SMWeCGEC guidance on lobbying your MP or other publicly elected officials such as Councillors
In a way, lobbying is something that ordinary people do all the time, it is part of human nature to advocate for a certain need or purpose. But in this context, we refer to lobbying as the act of attempting to influence the actions or policies or decisions of public officials as well as local and central government by pressuring them to do what you want them to do.
Lobbying is an essential aspect of the SMWeCGEC’s work, in implementation of the aim of aim 2 of the campaign which is “to gather evidence of the continuing impact of the Maangamizi as part of the process towards establishing the All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth & Reparatory Justice (APPCITARJ) at the levels of the Westminster Houses of Parliament and the European Parliament as well as the Ubuntukgotla Peoples International Tribunal for Global Justice (U-PITGJ)”.
When you assist in this lobbying, you help us in the SMWeCGEC raise the profile of the campaign and its demands as well as contribute to a participatory reparations process. These are some of your human and people’s rights under international law.
Please note, you do not need previous lobbying/campaigning experience as this guide is designed to assist you regardless if you are a beginner or more experienced action-learner or campaigner.
Find out who is your MP or other publicly elected official such as Councillors
We all have the power to shape and influence government policy through lobbying our Members of Parliament (MPs). Members of Parliament are elected to represent the views of the electorate in the House of Commons, particularly their own constituents and respond to their concerns, even if the MP doesn’t agree with their point of view. An MP can help influence the UK Parliament and government in many ways.
Councillors are people that are elected by their local community in order to make decisions about local services on your behalf. The primary role of a councillor is to represent the interests and concerns of their ward and the people who live in it to the local council. Whilst some local government wards are represented by one councillor, some will be represented by as many as three councillors. You can contact one or all. Councillors are not just interested in the council-wide relevance of what you are requesting, but also the local perspective and implications of the requests that you will make for their ward and how local constituents are also affected or the implications for them.
Finding an empathetic councillor if cultivated can be useful in a number of ways including:
• Providing inside information about what is happening in the local council, and where pressure points are;
• Representing your concerns to the council and in relevant committees;
• Influencing a decision which is about to be made or changing a decision that has already been made;
• Local political party influence;
• Influence over council officers.
Contacting your MP or Councillor
The easiest way to contact your MP is to write to them at the House of Commons, London SW1A OAA. It is recommended that you send this postcard/letter recorded delivery so that you have proof of postage. Alternatively, you can email them at their office – both the websites above have the email address of all MPs. You can also phone your MP’s office at the Commons by calling the switchboard (020 7219 3000) and asking to be connected.
Another route is to contact the MP’s local constituency office. Details of these and advice surgery times are printed in local papers and telephone directories. Many (but not all) MPs have their own websites – these are usually linked to www.epolitix.com.
You can meet your MP either at the House of Commons or at their surgery. Details of the time and location of the surgery will be available from their local party office/local libraries/local newspapers or via their website. Surgeries are often held in town halls, libraries or church halls. Some MPs insist on appointments and others operate on a first-come, first-served basis. It is sensible to find out in advance what you need to do to secure a meeting.
Be aware: for lobbying purposes, your MP can be either where you work, where you live or both.
Find out if your MP has any special interests relevant to the numerous points raised by the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ Petition and the wider SMWeCGEC. You can do so by checking www.theyworkforyou.com. The site also records MP’s speeches and how they have voted. You can also check out your MPs website and their page on www.wikipedia.org to find out more about them.
You can find out who your local Councillors are by visiting the ‘your Council’ area on the local council website or by contacting the council’s helpdesk. You can also visit www.theyworkforyou.com or www.gov.uk/find-your-local-council.
Writing to or emailing your MP or other publicly elected official
MPs and other elected officials regard postcards, letters and emails as an important barometer of public opinion and take notice if there are lots of postcards/letters on a particular issue.
Take the time to personalise the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ Postcard or template letter by also including references to how you, your family, or community group etc. are personally affected by the Maangamizi or Maangamizi denial. Include statements which speak to your own experience.
