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Charity Insight Contributor
Published 15 September 2011

Is it a case of mutual back-scratching? Politicians will do something for us if

we do something for them?

Chloe Stables, parliamentary officer, National Council for Voluntary Organisations
That's a very cynical view, and despite current attitudes to politicians, one that is not generally true. Politicians pursue issues for a whole range of reasons, perhaps because their constituents are affected, because of personal experience, or because they simply take an interest. It is important to support the politician that is assisting you but I would draw the line at anything that can be considered back-scratching.

George Pascoe-Watson, partner, Portland Communications
Years of working in the lobby taught me that good campaigns are about being relevant. And the very best ones offer a solution. It is not about back scratching but about making it clear why an MP, and usually why the public, should care about the change you're trying to bring about.

Make yourself distinctive, make yourself visible and make friends. Whether you're working on a specific campaign or not, it is always important to build relationships with MPs. Help MPs to understand your work better by inviting them to see you in action. Or even go to them for example The Scout Association put on an event at the party conferences every year called Scouts Speak Up to enable MPs to engage with Scout groups from their area.

Gus Baldwin, public affairs manager, Macmillan Cancer Support
It really depends. A lot of charities don't have much to trade so the relationship between them and the Government is not exactly equal. In that case, if the campaign is about policy change then the charity involved is really reliant on a very well argued case with sufficient momentum to overcome the status quo. I also don't see much mutual back-scratching when it comes to backbench MPs either. They are ridiculously busy and are trying to help but are also trying to help thousands of other people in any one week. Given this, I think it is very sensible for charity campaigners to try and seek some form of win-win for example making sure the MP gets the credit in their local paper for doing something helpful in support of a campaign. For bigger charities the relationship with Government is perhaps slightly more equal but ultimately the Minister is still the one in charge and rightly so because they've been democratically elected!

Estelle McCartney, associate director, Champollion
That is a bit of an over-simplification. Politicians have different reasons and motivations for getting involved with a particular campaign or issue. Their driver might be a constituency link or a personal interest or a desire to score some political points against their opponents. They may also be motivated by achieving some profile or recognition with an eye on their voters and the party leadership.

Generally speaking, people chose to become politicians because they care about their local area, particular policy issues or because they have a strong view of how the world should be. If you can demonstrate or persuade them that your campaign or policy ask fits with their agenda you will be more likely to get them to support you.

Joe Saxton, driver of ideas, nfpSynergy
Not really. Better to think look for the win/win. How can you achieve your objectives and make sure you meet the interests of an MP? Most MPs are keen to get profile in their constituency or to do something effective to make a difference. Few MPs of any party are there for the money whatever impressions you have from the expenses scandal. But if you are an animal welfare charity or a health or disability charity you will need to find an MP who is interested in animals or health or disability.

Camilla Williamson, public affairs adviser, Age UK
It can be, but if you're working for a good cause, you will often find that the work you're doing is mutually beneficial anyway. Politicians will want to be seen to help a good cause that will win support from the public and you will want to help them to win the argument. If you are part of a bigger organisation that is working on multiple issues at any one time, then negotiating can become a bigger part of it.

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