Every November, for the past several years, there has been a lobby of Parliament in support of Palestinian self-determination. Hundreds of voters go to meet their MPs and impress upon them the popular support for the rights of the Palestinians to their own, free nation state. We have seen how this has greatly improved the willingness of MPs to sign Early Day Motions (EDMs); raise parliamentary questions; write to ministers or join something like the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group.
We need to lobby again this year, but there is an important difference. By May 2010, there is going to be a general election. The protests against the invasion of Gaza in January showed how huge numbers of the British public feel about the issue. Now we want to make sure it is a feature of the election in every constituency.
Rather than coming down to London to see just the sitting MPs, we want you to meet with them in your constituency. And we also want you to meet with their rivals, sound them out. Make sure they understand that the way you vote will be influenced by their stance on this issue
There’s a fallacious but all too common belief that lobbying requires some special expertise. It doesn’t. True, the slogans you put on a placard or shout with others at a demonstration are not necessarily the things you would say in a meeting with an MP or minister or diplomat. But that doesn’t mean that lobby meetings cannot express very strong sentiments, it just means taking care over how they are expressed. This guide is designed to make lobbying easier for anyone interested in it. No expertise is required – you just have to care enough to make your MP listen.
It may not seem like it, but as a general rule MPs love to listen. The one thing that unites MPs from all parties is the desire to demonstrate to their constituents that they have met and listened to them. That’s just as true for candidates.
So once you have them listening, the next step, the point of lobbying, is to get MPs to act. Will they raise a Parliamentary Questions? Will they sign an Emergency Day Motion (EDM)? Or write to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on your behalf? These are tangible markers by which we can measure gains in political support for the Palestinian cause.
You are unlikely to have enough time in a single meeting to raise all the issues that you care about. You’ll make your life and the meeting go much more smoothly if you can find some time to ensure your arguments can be backed up. We’ve put together some suggestions of how to approach the meeting as well as some of the issues worth raising with MPs and candidates. We hope it is self explanatory, but you should always feel free to email us if you have specific questions.
Lobbying can take many forms – you can ask for a private meeting. You can invite them all to come to a public meeting if you feel you have the bodies to organise one. Some of you may want to seek a second meeting to see if the MP or candidate has followed up on your request to sign a petition, an EDM or written to the secretary of state or the local newspaper.
Either way, we hope that the briefings we have put together here will help you in your task. And thank you for taking part.
Click for a briefing for lobbyists on issues to raise and questions to ask.
See the “how to” guide on lobbying MPs and candidates.