Countless SPEAK members have met dozens of MPs and the campaign's gaining real awareness and momentum in parliament. Many MPs' responses have contained similar points, and we'd like to help you respond, to take the conversation to the next level. We're currently reading through these letters, and will soon have a section dedicated specifiaclly to follow-up.
If you're meeting your MP for the first time though, here are some tips you might find helpful:
Know what you're asking them to do - read the briefing for MPs, which has the key campaign information, as well as ways they can support the campaign. Read through this before meeting them, and bring the briefing with you to give to them - you can print it off or ask us to send one to you.
Don’t be intimidated - MPs and parliamentary candidates are human and don't know everything! Because they need to know a little bit about everything, you may find you know more about the issue than they do!
Keep it focused - make sure you stick to one campaign rather than rant about every injustice in the world! They may try and move the conversation on to their agenda; politely say that you have come to just speak about this issue and you don't want to take up any more time that you have to as you realise that their time is very precious! For example, don't get drawn into a debate on wider issues of the arms trade - the campaign's about government support of the arms trade.
Be polite - it may be very frustrating if they don't give you a straight answer, but just be confident and politely say you don't think they have answered your question.
Keep calm if they ask you a tricky question - we should have everything you need to know here but if you don't know the answer, be confident and say that you will look into it and get back to them. This is great as it opens the way for future contact!
Ask them to support the campaign - make sure you finish the meeting by asking them to join us in the campaign. They can support us, which basically means they agree with the campaign to some extent! Alternatively, if they are not totally convinced about the campaign or are unable to be too supportive for any reason, please still ask if they are happy to receive email updates from us, and make sure you get their contact details.
Let us know how it went - this is crucial if we are going to build a core of MPs who will speak out for us in parliament!
MPs assume that for every constituent who gets in touch, there must be several more who care but will never get round to contacting them. MPs can influence party policy and government ministers – making your concerns known right through the government system! It is crucial that we don't miss out on this opportunity to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” in Westminster.