and logic rather than political
will try to act in accordance with the government's policies, but only
on the basis of helping to implement them. They won't be developing the
political theory behind policy.
importantly, like the rest of us, civil servants want an easy life. So
make it easy for them:
all the facts to hand.
why you want them to advocate the change you feel is necessary.
they ask questions you can't answer, promise to come back with the answers.
to do so!
a note with them of your main points and arguments.
to them after the meeting reminding them of their promises.
after two or three weeks and ask them what progress they have made.
to the minister, thanking him for arranging the meeting, and telling him
what the civil servants said they would do.
reproduced from Citizensconnection.net
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