Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lobbying: Wot Works

Briefing: Pastor in Valle's information is surely correct: letters to MPs count for far more than petition signatures. But the other way of looking at it is this: how many times a year would readers of this blog (or anyone else) be willing to write to their MPs? It takes 60 seconds to sign an e-petition; maybe four to ten minutes to write a cogent email; 10 to 15 minutes to write a snail-mail letter. We are careful not to test the patience of our readers by constantly asking for letters to MPs; is there something quick you can do? Sure: sign a petition.

Another point is this: there are hundreds of petitions on the go all the time. The ones of Catholic interest are often very small compared to the others. This is a bad thing and will surely be noticed. If the Catholics can't even be bothered to spend a few moments signing a petition... !

Hat-tip to Valle Adurni: I was speaking last night to a good friend who has retired early from being a fairly senior civil servant. I asked him frankly whether these e-petitions (such as the one a couple of posts ago) really have any influence at all. He thought not. 'Ministers are going to do what they want to do' he said. It would take a very serious petition, a couple of million signatures strong, to make them take any notice.

What does work, he said, is individual letters to MPs. They say that one letter on a subject represents ten who think the same way but haven't written. An MP always has an eye to his re-election, and if there is a substantial body in his constituency holding one point of view, he has to take notice, particularly in the current climate of low turn-out for elections. A couple of hundred votes one way or the other could very well make the difference.

My friend also commented that letters directly to ministers are simply passed on to a subordinate to answer, and are thus effectively ignored. However, a letter to your MP requesting that he take a matter up with the minister concerned is the best of all, since the minister must personally reply to the MP, and this reply will normally be forwarded to you.
Finally, as to those postcards which SPUC distribute to be filled in: these are simply ignored as an obvious pressure campaign requiring little commitment on the part of the sender, my friend commented. If you want genuinely to make a difference, write your own letter to your MP.

1 comment:

Anthony Ozimic said...

Regarding postcard campaigns by SPUC: SPUC only conducts postcard campaigns occasionally - we make it clear repeatedly that the best form of communication to MPs are indeed freely-composed postal letters to one's MP.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen