Writing to your MP — it’s vital
Over at @ScienceisVital (http://scienceisvital.org.uk/) as part of our Christmas Campaign we are encouraging people to write to get involved and lobby Parliament and the UK government on UK science funding and the relationship between the UK and EU with regards to R&D. This is especially important amongst #brexit discussions.
To help this effort, we are encouraging scientists and engineers to get involved and write to their own MPs. Writing to your MP is really easy & very much worthwhile, as our MPs are making decisions on own behalf and as scientists we need to get involved!
Over at Science is Vital, we have put together some advice on writing to your MP, and with this in mind I thought I’d also share my own efforts to write to my MP and a few bits of advice as some inspiration.
Important steps in writing to your MP:
(1) Find out your constituency MP — protocol is that you engage with the Commons through them (and not, for example, the Minister on your issue). Really easy to do — head over to https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/. You can write to their constituency email address, and their staff will assist the MP in the best way of follow-up on your letter.
(2) Include your full name and constituency address in the letter. The MP’s office will likely write back to you in hard-copy to your address (it’s a fairly cheap verification step). Getting a letter on HoC stationary is also quite fun!
(3) Keep the letter focused on one major issue and try to be concise. Add evidence / support where you can, as well as your personal thoughts/feelings. Keep your letter short and simple.
(4) Avoid copy+paste of existing letters in campaigns, and instead use the previous letters as inspiration. You have a chance to raise your own concerns and flavour it with your own story. This will resonate much better with your MP and it’s also personally much more rewarding.
(5) In the letter, make sure you ask the MP to ‘do something’. This can be to raise the issue with the Minister or members of a Select Committee, to sign an Early Day Motion, to vote a particular way on an issue coming up, or to attend a particular event (like a Lobby held at the House of Commons). They, or a staffer, will likely write back to you but for your letter to be effective it’s useful to have a measurable action to consider.
(6) Temper your position and argument with the frame of your MPs home base (e.g. their party position, their role in a charity / committee, voting history, or activities/voting within your shared constituency) as this will help align your position with existing arguments. Ideally this will enable them to strengthening their position in your favour.
To give you a flavour of what you could write, here’s my letter that I’ve almost finished wordsmithing.
Writing to Greg Hands (MP for Chelsea and Fulham) regarding #brexit, #science and the #EU.
Please do not copy+paste this — I am sharing it as you might find it handy for some inspiration of how and what to write!
“From: Dr Ben Britton
Dear Greg Hands MP,
I am writing to you regarding science and Brexit. I am asking you to join me and discuss this issue at a lobby of MPs organised by Science is Vital on 31st Jan in Room R of Portcullis House (2–4pm) and to sign EDM772 (https://www.parliament.uk/edm/2016-17/772). I would also like you to partake in the debate regarding Brexit and Science in the House of Commons on the 19th of December to represent my views.
I have written to you previously on this issue and I would like to thank you for your time in responding on the past occasion.
I feel it is timely to write again, as now we have a slightly clearer picture of the issues facing the UK science and engineering community I feel that it is suitable to discuss this further and I hope that the EDM & lobby are well timed to provide discussion of these important issues at a critical time in the Brexit discussion process.
As a brief reminder, I am an early-career scientists based at Imperial College London and I live in your constituency. I have first hand experience of the benefits of an outward looking science, and wider higher education, community and the strength of maintaining strong links with the EU community. Together with 1400 early career scientists, I signed evidence for the the House of Commons Select Committee on the implication of Brexit on Science.
I see four key motivations for us to remain closely aligned with EU programmes, which require financial and strong political statements:
- The UK has links to multiple international programme of work that solve major grand challenges that have a global reach, for example in health care and the EU based ‘Clean Skies’ initiative. These are largely supported through the ERC.
- ERC grants play a pivotal role in the landscape of UK research, attracting international talent and paying for underpinning blue skies research. The ERC has provided pivotal funding to individual investigators to grow their research groups on the internationals stage, through initiatives such as the Starting Grants Scheme (€1.5m over 5 years to support growth of a new research group).
- The UK nuclear programme, and our wider energy agenda, require science and engineering based research collaboration that spans across Europe to deliver a lasting step change in CO2 emissions and a growing low-carbon supply of energy. This is achieved through EURATOM treaties and agreements which are at risk and participation in major UK nuclear programmes is a continued concern (e.g. Fusion programmes via ITER and JET, as well as the Jules Horowitz Reactor).
- Training and culture exchange are greatly facilitated with EU programmes, such as the hugely successful ERASMUS scheme. These let us train our future science and engineering leaders in addressing global challenges, as well as to bring in talent from abroad. These programmes have a lasting influence on the students involved in these programmes and have a lasting positive impact for UK plc.
I am aware that your position as a Minister of State within Department for International Trade may limit your direct interactions on this matter, yet as a constituent I believe that this is an issue that directly affects fellow members of your constituency, as indicated by:
- the 74 signatories from Chelsea and Fulham constituents on this petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/150220
- my addition as a leading co-signatory from the Early Career Researchers letter to the HoC Science and Technology Select Committee (which was also features in part in the Times)
- the written evidence to the same committee, as supplied by Imperial College London, where ~1500 of our students live in your constituency http://data.parliament.uk/WrittenEvidence/CommitteeEvidence.svc/EvidenceDocument/Science%20and%20Technology/Leaving%20the%20EU%20Implications%20and%20opportunities%20for%20science%20and%20research/written/36054.html
I further note that support to remain was very strong within your constituency area, as indicated by the results from the “Kensington and Chelsea” provided by the Electoral Commission (http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/elections-and-referendums/past-elections-and-referendums/eu-referendum/electorate-and-count-information) where 66% of the electorate voted. Of those individuals 37,601 (69%) voted to advise the government to remain in the EU and 17,138 (31%) voted to advise the government to leave the EU.
Within the domain of this letter, I stress with care the advisory status of this referendum, as indicated in briefing papers as prepared by the House of Commons library staff (CP-7212) which clarifies, in section 5, that the referendum result is there to inform policy decisions, rather than form a binding statement of intent. I feel the nature of this advice should be tempered with new evidence as it comes to light, and I urge you to utilise the wealth of evidence provided at your disposal, including that supplied by your honourable colleagues on the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, to continue to seek advice and utilising this advice to build a stronger relationship with Europe and beyond for the benefit of the wider UK science and engineering community. A strong positive position on the nature of collaboration with the EU is imperative for UK science to thrive in a global economy and so that we can offer new insight and solutions to grand challenges faced by UK society and the world at large.
Finally, I would encourage you to read the Science and Tech Committee’s recent report on this issue (HC 502), and to speak in the forthcoming debate in the House of Commons scheduled for December 19th.
I would like to thank you for your time in reading my letter, and I look forward to hearing from you soon. In particular, I hope that you have the time to join us at our lobby on the 31st January and that you are able to speak positively on my behalf in the Commons and with colleagues in Government.
Dr Ben Britton”
Additionally, you might find some inspiration from a few resources that you might find handy:
When contacting your MP, a short, handwritten or printed letter is most effective. Don’t send a braindump to your MP…wiki.openrightsgroup.org
WriteToThem is a website which provides an easy way to contact MPs, councillors and other elected representatives.www.writetothem.com
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You can find out about my groups work and activities at: http://expmicromech.com