How to engage an MP

So there you have it, the 2024 election is over, and with it comes a sweeping change in the makeup of parliament.

You all know the results by now – Labour have finished on 412 seats, giving them a working majority of 181, dwarfing the 80-seat majority Boris Johnson won for the Conservative Party back in 2019.

Incredibly, out of the 650 MPs elected last week, 335 of them are brand new to their role and parliament – a record that has stood since the 1945 election when 327 new MPs were elected. With this new cohort comes fresh energy and a willingness to engage with civil society. But with such a fundamental shift in parliamentary turnover, what does this mean for the sector and the way we advocate for our issues?

There is a finite amount of government jobs going, so it’s clear by looking at the numbers there are a lot of new MPs who will want something to sink their teeth into. This is an incredible opportunity for the NGO sector to engage with a vibrant and energetic parliamentary intake.

Here are some basic hints and tips to engage with the new cohort.

Preparation is key

Before you approach an MP, it is important you understand their background and the issues they care about. Granted, this can be tricky with brand new MPs, but try and research former roles they have had, or statements they’ve made on social media. So, if they’re interested in domestic issues, see if there’s an equivalent international issue they could be interested in such as education, health or gender equality.

If you’re a Bond member then you can always contact the public affairs team, who have done some mapping of new MPs that are interested in, or have links to, international development.

Making the case for your issue

Facts and figures are incredibly important and evidence must always back up your pitch or policy proposal. But, in all my years of working in advocacy, statistics have never been enough to win an argument. It’s never a number that wins hearts and minds, rather the human element.

When you approach an MP, either face-to-face or over email, it is always really important to cite evidence, but rather than talking about, for example, the number of girls out of education, tell the story of the one girl who has to stay at home during her menstruation because there are no wash facilities near her class. Instead of talking about how many mines have been cleared, talk about the farms, built on mine-free land, that have transformed economies. It’s that emotive storytelling that will win MPs over.

Be persistent

The first couple of weeks in parliament are always a little chaotic. It takes a few days for new MPs to be inducted and then sworn in, as well the simpler task of being given a new parliamentary email address. It takes a while for the parliament website to be updated, but most new MPs give out their new address on Twitter/X, so keep an eye out there.

Don’t be offended if your emails are ignored at first, new MPs are working on their own to begin with, with no staff or office, so it is entirely reasonable for them to prioritise the casework of their constituents.

That said, be persistent, as they will most likely respond when they can so long as they’re interested in the issue you’re contacting them about. Also, as a handy hint, once an MP gets their office they’ll start to hire staff, which takes time, so give them a ring in the first couple of weeks because odds on it’ll be the MP answering the phone themselves.

Give them something to do

“You’re one of my favourite NGOs to work with because you actually give me something to do instead of just reading me a report.” This line, said to me once by a Conservative MP, has always stuck with me. From my experience, it’s spot on. MPs always want something to do. They have this position of power, they are clearly interested in your topic if they’re meeting you, so use it.

There are really basic requests you can always ask an MP to do; put a parliamentary question in, push for a debate, make private interventions with ministers. But there are more complex, and probably more exciting asks they may be willing to do, dependent on your campaign or issue. Just give them a juicy task, and don’t just read out something they can find on your website.

Come to the Bond Policy and Lobbying Group

This is a genuinely exciting time for the sector and we have a unique opportunity to build a really strong and supportive parliament ready to advocate for those communities in the world that need our help the most.

Every month, Bond will be hosting a Policy and Lobbying Group meeting for members where we can share political intelligence, and coordinate collaborative work, supporting and amplifying the great work we all do for the sector. For more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.