How to lobby MPs 1) Visits to the MP’s constituency surgery. Face to face visits are the most effective way of communicating the strength of feeling that Christians may have about an issue. Every Christian lives in a constituency which has an MP and every MP has a ‘surgery’ once or twice a week (almost always Fridays and/or Saturdays). Surgeries are meetings which usually last between 20 and 30 minutes and are intended as an opportunity for constituents to raise any issues or concerns they have with their MP. Many people shy away from the thought of attending an MP’s surgery, but Christians should strongly be encouraged that the very job of an MP is to listen to the views of constituents and represent them in Parliament. Equally, it is for Christians to stand up for what they believe to be true and not to let unchristian policies and behaviour go unchallenged. We should not be ashamed of confronting MPs in this way. Some Christians are put off by the fear that they will simply have their arguments defeated by a clever MP. Although it may be that an MP tries to do this, anyone who visits an MP with a genuine issue should put their view across and try and stand firm based on their principles, even if they may not be able to ‘win’ the argument. This will still be of far more benefit than not putting your views to an MP out of fear. Also, the assistance and support provided by various Christian lobbying organisations should enable people to feel more confident of their arguments (further details below). Firstly though, the following starter information should be helpful in the process of contacting and lobbying your MP. a) Confirm who your local MP is. The Parliament website’s ‘Constituency Locata’ is a simple way of doing this: http://www.locata.co.uk/commons/. Alternatively, look up the details in your local phone book, or phone the House of Commons switchboard (020 7219 3000) and ask them for the information. It is important to know who your MP is because it is only your local MP who is allowed to represent your view on an issue in Parliament. b) See how your MP has voted on issues affecting Christians in the past. You can do this by using the helpful Christian Institute service at http://www.christian.org.uk/mpvotes.php. Very often, how an MP thinks and votes on an issue is dictated by the ‘Party line’ i.e. what they have been told to do by their central party leadership. Therefore it may also be worth looking at the websites of the three main parties to find out what their policy is on a given issue. It will generally be of more value to lobby MPs of the party who have a policy which goes against the Christian viewpoint. However, it is still useful to lobby MPs from parties which hold the same views as you do, because they need to know that they have support. And it is of course right that we should thank our MPs when they act in accordance with Christian values, as well as criticising them when we perceive that they do not. c) Check the ‘MPs list’ found on the Christian Concern website at the ‘How to…’ page: http://www.christianconcernforournation.co.uk/HowTo/howto.php. This document lists around 80 MPs (arranged into regions) who may be more open to being persuaded to change their minds on issues. The list also includes the phone numbers for the constituency offices of a lot of the MPs. Note: the list was created for use re: the Religious Hatred Bill but the information it contains is applicable to all issues. Some of the MPs listed are Christians or have Christian sympathies. If this is the case then make sure that when you meet them you use this common ground to urge them to support your viewpoint. Other MPs on the list have marginal seats which means they only won at the last election by a small number of votes. The number of votes are given in the ‘MPs list’ itself. If your MP has a small majority then by pointing out how strongly a large number of the Christian community feel (and that Christians will be more inclined to vote against a politician at the next general election who has supported unchristian legislation and policies) then pressure can be exerted on them. It would be good to create a ‘steady stream’ of concerned Christians going to the surgeries of the MPs on the list. d) Find out when your MP’s surgery is held and contact them to arrange a meeting. From the Parliament website, contact details can be found for all the constituency MPs at http://www.parliament.uk/directories/directories.cfm in order to find out what day of the week their surgery is held, and then make an appointment. Alternatively, phone the Commons switchboard (020 7219 3000). e) Before going to see an MP: gather as much factual information as possible. Utilise the resources of Christian organisations. Many Christian organisations prepare briefing sheets and lobbying material which can be accessed on the internet or by post. Contact or speak to any Christians you know who are knowledgeable about the area in question. 2) Writing to MPs This can be done by post, by e-mail, or by fax. Again, gather as much factual information before writing to your MP. Any correspondence with an MP should be factually accurate, present a clear argument, and show consideration of the issues involved. Christian lobbying organisations will often provide an example letter to give you an idea of the sort of approach to take. However, always try to make letters individual by focussing on the aspects of the issue you personally feel most strongly about. It is especially powerful to include any examples from your own experience if an issue or piece of legislation has touched you, a friend or a family member personally. The following websites may be of help: a) The http://www.parliament.uk/directories/directories.cfm site can be used to find the postal and e-mail addresses for MPs in their constituencies. All MPs can be reached in Westminster by addressing hem in the following format: Mr. Smith MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. b) MPs can be faxed though www.faxyourmp.com How to lobby Peers 1) Visiting Peers Those Christians who have friends or acquaintances in the House of Lords should arrange to meet with them to explain any Christian issues which will fall to be voted on or considered in the Lords. This is probably the most persuasive and direct way of influencing peers. 2) Writing to Peers Although members of the House of Lords do not have constituencies as such, they are still based, through where they live, in certain localities. It makes sense to find out who your ‘local’ peer is and then to contact them by writing or by e-mailing, to explain any concerns you have about a piece of legislation or an issue. Having the link of living close by will be a good starting point for the correspondence. A list of peers organised by regions can be found at http://www.christianconcernforournation.co.uk/HowTo/listofpeers.php. Unfortunately the list is not wholly accurate (it is sourced from another organisation) but it may be a helpful starting point. Alternatively there is an alphabetical list of members of the House of Lords on the Parliament website at http://www.parliament.uk/directories/house_of_lords_information_office/alphabetical_list_of_members.cfmor you can call the House of Lords directly and ask them for information on 0207 219 3107. Once you know the name of the relevant peer, further contact details can be found on the Parliament website at http://www.parliament.uk/directories/house_of_lords_information_office/contact.cfm. This will enable you to write to them directly, or alternatively any letters can be sent to peers at Westminster by posting them to this address: House of Lords, London, SW1A 0AA The above website can also be used for advice on how to use the correct title for a peer when writing to them. The following organisations can provide helpful information in relation to many Christian lobbying issues: 1) The Evangelical Alliance (http://www.eauk.org) 2) The Christian Institute (http://www.christian.org.uk) 3) CARE (http://www.care.co.uk) 4) The Lawyers’ Christians Fellowship (http://www.lawcf.org) (specifically for members of the legal profession) 5) Christian Concern for our Nation (http://www.christianconcernforournation.co.uk/index.php) (written by lawyers for the benefit of non-lawyers).
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