It is vital that politicians know that housing is an important issue for voters if we are going to get them to commit to ending the housing crisis within a generation.
One of the most effective ways to reach politicians is to meet them in their constituencies and talk to them about the issues facing the people they represent. You are all experts in what the housing crisis means in the areas in which you operate. By engaging with your local MPs and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) you can help ensure politicians recognise the vital role of associations and that housing becomes a key issue at the next General Election.
We know that many housing associations already have regular contact with their local MPs and are experienced in political engagement and lobbying. We hope that this advice is helpful for those members who may not have their own public affairs resource, or who would welcome some advice on engaging with their MPs or PPCs in the run up to the election.
How do I find out who my local prospective parliamentary candidates are?
If you don’t know your constituency or who your current MP is, find that out on the Parliament website.
The three main parties include lists of their confirmed PPCs on their websites but you can probably find your local candidates with a quick web search as well.
Meeting your MP and PPCs face-to-face
We all know the best way to get any message across is in person. That is why the Federation would be really grateful if you could find an opportunity to talk face-to-face with your local MP and PPCs.
This could be something as simple as a catch-up over a coffee with an MP or candidate you know well, or something on a larger scale like a visit to a new development or service. As local experts you’ll have the best sense of what will work in your area dependent on the services you deliver, the interests of the politicians and how much time you have to commit to the activity.
If you decide you want to arrange something, here are three key steps you can take to get them to agree to the meeting:
- Be quite formal with your request or invitation. A letter from a senior member of the team is harder for an MP or PPC to turn down.
- Make it clear to the MP or PPC why the meeting or visit would be helpful for them. Would they find out about the issues affecting people in their constituency or could they learn something about how your housing association works as a thriving business in the community?
- Follow-up the request. MPs and PPCs’ offices get lots of requests so there’s no harm in calling a week or so after you send your letter or email to check they’ve received it and ask directly whether the meeting or visit is possible.
Once they say “yes”, what next?
When the MP or PPC says yes to your request, it’s important to put plans in place to make the visit, event or meeting go smoothly.
It’s a good idea to send an agenda across to the MP or PPC with any other logistical information about a week in advance of the meeting.
On the day you’ll want to think about what ‘experience’ you want them to have at the meeting or visit, and the key information about your organisation and the excellent work you do of which you want them to be aware.
The Federation parliamentary briefing
We’ve created a parliamentary briefing to explain the Homes for Britain call for the next Government to commit to ending the housing crisis within a generation and to publish a long-term plan within a year of taking office that sets out how it will achieve this aim. This document also includes the Federation’s policy ideas we want included in the long-term plan. We’d be really grateful if you could tell MPs and PPCs about Homes for Britain and our ideas.
What can you ask the MP or PPC to do?
To make the most of the meeting or visit you will want to think in advance about an action you want the MP or PPC to take afterwards.
Here are five examples of what you could ask them to do, but the Federation’s Public Affairs Team would be very happy to talk to you about other possible actions.
- Tweet their support for the Homes for Britain campaign. Download and print a Homes for Britain sign, take a picture of the MP or PPC holding the sign and ask them to tweet it out to their followers.
- Put a press release on their website. The MP or PPC could let the world know about the visit or meeting by putting a press release on their website. You can give them a helping hand by drafting it for them.
- Write to their party leader. The more times the most senior members of the party hear the ‘within a generation’ message the better, so you could ask the MP or PPC to draft a personal letter to the party leader or manifesto writer calling for their party to support the call and the big policy ideas. The Federation team can help with this task if they want to do it.
- Speak up in Parliament. Obviously this is one for sitting MPs. You could ask them to mention the Homes for Britain campaign call or your organisation in a debate, or get them to table a parliamentary question about the Federation’s big policy ideas.
- Take the briefing with them and meet the Federation Team. If the MP or PPC is pressed for time or needs more time to think about what you’ve told them, you can always pass them on to us!
After the meeting or visit
A thank you email or letter is a good idea after a meeting or visit, not only as a courtesy but also as another chance to mention the campaign call and hold them to any actions they’ve agreed to do.
And if they did agree to take action, try to be timely in following-up with any information or text you promised them.
Finally, it would be great if you could tell the Federation’s Public Affairs Team. We’re really keen to know about how the meetings go and what the MP or PPC agreed to do. We’re also on hand to help with follow-up, where we can.
If you don’t get a meeting there’s still a lot you can do
It may be that your local MP or PPC cannot meet with you, particularly if they hold a high profile role (maybe your local MP is David Cameron!).
If your initial offer of a meeting is rejected, don’t be disheartened. You can still write to them telling them about the need for a long-term plan to end the housing crisis in a generation and include in the letter the Federation’s parliamentary briefing.
What about the Lobbying Act?
A private meeting or visit with an MP or PPC at which the public isn’t present would never be affected by the Lobbying Act. If you decide you would like to host an open meeting with tenants involved at which the politicians could speak to them about party policy (a hustings, for instance), you should invite the MP and all of the constituency PPCs to participate to avoid your activity being regulated by the Lobbying Act. It’s then up to the politician to decide if they want to attend.
And again, the Federation is here to help
If you have any questions on the ins and outs of engagement with your local MPs or PPCs, if you need any further briefings or would just like to tell us about your successful engagement, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Federation’s Public Affairs Team.