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Date posted: 16 October 2017
Last week, Operation Noah were privileged to participate in a fantastic training session from our friends at Hope for the Future, exploring how UK citizens can better engage with local MPs.
At a time when political cynicism in the UK is hard to escape, it was refreshing to take part in such a positive event. Without denying the complex and often exasperating landscape of UK politics, this training provided fantastic guidelines on how we can develop a more harmonious relationship with politicians.
At this point, you might rightly ask, ‘What’s this got to do with the environmental crisis?’
A great deal, actually. After all, much as we’d like ‘saving the planet’ to consist only in personal ‘lifestyle’ hacks – ‘doing our bit’ – it’s often something that requires a lot more collective action from those privileged with a platform to effect widespread change.
In the book of Romans, we are told that elected authorities are ‘God’s servants’, elected, ultimately, to serve our common good. While many of us scoff at the thought, it is important to remember that our Christian faith doesn’t allow us to meet political challenges with casual cynicism. Rather than standing disapprovingly at the sidelines of politics then, we are called upon as Christians to serve those who serve us.
Great. But how do we do that? Here are a few helpful principles inspired by Hope for the Future:
Be kind. Many of our MPs work long hours, serving a plethora of needs often with little thanks from their electorate. Is it any wonder then that some of them appear ignorant or cautious about championing our pet causes? If we hope to influence our MPs, we do well to respect them first. Rather than writing an angry letter demanding change, as a first port of call, what if we offered to assist them in some way? This could be the start of a positive working relationship which would make them more receptive to your views.
Be thorough. MPs are people too! As such, it’s no good seeking to open a discussion with them if you insist on knowing next to nothing about them. So do your research! Find out about the issues they are already passionate about, and what they’re up to in Parliament. How can you introduce your interests and concerns in a way that resonates with what they already care about?
Be persistent. Social and political transformation is a slow process. For those of us who respect a great influencer like William Wilberforce, it’s sobering to remember that it took decades for his proposed anti-slavery reforms to come into law. In the same way, if we would help our MPs effect change, we should be realistic – it may not happen immediately. Are you planning a one-off meeting with your MP, or a long-term partnership?
Be humble. Many of us meeting our MPs are tempted to go in with all guns blazing. But like anyone else, our elected officials can feel justifiably put off by such behaviour. Even if we disagree with our local MP, or their political party, it doesn’t mean we can’t cooperate, serve them, befriend them or learn from them.
Stephen Edwards is Operation Noah’s outreach campaigner.