‘Firm Briefing’ is what we are giving our MPs in the run-up to the expected debate on the future of driven grouse shooting in the Westminster parliament at a date to be determined (but likely to be October or November). Our aim is to get a good and truthful debate on the future of driven grouse shooting and to raise the issue up the political agenda.
All posts on this blog which are concerned with the debate on driven grouse shooting and how to contact and interact with your MPs are tagged ‘Firm Briefing’ and can be found by clicking on the Firm Briefing category in the list to the right of this blog post.
Thank you very much to over 330 of you who have contacted your MP (often using this template for guidance) and are now getting responses from your Conservative (often like this), Labour (often like this) and SNP (see tomorrow morning’s blog post – Firm Briefing 9) MPs. The 330 of you (us) have contacted well over a third of Westminster MPs already – you are amazing. Thank you!
Some tips about interacting with your MP:
MPs are elected to serve their constituents. You are a constituent and your MP is there to serve you and all the other 70,000 or so constituents in the area where you live. If you don’t tell your MP what you want then they won’t know. In fact it’s worse than that, if you don’t tell your MP what you want then someone who wants the opposite of you may get in there and influence them.
Writing to your MP can be a bit like writing a letter of complaint to a large company – they want to appear sympathetic, they want your money (vote) but they don’t want to do too much to help you and they might rather like it if you go away. The difference is, until the next general election (and perhaps beyond it) you are stuck with your MP, whether brilliant or awful, and they are stuck with you (whether they think you are brilliant or awful). And you aren’t a customer – you are a constituent and they work for you.
Have you ever heard it said that politicians avoid answering the question? Your MP may try that in replying to your letters but if you ask questions then you should expect answers. Choose your questions carefully and word them well. You can keep going back to your MP until you get answers and that is perfectly reasonable – they work for you. If, for example, you ask your MP to stop sending out misleading answers to questions and they don’t reply then you should go back to them and ask again – and probably expect a better response than the one received by an excellent ‘firm briefer’ from a Conservative MP and former minister. Always ask your MP a question in a letter – and always check that you have had an answer to the question in their reply.
MPs like you to think that they are working hard for you and so they will be keen to say that they have raised your points with ministers. It sounds impressive doesn’t it? But it is the easiest thing in the world for your MP to do, as they just pass the letter on to ministers and then pass the minister’s response back to you, usually without saying whether they agree with it or not, and hope that you think that they are being very helpful. It is certainly worth asking your MP to get views from ministers, as it raises your issues more widely, and MPs will get a much quicker, though not necessarily better, response from ministers than you will – because ministers don’t work directly for you in the same way that your MP does. However, don’t be too impressed by your MP when she or he does this.
And don’t be too impressed when the yellow envelope comes in the post with a letter on stiff, yellowish House of Commons paper – read the words and then check what you wrote. And then consider writing back for a proper answer or a follow up question. This will get the attention of your MP and the information will feed back to the party machines who will consider whether they should adjust their briefings to their MPs as a result.
I do have considerable respect for many MPs, indeed some of my friends are MPs or former MPs (some of them wish to be MPs too) but it is a bit of a game and you need to know how to play it. MPs are there to serve you – don’t be too soft on them – Firm Briefing!
That’s the end of my sermon for this Sunday…
…and so to a few requests:
- If you haven’t written to your MP on the subject of driven grouse shooting yet then please consider doing so today. You can use these words or, of course, your own.
- If you have written to your MP about driven grouse shooting and haven’t let me know then I’d love to hear from you (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- If you get a reply to your letter then I’d love to know. If it is a standard reply like these (Conservative, Labour, SNP – see tomorrow’s blog) then just let me know. If you get something different then that is even more interesting.
- Conservative MPs appear to be being briefed to respond to constituents with poor and inaccurate responses (see here). The more Tory MPs who are written to the better. In particular, the more letters that go to Defra Ministers (Andrea Leadsom (South Northants), George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth) and Therese Coffey (Coastal Suffolk)) and former ministers (Owen Paterson (North Shropshire), Liz Truss (South West Norfolk), Richard Benyon (Newbury) and Rory Stewart (Penrith and the Border)) the better. In addition, supporters of shooting such as Geoffrey Clinton-Brown (The Cotswolds), Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire), Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire) and James Gray (North Wiltshire) will all value, I’m sure, hearing from their constituents on this subject. Please don’t hold back if your MP is a Conservative, we need them to move their position to a more positive one on tackling wildlife crime and addressing the damage to the environment caused by driven grouse shooting. You can help that happen. Firm briefing!