Lobbying is when an individual or a group of people tries to persuade someone in Parliament to support a particular policy or campaign. Anyone can lobby their MP, which makes it one of the most accessible ways to help the environment, either on a local or national scale.
Before going ahead though, it’s important to consider whether your MP is the right person to contact. MPs are elected to represent their constituents’ interests and raise their concerns in the House of Commons. However, if the issue you are concerned about specifically relates to a local service responsibility or policy of your local council – such as permission to manage your road verges or a local green space, problems with antisocial behaviour on a site or getting some street trees planted – then you’ll need to contact your local councillors. If you have a local Parish Council, it may be best to contact them first. You can find out who your councillors are and contact them via the WriteToThem website. Find out more about contacting your councillors here.
In Sheffield there are also 7 Local Area Committees (LACs) which provide an opportunity for people to get more involved with local decision making, including plans for improvements to the local environment. You can attend your local LAC meeting and provide comments and feedback to potentially influence these plans. Find out more about LACS here.
How do I lobby my MP?
You can lobby your MP in a number of ways and it doesn’t have to be in person. Firstly you’ll need to find out who your MP is. If you don’t already know, you can use the TheyWorkForYou website to find your MP and even see their previous voting record.
Having an idea of how your MP has voted on certain matters and what their interests are will be a great advantage when it comes to speaking or writing to them. If you have something in common, it’s a great conversation starter and will make it easier to build trust; if you’re starting from square-one, it means you’ll have to approach them from a very different angle.
Lobbying your MP via letter or email
If you don’t feel confident enough to meet your MP face-to-face, you can always send them a letter or an email. You can email your MP directly through TheyWorkForYou, or you can find their postal address on the UK Parliament website.
There are lots of template letters relating to the climate and nature crises online, but sending a personal letter will have more impact. Writing from a personal perspective means you can really convey your passion for an issue and include real-world stories about how it has affected you, somebody you know or your local community. Sharing your story is more likely to appeal to an MP, whose main concern is their constituents.
As well as personal anecdotes, make sure that your letter has a clear and actionable ask. Do you want your MP to back strong environmental laws in Parliament? Do you want them to oppose a new local development?
To help your letter or email stand out:
- Introduce yourself and say where you live and work.
- Clearly outline your concerns – your MP may be unaware of the issues.
- If you can, give examples of how you are personally affected.
- Provide information or research to back up your case.
- Include your address so your MP can see that you live in their constituency.
- Ask your MP to stay in contact with you and relay any responses from other MPs or the Secretary of State.
Lobbying your MP via social media
Most MPs are on social media these days, but it isn’t always the best place to get their attention – imagine how many tweets and direct messages they receive each day.
The best way to lobby an MP on social media is to simply tag them into your updates about the environmental issues you’re concerned about (keeping the tweet respectful). If you’d like to meet your MP or speak to them in-depth, the most effective first point of contact is a letter, an email or, even better, a phone call.
Lobbying your MP in-person
Meeting your MP in person can feel really daunting, but if you go prepared and speak to them from the heart, you’ll find them very approachable and receptive. They’re human, just like you, and their job is to represent you in Parliament.
To set up a meeting, you’ll need to contact your MP or the people who work in their constituency office (find their details on the UK Parliament website). You could also meet them during one of their constituency surgeries, which they hold at least once a month.
When you ask for a meeting, explain what you want to meet your MP about and then offer some dates and times. Remember that MPs have full diaries, so you may have to be flexible on these.
When you get to the meeting itself, thank your MP for meeting you and take a similar approach to if you were writing them a letter. The key is to share a personal story that conveys your passion for, and the importance of the issue you’re campaigning about – show them how much the natural environment in your area matters. You could even present them with a petition to show the strength of feeling in the local community.
Make sure you also have some clear things to ask your MP to do for you, but also ask them what they think they can do to help. Before you leave, thank them for their time and build that relationship of mutual respect. This will help in the future if you’d like to speak to them again.
We hope this has helped you feel more prepared to lobby your MP about environmental issues, but if you need further advice, get in touch with us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.