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Apr 22nd, 2011

Visiting Your MP – Frequently Asked Questions

By MattS

How much time will it take to organise a visit to an MP?

As with everything, this depends on how much effort you feel able to put in – but a basic visit and petition hand in event should not take more than a couple of hours to organise.

Will I have to invite people?

If you add your event to the 38 Degrees events tool by the Monday at least 4 days before the event we’ll send an invite automatically to other 38 Degrees members in your area. It’s always a good idea to ask people you know personally to come via Facebook, email or Twitter as well, but is not essential.

How will I know how many people are coming?
Once you have entered the event into the 38 Degrees events system,  you will be able to check to see how many people have confirmed their attendance.

What will be expected from me at the event?
Everyone who attends is responsible for their own level of involvement. On the day, you should simply turn up at the meeting place on time, make sure everyone finds their way over to the MPs office, and make sure that photos are taken and that everyone gets a chance to speak to the MP if they would like. Of course, if you want to try to convene a local group or organise other events afterwards, that is entirely up to you.

38 Degrees members in Broxtowe deliver the NHS petition to Anna Soubry MP

Photograph by 38 Degrees

Do I have to organise for the local papers and radio to come?

No, but if you can it’s a great if you can as MPs do care what the local media reports.

How will I get my hands on the petition?

Once you have registered your interest in organising an MP visit and petition hand-in, and when you have entered the details into our events hub, 38 Degrees head office will arrange to send you the materials you need.

How do I get the local paper and radio to report the visit?

To maximise your chances of getting good press attendance, spend just a little time on the Internet researching the email addresses of the local press outlets – where possible, don’t just note down the generic email addresses, but see if there are reporters who have covered this kind of story before, and include them too. You can use the press release template we’ve provided and tailor it to our hand in event, or if you are feeling creative, you can write your own. There are some good guides on how to write a press release here: http://www.freelanceuk.com/news/1126.shtml

After waiting a day or two, and if you have the time, ring or email the people you sent the press release to, to confirm that they received it and to ask if they have questions.

38 Degrees members hand in the NHS petition in Rother Valley

Photograph by 38 Degrees

Even if your local press seem unsure if they are interested, make sure to bring your own camera, to take photos both for 38 Degrees and for future use. The press might get in touch a few days later wanting to run the story, having missed it the first time around.

Are these events party-political?
It’s important that 38 Degrees remains entirely non-partisan, and that people from all political backgrounds are welcome to take part in our events. Anyone who is concerned about the issue should be able to attend. MPs are also much more likely to listen when an event includes a wide range of their constituents, and is not dominated by one political party. If you are a member of a political party, please do get involved, but it would be best to leave your party banners and leaflets at home for the day!

Am I expected to know loads of detailed stuff about the issue?
No. The most important thing is that you care about the issue and are able to convey that to your MP. The technical details aren’t as important, although obviously you will want to know enough to explain to your MP why you are concerned – and the more you know, the less easy it will be for your MP to give excuses!

Politicians never answer the question, do they?
It’s true that many politicians are good at giving reassuring answers without committing themselves to anything. However, if you are firm but polite in making your point, and concentrate on trying to get a similarly firm statement from your MP on where they stand, it will be difficult for them to fudge the issue.

How can I get extra advice?
If these frequently asked questions haven’t covered something you feel you need to know, you can ask your question in the comments below, and we will do our best to update the FAQ!

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