What can you ask your MP?
You want your MP to take action on an issue, but what can you ask them to do? Here are some suggestions.
Whether you are writing a letter to your MP, or meeting them face to face, there are a variety of actions your MP can take to demonstrate their support for your issue or respond to your concerns. It’s important to think about what will be most effective and make the biggest impact.
Actions in Parliament
Actions relating to Bills
If you are contacting your MP about a particular Bill that is being considered by Parliament, you can simply ask them to vote for or against the Bill.
If you are concerned about the potential consequences of the Bill, there may be value in asking your MP to initiate a committee inquiry into the bill. This will give relevant experts, organisations and people who will be affected by the Bill the opportunity to raise their concerns in Parliament.
If you think the Bill should be changed, ask your MP to move amendments to it in Parliament. Be clear about the changes you want to see made.
Your MP may offer to raise your issue in Parliament through a speech. It is great to get issues raised on the parliamentary record and important to remember that parliamentary speeches are frequently broadcast on the radio. However, simply speaking about your issue in Parliament isn’t likely to make a big impact.
If your MP does make a speech about your issue, they will most likely send you a copy of the speech.
Another possible action for your MP to take is to move a motion in Parliament. This means the MP will ask the House to agree to a certain statement or position on the issue. If the House does agree, the motion will become a resolution of the House, that is, a formal statement of its position.
Motions can be useful in the case of controversial issues because each MP will be required to vote on the motion and it can therefore be used to assess the level of support or opposition to your issue and where each individual MP stands on it.
If you are looking for further information from the government on a particular issue, your MP may offer to ask a question in Parliament. In some cases, your MP may even be willing to ask the government about your particular situation.
If the MP believes there is broader community support for Parliament to consider the issue you have raised, they may offer to initiate a committee inquiry into the issue.
Actions within political parties
Raising your issue with the portfolio holder
You can ask you MP to raise your issue with the relevant Minister, Shadow Minister or portfolio holder, depending on whether they are in the government, opposition or a minor party. This can be effective if other MPs are also raising the issue with the portfolio holder as it will show that there is widespread support for or concern about the issue ‘at the grassroots’ in the community.
Talking about your issue with colleagues
Your MP may offer to discuss your issue with their fellow MPs. This can be an effective way of raising awareness of the issue in Parliament, but it is also difficult to assess the impact of such discussions. Moreover, it is almost impossible to hold your MP accountable in these circumstances as you will have no way of finding out whether they really have discussed the issue with their colleagues.
Raising the issue at a party meeting
You could ask your MP to raise your issue or concern at a local party meeting. You could even offer to go to the meeting and speak directly to the local members. This will help to raise awareness of the issue within the party but it is perhaps not the most effective way of achieving immediate change.
Changing the party policy
If you are feeling bold, you could ask your MP to seek a change of their party’s policy or to secure an election commitment from their party. Election commitments can be particularly important in the heated climate of an election. They may attract widespread media coverage and help to put pressure on other parties to make a similar commitment.
Joining a party
If you are really dedicated to the message of a certain party, you can join the party and influence policy from within. If generally will cost a small fee to join a party, but by joining a local branch, you will be able to have your voice heard on the direction of party policy.
Actions in the community
One of the easiest actions you can ask your MP to take is to attend a local event relating to your issue. This could be a community forum, a rally, an exhibition or a concert. MPs welcome opportunities to participate in events in their electorate. Having your MP attend your event may also help you to strengthen your relationship with them.
You can ask your MP to talk about your issue in the media. Although it is not always true, politicians often find it easier to secure media coverage than other members of the community who do not have the same public profile. If you are finding it challenging getting media coverage for your issue, your MP may be able to help you with the breakthrough you have been waiting for. Get your MP involved in a media stunt or public event, or ask them to issue a media release on the issue.
Telling the electorate
Most MPs send a regular newsletter to all residents within their electorate. You can ask your MP to include a story on your issue in their newsletter. Given that this newsletter reaches tens of thousands of people, it can provide a powerful way to get your message out to the community.
You may ask your MP to provide a donation or make their office available for the holding of a meeting.