First meeting with my MP

Good afternoon all, 

I hope this finds everyone well and soaking up the sun. 

On a similarly sunny day last month (June 14th) I took the opportunity to meet my MP Mr David Ruffley at his surgery in Stowmarket. 

I had previously corresponded with him on Buzzards and also Badgers. The first letter sent on Buzzards was over a year ago in May, 2012 and received a generic response, copying word for word the statement on the Defra website

This cut and paste copy of the Defra rhetoric was also received over a month after my initial contact. Disappointing.

Much more disappointing was finding out one year later it was a lie! 

To be precise; whilst Defra wasn't culling Buzzards their colleagues in Natural England were issuing licenses allowing just that! 

I think letter writing is a superb tool for Campaigns Champions and indeed all RSPB members, but the response received wasn't satisfactory. 

So, one year on and with the Natural England revelations I though I'd better put my face to the letters and get in to meet Mr Ruffley. 

There is no kind way of saying this, Mr Rufley is a Tory. He ticks all the boxes. This was confirmed in our exchanged greetings and the guffawed 'Yes, Buzzards, how can help you with these wonderful beasts'.     

My answer was simple; you cannot really. They are already dead. 

Much like badgers they have suffered under this governments championing of commerce over nature. The devaluing of our native fauna in favour of farming, Pheasants and commercial shoots. 

Before I proceeded I needed to make my position clear. I was working from the starting point that, in a Tory's eyes, anyone who cares about Buzzards and Badgers is basically a deranged tree hugger. 

So, I took it back to first principles. I both work and live in Mr Ruffley's constituency. I was met with genuine surprise when I said I worked! 

Establishing these points gave me enough time to then make the priority point; that farm animals and shooting stock should not be favoured over a native species in any instance. For both Badgers and Buzzards both have suffered historical persecution too. 

For a Tory this was a hard pill to swallow. Buzzards and Badgers are basically a messy diversion in the countryside, badgers are corpses to be swerved when driving to the shoot and Buzzards are merely another threat to the Pheasant stock you want to blast with shot! 

Why would anyone wish to protect these species? Well, of course we know the answer but having made my point I knew it couldn't be agreed upon. 

I decided it best to leave the meeting on a positive and charged Mr Ruffley with an action. As pointed to on Martin Harper's 'Greening our pleasant land' post, I wanted him to support CAP pillar modulation, preserving agri-environmental schemes so important to farmland birds. Including Turtle Dove's which I am particularly fond of. 

It remains to be seen if he will, but I am writing again over the coming days to re-inforce the point.

In terms of lessons learnt that may be useful to other Nature's Heroes and Campaigns Champions I can offer the following:

  • Dress smartly - this may seem trivial, but it is expected and other surgery attendees will likely have dressed smart too;
  • Establish three essential points and no matter what direction the conversation goes - make them! Mine were; introducing myself, its wrong to kill wildlife in favour of commerce and support pillar modulation;
  • Remind your MP that you are not defined by your letter writing and love of nature, you also live, work and play within their constintuency. You pay tax and you are a reasonable human being despite your love of birds etc! This may genuinely surprise them;
  • Finally be thankful and end on a positive. No matter how much you may detest the individual or their political leaning, they have a responsibility to reflect your view. I tasked Mr Ruffley with supporting CAP pillar modulation and I sincerely hope he does.

So, I hope the above is useful and that some readers even enjoyed my first post on here. Feel free to comment or get in touch with me. I'd love to hear of your experiences and receive any advice for my next meeting.

Keep up the fight!

Happy birding,

Jonny

  • Hi Jonny, thanks so much for sharing this - some really helpful tips and spot on to tailor the points you want to make to your MP's perspective on an issue, if you know it (although as always when meeting a new person, we all need to be careful not to make snap judgements like your MP might have done!).

    If anyone else is inspired to get in touch with their MP on CAP and wildlife-friendly farming, we've had some positive news - Owen Paterson announced the other week that he will be transferring the full 15% of funds allowed into support for rural development (which includes wildlife-friendly farming)!  We're really pleased, and the deadline for his other decisions have now been pushed back, so those in England can still write to their MPs - I've just blogged about the latest here: www.rspb.org.uk/.../update-on-wildlife-friendly-farming-in-england-more-time-to-write-to-your-mp.aspx

    Thanks again Jonny, and I look forward to hearing about anyone else's experiences :)

  • Good luck Jonny!

    I think that I would have been inclined to have made it clear that I was disappointed with the impersonal (and delayed) response to your initial letters - although I do understand why MP's would use standard responses to many queries.

    jon h said:

    Much more disappointing was finding out one year later it was a lie! 

    To be precise; whilst Defra wasn't culling Buzzards their colleagues in Natural England were issuing licenses allowing just that! 

    I would hope that you didn't accuse him of sending you a response that was a lie though - partly because even if it was a lie, it helps to be diplomatic if you hope to achieve something, but mainly because I don't think that there is anything in the 'generic statement' that can be said to have been untrue when it was given as a response (and I'm not convinced that any of it is untrue even now). At the time that you were sent this as a reply no licences had been issued for the lethal control of Buzzards in the UK.

    Some good advice regarding meetings with an MP though, and I would agree that putting some pressure on MPs, and making it clear that working, tax paying residents in their constituencies value the protection of wildlife can only be a good thing.

  • In reply to Steph:

    My pleasure Steph and with thanks for sharing the above link. I will use it to inform my letter this week.

    Cheers,

    Jonny

  • In reply to RoyW:

    Many thanks for your comments Roy and don't worry I am extremely courteous and diplomatic in person and via letters, even if I vent on here or elsewhere online!

    Cheers,

    Jonny