MPs appreciate brevity – try and stick to no more than two sides of A4 paper two at the most. You should always include your full address as there is a parliamentary convention that prevents MPs taking up cases for non-constituents.
The above information is also applicable to making contact with local Councillors. Whilst you can also make telephone contact, we advise written correspondence so there is an audit trail of your attempts to contact officials and any responses you may receive.
It is recommended that you provide further background information on a separate briefing note of no more than two sides of A4 including summary of the meaning of reparations according to the UN Framework on a Right to a Remedy and Reparation as well as an introduction to the United Nations International Decade of People of African Descent.
Meeting an MP or other publicly elected official
Prepare for the meeting by doing local research on the MP or other elected official and finding out what their priorities and interests are. In particular, try and find out where they stand on the issues that you will be raising. Party political allegiance and personal empathy will probably influence this. The leanings of MPs, Councillors and other elected officials can be gauged from their public pronouncements, by writing to them or attending public meetings or MPs/Councillors surgeries.
When lobbying councillors, find out as much as you can about the council or local authority’s past decisions on Maangamizi legacy/reparations related issues. Lots of information is freely available to the public such as minutes, agendas from meetings, for assistance contact the relevant department of your local council.
Before meeting your MP or other elected official, it is worth rehearsing your arguments and thinking about how you respond to these three questions:
1. Why you are visiting them;
2. Why the issue matters to you and your community e.g. how you/ and your community are impacted by the Maangamizi or Maangamizi denial;
3. What you want them to do about it e.g. take action on the asks in the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ postcard or template letter;
• don’t be intimidated, be aware of your own power as a voting constituent – your MP or other publicly elected official has a duty to listen and take official note of your issues/concerns;
• ascertain how much time you have and ensure key points get raised in the time you have;
• be concise, clear and persuasive, your job is to persuade elected officials who may not have hardly given Maangamizi- counteraction and redress or reparations, any serious thought or who may have very strong views about the efficacy of reparations on the basis of their most likely limited understanding and knowledge;
• introduce yourself, (if it applies, you may link this to the GAPP idea of Maatubuntuman if you see yourself as an aspiring member of the Maatubuntujamaa – Afrikan Heritage Community for National Self-Determination (AHC-NSD) say why you have visited him or her, (you may have to initially write your reasons for visiting MP or other elected official on a record-sheet if you are attending a local surgery);
• very early on in your discussion explain the holistic meaning of reparations and be prepared to enlighten and increase MP or other elected officials understanding. Don’t’ make general demands of ‘support reparations’ and giving a shopping list of measures. Please note that in many cases starting with the ‘how much money is owed’ ‘pay me’ argument shuts down dialogue so be prepared for this;
• speak their language and make your case in terms using examples they understand and also in relation to issues concerning your own personal and community development;
• explain the Maangamizi highlighting its relevance to Afriphobia as the specific form of racism you suffer as a person of Afrikan heritage and the need for redress by way of holistic reparations. Point out that this necessitates wholesome repairs including cessation of violations, restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction, guarantees of non-repetition and also compensation according to the tenets of international law;
• explain the specifics asks in the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ Postcard and/or letter, the MP may be unaware of the issues, in this regard have some documentation with you that helps explain. For example, the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ and ‘Repay our Taxes Paid to Compensate Enslavers’ petitions and the response received from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in 2017 to the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ Petition;
• give a few examples about how you, your family and community are affected by the Maangamizi. Personalise your briefing and make links to local data, issues, experiences, concerns or campaigns and how this interconnects with UK-wide and/or Pan-Afrikan/international concerns. As part of your preparation you should write down key points and hand over this document to your MP during your discussion;
• be prepared to talk about the issues contained in the postcard/letter as they relate to your local area, other constituents of Afrikan heritage as well as others e.g. what implications do the issues in the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ Petition have for young people, neighbourhood centres, schools and service provision locally;
• ask the MP or other elected officials his/her thoughts and comments on what you have said and then ask whether they are willing to support the SMWeCGEC asks in the postcard/letter and precisely what it is they will do to assist;
• make a note of what the MP or other elected official says; this will enable you to report-back to the SMWeCGEC and also follow-up on any promises or commitments that were made;
• be prepared for MPs or other elected officials asking what you know about any other MPs etc. taking action on the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ Petition and the wider campaign objectives;
• at the end thank the MP or other elected official for their time and recap on follow-up actions;
• follow-up with the MP or other elected official by writing or emailing to thank them for meeting and remind him/her of any agreed-follow-up actions that were agreed;
• be persistent, well-briefed, positive and professional. Remember, when lobbying you have an ambassadorial role on behalf of the SMWeCGEC and also as a constituent of the Afrikan heritage community of reparatory justice interest!
