As we launch our new guide to help residents engage with their local MP, policy assistant Millie Dessent explores why the toolkit has come at such an important time for communities and how they can get the most out of it.
Members of Parliament are there to represent us – that’s their job – but for many communities, there are times when Westminster feels too far away, too detached from the everyday realities of ordinary people’s lives. But this is exactly why getting in touch with your local MP is so important: it’s up to local people to make them aware of the issues that matter most to them. and far removed from decisions that are being made in Westminster.
Having the knowledge and confidence to get in touch with your local MP is valuable for everyone, but as we start to think about what a post-COVID future could look like, we hope that communities will be able to play an important role in shaping it. That’s why we’ve put this toolkit together: to bridge the gap and lessen the burden for those looking to get in touch with their local MP going forward.
It’s up to local people to make MPs aware of the issues that matter most to them.”
‘Everyday politics’ is a term often used to refer to a whole range of activities that are the bread and butter of what many Big Local areas are already doing from community-building to volunteering, to helping out a neighbour in need. These activities are vitally important: they show that people in communities up and down the country can – and do – act in various ways to build more hopeful and promising futures in their neighbourhood every day.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that these actions and activities are much more than just ‘everyday politics’: ensuring that nobody gets left behind, supporting the most vulnerable, and maintaining community spirits, are the things that matter to local people. And so this is what our MPs should be listening to, acknowledging and supporting in the halls of Parliament.
So, what can an MP do for you? Well, the answer is actually quite a lot.”
Last year, Local Trust asked Big Local areas about their existing relationships with their local MP. We found that whilst many Big Locals have strong, reciprocal relationships with their local representative, some are not in contact or haven’t met at all. And, although this comes down to local contexts, and what works best for communities, this does mean that the local MP is, at best, an untapped resource, and at worst, unaware of the challenges that people in their constituency are grappling with.
So, what can an MP do for you? Well, the answer is actually quite a lot. They can help to build a profile for a project, cause or issue you are working on and support you in your effort to make a difference. Take, for example, Warwick Ahead Big Local, where the Big Local partnership have developed a trusted, longstanding relationship with their MP, Labour’s Yvette Cooper MP. She has helped them move along their plans to do up a once underused space into a now thriving community shop. Another example is Arches Big Local in Chatham, Kent, where regular contact with Conservative Kelly Tolhurst MP has enabled them to continue their plans to refurbish the Luton Arches during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Have a read, trust that you know your neighbourhood best and get your community heard on the issues that matter most.”
Strikingly, we heard the same thing, time and again from the Big Local areas who have successfully forged a relationship with their MP: regular, direct contact is the best way to start building any lasting connection. They explained it will enable you and your community (their constituents) to not only get support with work that you are doing in your area but will also enable you to inform and influence decisions that widely affect communities across the country.
If you’ve never talked to, contacted, or even thought about reaching out to your MP it might feel like a daunting process – but it doesn’t have to be. Our toolkit is full of resources and top tips, to support Big Local’s to reach out and engage their MP effectively. Have a read, trust that you know your local area best, and get in touch with them to get you and your community’s voice heard on the issues that matter most.
Download the toolkit