Written by Laura Webb, ONE Youth Ambassador, UK
Earlier this year I was selected to be one of 50 UK Youth Ambassadors for ONE! In May, a group of UK Youth Ambassadors went to Parliament to meet our Members of Parliament (MPs) in an effort to get them to support the Global Fund’s 6th replenishment this year. I was lucky enough to meet my MP — Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton — and Harriett Baldwin, MP for West Worcestershire (my home MP!) and Minister of State for Africa and Minister of State for the Department of International Development.
Before the lobby day I was so nervous about meeting my representative for the first time. But, it ended up being such an exciting opportunity. I learnt so much about how to approach and persuade MPs!
Here are my top tips of things to consider that will get you ready to meet your representative:
Talk up their constituency.
Referencing your constituency works as a link or bridge between you and your representative! As soon as I started quoting facts and figures about what West Worcestershire taxpayers have contributed towards the work of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, Harriett Baldwin MP became incredibly interested and passionate. Ultimately, she became keener for her constituency to do even more.
Don’t be intimidated.
Before going to Parliament I had never met a MP. To me they felt like distant figures I couldn’t relate to. Here’s the secret though: MPs are just like us! They’re ordinary people with families and normal lives who I can relate to, and who can relate to me. I became a lot less nervous when I started thinking of the meeting as a chat about issues I’m passionate about.
Know your facts.
Before the meeting I memorised a few statistics about the impact tuberculosis (TB), malaria and HIV/AIDS have globally. This worked really well to engage my MPs. It shows how much you care about the issue you’re lobbying for and makes it more difficult for your representative to refuse to champion your cause.
Have an open mind.
My day in Parliament reminded me not to stereotype MPs (or people) by their political party. You cannot assume that a MP will act in a certain way on specific topics just because of their party. Try not to anticipate that Conservative or Labour MPs will have certain views — treat each MP you meet as an individual.
Take every chance you can get.
Eli — a fellow UK Youth Ambassador — and I had been trying for months to get various MPs — including Gillian Keegan MP — to attend an event at our university with no luck. At the ONE Lobby Day we were lucky enough to hear from Gillian Keegan MP! After the talk, Eli and I rushed straight up to her and expressed our enthusiasm for her coming to our university. And it worked — she agreed to be part of our event! Going up to your representative in person, at whatever opportunity you can, demonstrates confidence and commitment which they just might struggle to refuse.
Overall a day in Parliament taught me that lobbying your representative is achievable and worthwhile. It was such a wonderful opportunity to listen to their views in person and discuss topics I’m passionate about. If you get the chance to meet with your representative, try to remember they’ve agreed to take time out of their busy day to meet you — so be confident, ask questions and embrace the opportunity.
Laura Webb is an International Development student at the University of Sussex and a 2019 Youth Ambassador in the UK. She was inspired to study International Development and lobby her MPs after spending a year living in Swaziland and seeing first-hand the effects HIV can have on individuals and communities.