I have never been to see my MP.
As a campaigner I feel like I'm letting the side down a bit here! Not only have I never been to see my MP, I haven't even written to her! Ever since Heidi Allen MP won in South Cambridgeshire in 2015 I have been meaning to write to her properly about my concerns for our environment, but have yet to do so.
Everything I've learnt since I've been in this job, from the campaign training courses and conferences to the wisdom gleaned from my colleagues, has shown me how important it is to communicate with your MP. And the more personal and relevant you can make it to them and their constituency the better and more effective it will be.
So why haven't I done it? I suspect it is for the same reasons as many people: time pressures, exhaustion after work (saving nature is more tiring than you’d think!) and those "I'll do it at the weekend" moments that somehow never come to fruition.
This summer I’m determined to step up to the plate though. Not only am I going to write a fully personalised letter to Heidi Allen, I’m also going to push myself out of my comfort zone and arrange to meet her.
Why is now a good time to push the boat out? Well, the general election has shifted everything. With the loss of a majority Government, some of the power at Westminster has shifted to backbench MPs and cross-party committees. From that perspective alone, there has never been a better time to start engaging properly with your MP.
There also has never been a time like this in politics before, at least not in my lifetime. The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union is a huge undertaking that will create ripples through every aspect of our lives for several years to come. Many key pieces of environmental law will be looked at over the coming years, with the potential to alter them or make them weaker.
So I’m going to find a way through my own barriers to writing to my MP and I’m going to face my fears about meeting her and, together with other people doing the same thing across the country, I’ll be doing my bit to ensure that the wildlife and wild places that we all love so much will be there to delight and inspire others long after I’m gone.
I’m starting with the Repeal Bill online action, which I’ve personalised to help it stand out (see a copy of what I’ve sent below). But the plan is that once I get a response from Heidi I will write back to her, asking for further clarity, for her own view (if she sends me a stock response) and with new questions. This will show that this is something I’m genuinely interested in and want her to consider.
I’m hoping that some of you will come with me on this journey of campaigning discovery! I’ll be sharing my experience along the way, and I hope you will share yours too. We’ll be sending out a request for people to follow-up with their MP in the next few weeks (along with all the tips, suggestions and further questions you might need). If you haven’t yet taken the online action, now’s your chance!
The woods I love to walk through, alone or with my dog, are lucky. They are protected and they belong to the local Wildlife Trust, who works hard to make sure that the ancient woodland gets all the help it needs.
I am worried about other areas though. Those that are currently protected by the EU Nature Directives, the highest level of protection we currently have for nature in the UK. As this particular piece of European legislation is transposed into UK law through the EU Withdrawal Bill I am concerned that there is a risk to these laws. I have heard that Ministers might be given the power to alter, amend or weaken the level of protection our most vulnerable and important places and species currently have, without the parliamentary procedures which allow debate and discussion.
Michael Gove has committed to ensuring better protection for nature, and has certainly been saying all the right things so far, but as my MP I urge you to ensure that we keep the level of protection our environment needs.
There are all sorts of moral and ethical reasons why we should do this, but most of all I think we need to stop taking nature for granted. I don’t think it is a guarantee anymore that it will continue to provide clean water, air and food to eat; at least not without our putting a much greater value on it, having ambitious targets, proper funding and ideally the long-awaited 25 Year Environment Plan.
Please take every opportunity to urge the UK Government, on my behalf, to be a world leader and deliver on their promise to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654