Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Visiting my MP

The first time I met my MP was for a school project and at the time I was in awe of them thinking surely if they sit in Parliament they must have had some level of specialist training. Realising they were just like the rest of us was a shock, I had been convinced there must be an MP qualification. It was also an eye opener, any of us could be MPs!

The second time I met my MP was whilst working for Birmingham Friends of the Earth and it was part of my job – I went to visit an MP not my MP but from a constituency where we had members and I was representing the organisation.  I was a bundle of nerves; I had read all the briefing papers and had them all at the ready so that I could appear more professional through my ability to quote facts and figures. Needless to say it was neither good nor effective. As in all things what I needed was to go in with integrity and to say how I felt, had I been the MP sat across the table I would have rather listened to someone speak from the heart rather than listen to someone fumble through papers and mutter facts.

There seems to be at any one time a number of concerns I could visit or write to my MP or Councillor about, so I find myself picking and choosing. Sometimes it’s an issue that I feel led to bring up with them – most recently these have included concerns over the gritting of pavements in icy and snowy conditions, the sales of weapons and most recently the Energy Bill.

The Energy Bill was one of the topics on the agenda at the Central England Quakers Sustainability Forum I attended last week. Chris Walker from Quaker Peace and Social Witness came to speak to us about some of the issues associated with the Bill and highlighted 3 areas in which the Bill could be strengthened.

- An amendment to commit now to decarbonise the power sector by 2030

- An amendment to enable energy efficiency incentives to be introduced to the bill

- Take action to tackle fuel poverty

More information and links to briefing papers are available here

Towards the end of his talk Chris spoke about how we could talk to our MPs, reminding me that we can speak from a place of belief and values, as a people of faith. I don’t need to know the percentages involved to know how I feel about something.  These days I don’t need to be an expert in all things as there so many excellent briefing papers around to help me come to an understanding of the key issues involved. In this instance there is an excellent briefing paper, available here

Another resource I regularly use is the website, theyworkforyou. You can find out who your MP is and sign up to alerts about what they have said and the questions they ask in public debates and you can track their voting record on bills.

Woodbrooke is running a course in December 2013 around Quakers and Politics if you would like to engage with this further. 

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