Be specific about what you want the MP to do, for example:
• write a letter to the relevant minister;
• ask a parliamentary question;
• sign an early day motion;
• raise Maangamizi/reparations related issues during a parliamentary debate;
• invite your MP or other elected official to attend a local SMWeCGEC reparations-related meeting of members one lunchtime/evening;
• invite your MP or other elected official to a glocal (local and global interconnections) session a trial APPCITARJ hearing which you should be prepared to assist convening with the support of the SMWeCGEC;
• ask your MP or other elected official to support an Afrikan heritage community self-repairs initiative, programme or activity you are involved in;
• ask the MP or other elected official to do press, publicity with your group in support of the SMWeCGEC;
• ask your MP or other elected official to keep in contact and to send you copies of any letters, responses, parliamentary questions etc. done on your behalf;
• ask the MP or other elected public what else he or she could do to help the SMWeCGEC (e.g. publicity, introductions to other groups and networks);
• ask MP or other elected public how you can best keep them informed of developments;
• If one course of action fails, write or email again to make sure they pursue an alternative;
• after you have lobbied an elected official, tell your friends, family members and colleagues to also get lobbying, talk to other people in your area and find like-minded individuals so that you can work together. Remember, elected officials want to get re-elected! So, the more people you can get in your community to take similar action, the greater likelihood the elected official will listen;
• Never give up, the realisation of holistic reparatory justice and the specific campaign goals of the SMWeCGEC can only get stronger and receive more support if we can demonstrate the impact we are making in achieving the building blocks to securing the APPCITARJ!
Local Councillors can also:
• contact the relevant department about the issues you raise;
• raise your concerns with the relevant cabinet member;
• refer an important issue to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee;
• raise your concerns at a full council meeting.
Other ways to lobby your MP or Councillor
• Organise a mass lobby of Parliament or the Council, but before attempting this we recommend you reading this SMWeCGEC parliamentary guidance.
• Organise a mass lobby of your local council where everyone turns up on the same day to meet councillors. For maximum impact, however, it is best however to speak to your council and councillors to organise this.
• Attend a council meeting. Local constituents can attend certain council meetings and may have a chance to speak at them. Watch out for Maangamizi counteraction/ reparations relevant cabinet meetings, full council meetings and committee meetings.
• Deputations – or speaking at council meetings are a way of lobbying the council to let them know about a concern that you have that is shared with people who you live or work near to. Most councils have arrangements for ‘receiving deputations’ usually at the start of full council meetings where a number of people (deputation) including a nominated spokesperson can make a short presentation directly to members of the council at the council assembly, the cabinet and other council meetings.
Each one teach and learn from many!
Finally, share your action-learning (learning through doing) by joining a wider group of reparations action-learners, that we in the SMWeCGEC can put you in touch with. Please also keep us updated about any progress you make and also challenges you may encounter. We are developing a page to identify Maangamizi desecrators and deniers so are interested to know if you encounter any public officials that can be characterised as such.
Feel free to also contact us if you need support with preparation for meeting your MP or other publicly elected official.
If you have any ideas on how better to lobby MPs or other elected officials which we could add to this guidance feel free to contact us.
‘Stop the Maangamizi: We Charge Genocide/Ecocide! Campaign (SMWeCGEC) Spearhead Team