Writing to a Politician.

Why should someone write to a politician?

For each letter about an issue a local politician receives the general theory is that at least 100 people in their electorate feel the same way. Whether that’s true or not the important thing is that if a local MP doesn’t hear about an issue, they are unlikely to know about an issue.

The more people who write to their local MP, the more likely they will be to take the issue seriously, either directly in public, or in parliament or more likely in the backrooms of that parliament talking to their colleagues, ministers and at the local/state party meetings. You might not see an MP take a different line in parliament from the party line, but privately the more concern their constituency shows in an issue the more those private conversations change the party room and change that party line.

All letters a local electoral office takes in are tracked on a computer system which is linked to minister’s offices and party headquarters. These statistics build a map of issues in the state which does influence policy.

It starts from a few people (to hundreds of people) writing to their local MP. Why should someone write to a politician? Because they do pay attention to them the more people who write, the more attention they pay.

What should someone say?

A simple outline is easy enough,

  • Introduce yourself,
  • Write what it is you want them to do (very, very important).
  • Write why this is important to you (i.e tell your story)
  • Write again what it is you want them to do.
  • Thank them for their time and sign off.

It’s a good idea to try and keep a letter to no more than two pages. Don’t send them original copies of anything as well (you are not likely to get them back).

Also don’t make any threats- “I’ll go to the media” is the most empty threat an MP hears, they know that your chances of getting into the media is slim to nil and if you do get a “run” then they can deal with it then.

The IWSN doesn’t use a standard letter that we can give you for a very good reason. MP’s and their staff can tell when a letter is part of a “Campaign” and ignore them- or send out the same letter in reply (thanks for alerting us to your concerns, we are doing what we believe is right blah blah blah….) apart from giving you the general outline above it is much better for you to write it yourself with any mistakes you will make included. That will mean it is real and MP’s will know it’s real.

Why not flood the Ministers Office with letters?

Here’s an inside truth. Ministers never read the letters from individuals. They don’t have the time and, even if they did they would still pass it straight on to the department who have a whole section to read the letter and write a reply which is generally (thanks for alerting us to your concerns, we are doing what we believe is right blah blah blah….) that’s if they just don’t put the letter through the shredder (which is what happens to those campaign letters I mentioned before.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever write to the Minister. But writing to your local MP will produce a different response because Minsters have to give a response to a local MP’s letter (especially if they are in the same political party). The response may be the same but in general if a local MP is receiving a number of letters about the same issue they will demand more than the general response and they will get it.

Don’t just leave it with the reply.

We mentioned before that you shouldn’t make threats and that is true –letters with threats to them are generally ignored (they have seen and dealt with them before). But if you believe that getting a response from the MP will be the end of it you are believing what the MP’s and ministers believe- they win.

You need to take further action. Like publicise the response (its your right to do so).

The IWSN website is a great place for you to publicise your letter and the MP’s response good or bad and we are more than happy to do that for you (remembering our comments policy).

So no longer is the letter and the MP’s/Ministers/Department’s response just a private conversation, it is being read by thousands of people who can comment and write replies back to the politician or department in response.  –that is what MP’s fear most of all so don’t make a threat to do that, just do it.

Writing a letter to your local MP does work to change the laws, it won’t happen unless you take the action yourself, in your own words, and won’t happen if you keep those letters private.

IWSN campaigning series. no 2.