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Charity Insight Contributor
Published 15 September 2011

Who should I lobby in parliament and how do I get to them?

Chloe Stables, parliamentary officer, National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Aside from building relations with your own constituency MP, it depends on who you are trying to influence and what you are trying to achieve. But try and think creatively about who might have influence on a given topic. Respected members of a select committee, the Chair of an All Party Group, or a respected ex-minister now in the Lords can all be essential and powerful allies. It is also worth thinking about the structures for each political party, the Liberal Democrats for example now have backbench policy committees which shadow each government department. The three golden rules of engagement remain, so pick up the phone, do not waste their time, be clear about what you want them to do and how you will support them to do it.

George Pascoe-Watson, partner, Portland Communications
It might not just be Parliament you need to lobby don't forget civil servants, special advisors and researchers too. While you must be targeted in how you use your time and resources, it is important not to forget less obvious people who could be useful in your campaign. You need to work out who's interested in your area. Track Hansard, monitor Twitter and Facebook, and go to conferences and events. With a clear idea of who your targets are you can start to approach them for meetings. Getting in front of people, supported by coverage in mainstream and social media, is the best way to explain your argument.

Gus Baldwin, public affairs manager,Macmillan Cancer Support
I guess the obvious response is that it depends who the people making the decision are and who they are influenced by, but really it depends what your objectives are in the first place. For example, if your objectives involve securing a change in policy with as little fuss as possible (and you are moving with the direction of travel in a policy area) you might want to go straight to the appropriate civil servant and ask them directly with a well argued, convincing case and then get that change confirmed by the responsible minister, ideally in public. If your objectives are more about raising your organisations profile, being seen to campaign or encouraging supporter participation you might go about the campaigning process differently.

Estelle McCartney, associate director, Champollion
Identify those likely to be supportive or persuadable. Do not waste time on those who have an entrenched position opposite to yours. First efforts should be on engaging directly with the decision makers. If they don't accept your case or if you know they are strongly opposed to your position, you need to lobby others to make your case and apply pressure. Start with those the relevant decision maker is most likely to listen to. This would include special advisers and other MPs they may be close to. Widen out your campaign to other backbench MPs and possibly other organisations who share your view. Think about the order in which you approach MPs. It is generally better to start with potential allies within the governing party or parties. Making the issue a party political one may get more attention in the short-term but you could risk securing the ultimate campaign objective.

Joe Saxton, driver of ideas, nfpSynergy
Work out how the key stakeholders are. It may be that civil servants are betters than MPs. It may be that one of the devolved governments has tackled this issue and you can get their support. But probably the best way to start is to find an MP who is known to be interested in your issue or a topic closer to them and write to them with a letter and a briefing no more than two sides of A4.

Camilla Williamson, public affairs adviser, Age UK
Find out which MPs are most active in your area, looking at both frontbench and backbench MPs and peers. There are various ways of doing this. You can look at Hansard or TheyWorkForYou.com and search transcripts of parliament for relevant debates, looking at who is active in them; you can also look at EDMs on the issues you're interested in and see who has sponsored them or signed up in support. You should have a look at relevant All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) and see who the officers are, as this usually indicates that they are active in the area. In addition, you should approach people in relevant Select Committees. For frontbench MPs, find out what Minister is responsible for the issue and target them, their shadow and the people around them, such as advisers and PPSs.

The best way to contact these people is to approach them with a strong meeting request. Highlight the issue (possibly with a short briefing) and why it should be important to them. Go over how it relates to their work in Westminster and to their constituents. If you have a local connection it is always much easier to engage them. Also make sure that before approaching an MP you have a strong and clear ask. There's no point approaching them without having something that you want them to do, or a clear line of attack.

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