Q. I run a small business. Am I too small to lobby the government about my concerns?
A.It is a myth that it is difficult to obtain the ear of government. It is in your constituency MP’s interest to listen to you because they want to at least appear to care about your company’s concerns. And indeed, they probably do. Businesses frequently lobby against taxes, bureaucracy or to defend areas of the public sector that support their business. But communicating this can be trickier than you think.
You can start by simply writing a letter or email. MPs’ contact details are usually listed on their websites, otherwise a letter addressed through the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA will always reach their office. Do not be disheartened if you do not receive a response quickly. MPs receive hundreds of letters a day. While there is a chance you will not receive a response it is worth a shot because many MPs have a “reply to all messages” policy so they will come to you eventually.
Making an appointment to meet your MP can also be effective. Most MPs run surgeries once a month in their constituencies. You can phone the MP’s office and ask for an appointment. If you are struggling to find the direct line to your MP’s office simply ring the House of Common’s switchboard on 020 7219 3000 and ask for your MP by name. Be warned there can be a long waiting list.
Do some research about your MP before you ask for their help. What does he or she campaign for? This is very easy to find out. The www.theyworkforyou.com website offers your MP’s voting record and all their speeches in the House of Commons. Try to match up your concerns. See it as a pitch and ensure you flag up that you are their constituent in the first line. Your location matters, they will only represent their constituents.
Q. At what point should I seek professional help?
A.If your problem is more general, such as high taxes or business regulations, joining a campaign group is the most effective approach. Groups such as the TaxPayers’ Alliance, The Federation of Small Business and The Institute of Directors are very effective at getting their members’ views heard. Joining these groups may also offer you networking opportunities to meet like-minded business people and politicians.
If your problem is more specific or ambitious you may need to pay for some professional help. Finding a consultant is easy through the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) website. They list all of their accredited members and their clients. Look for a lobbying firm who currently handles clients which runs businesses similar to your’s. Let several firms pitch to you. Let them know your budget straight away so that you can easily compare what each firm is willing to offer for that price.