Writing to your MP
Contacting your MP is probably the most effective way of getting your voice heard on issues of concern, especially when this involves Acts of UK or European Law.
Although all MPs have access to email, through the Houses of
Parliament's own facilities, only about one-third of them actually
use the service.
To prevent mailbombing, MPs' Parliamentary email addresses are not made public and the best way to contact them remains the postal service. All letters should be addressed to:
House of Commons,
London SW1A 0AA
Address your MP by their Christian name and surname to avoid confusion. It makes no difference if your MP is a Government Minister.
Who is your MP?
If you don't know the name of your local representative, you can get
this from Constituency Locata online, or your local public
library, local town hall, Citizens Advice Bureau or the local
political party offices. You might also like to try the online service
FaxYourMP.com, which has a
search engine to locate your MP based on postcode, and an online form
where you can write and send your fax.
Tips on writing your letter
If you're stuck for what to write, we offer a sample letter which you
can use, although its best to adapt this into your own words if you
can. In a targeted campaign like this, Members of Parliament will be
receiving hundreds (we hope!) of letters on this subject, and obvious
use of template letters will stand out and serve to weaken our
impact. If Members of Parliament can see that their constituents are
actively thinking about these issues and are concerned enough to write
an individual letter, then they are more likely to consider this as
being truly representative of what the British public are thinking.
Remember that Members of Parliament are paid by us to do what we want
them to do. Don't be afraid to contact your MP or to tell them what
you want - it is their job to listen to the people whom they
represent. They are used to receiving letters; indeed, they use them
to gauge what their constituents are concerned about.
At the same time, always word your letter politely and constructively. MPs, like anyone else, do not like being abused or harangued. Assume they are going to help. Be firm and put forward a well thought through argument. It is also vital to be accurate and not to exaggerate. Try to be concise, too - a short, calm, well-structured argument is much more likely to persuade than a rambling five page letter. Put yourself in your MP's shoes - imagine that you are coming into the office to be greeted by a pile of letters and faxes - and think about what might make a letter stand out to you on a Monday morning before you've had a chance to have a coffee! If you were in their shoes, anything angry or belligerent is more likely to end up piled in the in-tray for later, whereas an interesting, well-argued letter may well catch your eye.
Don't let this make you feel you have to be an expert in English literature to write a letter, though. Your MP has a duty to listen to all of his/her constituents, regardless of your level of education, native language, or disability. If you are dyslexic, or find writing difficult, it may help to use speech to text software and a spell-checker, or to ask a friend to look over your letter first.
Ask for what you want
Do be specific - it helps if you can say what you want your MP to do, along with writing your own feelings on the issue at stake. Giving your MP some constructive ideas helps him/her to know what sort of action their voting public would like them to take, whether you would like them to write to the Minister involved, or to lobby Parliament for answers to your questions and concerns on how legislation will affect ordinary people's lives and rights. Fair Use is a good issue to focus on - in prior copyright legislation we were entitled to make personal copies under Fair Use. Giving examples of how the denial of these rights will affect our ordinary, day-to-day lives will help your MP to see the adverse impact of the proposed EUCD legislation on the general population.
Who can write?
You don't have to be a United Kingdom citizen to approach your MP, and you don't have to have voted for him or her at the last General Election. You don't even have to be of voting age! (In fact, most MPs are doubly impressed by correspondence from minors!) It can be helpful to be aware of the role your MP's party plays in Parliamentary debate - if their party is in leadership, you can remind them of their role in representing the people's interest - and if they are in opposition, use this as a strength to lobby against the present government. You can play on party politics without worrying about your own political preferences - those are, of course, private.
Keep in touch
In all likelihood your MP will contact the relevant Minister, who in turn will reply to them. In this way a public statement is made by the Minister.
The first letter is the hardest! You probably will not "like" the reply you receive, and often the language of the reply will seem to toe the party line and will respond by quoting from official statements. Read this through carefully, and see if the questions you asked in your letter have been answered by the response. If you feel you have not had an adequate answer, write back politely requesting one, or address again the areas which you feel may have been avoided by your MP's reply. While the initial campaign is urgent, as we have only a few weeks to voice our concerns against the EUCD, we are all aware that the process of political change is complex and takes time. Constant pressure from the public and a drip feeding of true public opinion on Digital Rights will make its mark. So do not be put off by apparent intransigence.
The Fax Your MP service will send you a feedback email around two weeks after you have posted your initial letter. It will ask you to click on one of two links, so that they can collect statistics of which MPs have responded to faxes, and which MPs are less responsive. It is useful to take a moment to do this, as it encourages more MPs to act on behalf of their constituents.
After your first letter, try to develop a regular correspondence with your MP - it also helps to encourage friends and colleagues of yours who live in the same constituency to write as well. Thank them for their interest, and if your MP shows sympathy then always refer to this and encourage him/her to speak out as a representative of his/her constituency's views. Keep your MP up to date with further news as it happens, and CDR's plans of action.