Learn to lobby
Our Senior External Affairs & Policy Manager Liam Budd outlines his tips on what you can do to take action and effectively engage your local MP.
Engaging your local MP
Everyone in the UK is represented by a Member of Parliament. MPs represent your interests and concerns in the House of Commons, they challenge the work of Government, and debate key issues. At the moment, Parliament is focused almost entirely on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Engaging your MP is an effective tool for influencing political change. MPs consider many different views when deciding what issues to support. Although your MP cannot help in every case, they usually point you in the right direction.
Write to your MP
Writing to your MP is a great way for them to hear your concerns and take steps to support you. In response to COVID-19, we have put together template letters, which you can use to lobby and we also have more detailed advice for writing to your elected representatives.
Remember that MPs receive hundreds of emails every day and face a significantly increased workload because of COVID. They aim to reply to their constituents within 2 weeks and are prioritising COVID related casework, so you should get a response within this timeframe.
If you are waiting for more than two weeks, you can follow up by ringing their offices and speaking directly with the MP’s caseworker. The office numbers can be found online. Another effective way of getting your MP’s attention is to tweet them directly on social media in a respectful manner.
Invite your MP to support the APPG for Music Education
Help promote the importance of music education by emailing your MP, inviting them to attend the next meeting of the APPG for Music Education.
When asking your local MP to join the APPG, explain how their membership of the Group would be a valuable declaration of their commitment to music education and extremely appreciated by their local constituents involved in music education.
Visit the APPG website for more information or contact [email protected] if you have any questions.
Attend an advice surgery
Most MPs hold surgeries in their constituency, which is an opportunity for you to meet them face to face and discuss matters of concern. MPs usually hold surgeries once a week and advertise them locally or online. Because of COVID-19, most MPs are holding telephone advice surgeries and some are running these virtually. We would strongly encourage you to reach out to your local MP to raise issues relating to COVID-19.
Please keep us updated on any interactions you have with your MP by emailing [email protected].
Dos and don'ts
Do your research
- Know your MP so you can tailor your approach to catch their attention. What issues have they recently spoken about? Do they have a history working on the issues that you are lobbying on? Find answers to these questions, so you can better tailor your approach.
- Get the basics right – make sure you spell their name correctly!
- Which party: government or opposition? This affects what the MP may be prepared to do for you. This should also affect your messaging. For example, when speaking to Tory MPs could you reference the Chancellor’s Plan for Jobs or the government’s 'levelling up' agenda.
- What is their voting record? Do they ever rebel against their parties' positions? This might tell you how likely they are to stand up for you on certain issues.
- Are they on the front bench? This can affect what they are allowed to do. For example, a Government minister or an Opposition shadow spokesperson (frontbenchers) have to follow the party line whereas MPs without official positions (backbenchers) do not on many issues. However, if your local MP is a minister or shadow minister for the relevant government department for your campaign issue this may help you make a difference.
Do personalise and localise
- Personalise your messages. MPs are people, and they will appreciate personal touches, relating to your or there experiences.
- What are your shared interests? They may live in your town and have similar experiences to you, so try to frame your argument through a local lense. MPs, after all, first and foremost have a responsibility to their constituency.
- MPs are human beings: they get tired and stressed, and most of them work very hard.
Do simplify and be realistic
- Simplify your messages, and don’t overload your communications with too many asks.
- Be realistic with what you are trying to achieve and what your MP can help you with, and the timeline for getting results.
- If you damage the relationship they will be less likely to help you.
- If you didn’t vote for them in the last general election, don’t tell them this. Try to set party or broader political differences aside.
Don't overcomplicate, but don't generalise either!
- Don’t overcomplicate messages with lots of different policy asks – if it is about Brexit focus on Brexit, if it is about music education focus on that.
- Avoid sending generic emails – MPs are less likely to properly respond to generic emails from 25 different people. So when your using our template letters, try to personalise!
The issues that matter: the ISM's COVID manifesto
Earlier this month we launch the ISM’s COVID-19 manifesto, which outlines our key asks for Government. Many of these asks have been central to our campaigning work for the last few months, and if delivered they would have a significant impact on many of those working in the music sector. We encourage you to use our manifesto to help shape your lobbying asks.
ISM’s COVID-19 manifesto includes:
- Extending the SEISS until the end of the year, so the freelancers in the music sector can continue to get the support they need, while uncertainty remains
- Expanding coverage of the SEISS to ensure musicians do not fall through the cracks
- Extending the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in full for the creative sector, including the 10 June deadline for employers to furlough their employees
- Rates relief for music venues, use of tax breaks and a VAT holiday for the next 12 months on ticket sales, and the introduction of a new creative sector tax reliefs for music
- A clear timeline for reopening venues without social distancing
- Full consultation across the performing arts sector on any government commissioned research into managing risks arising from COVID-19 in the performing arts
- Ensuring music education is at the heart of the return to schools’ agenda guaranteeing a broad and balanced curriculum in our schools regardless of their status
- A package of support measures for musicians post Brexit, including a two year EU-wide multi entry visa, cultural exemption for the temporary transportation of instruments and equipment, and expansion of CITES-designated points of entry and exit
What else can I do?
As well as contacting your MPS, there are range of other things you can be doing. For example, you could start or sign a petition on the UK Parliament website. You could submit evidence to a Public Bill Committee or Select Committee. You could also watch Parliament online or attend in person (pre COVID-19).
If you want to learn more about how to lobby, you can also watch our new webinar, covering details about what our External Affairs team is doing to help musicians, further information about how you can take action, and techniques to maximise impact with your MP.