The impact of letter writing should not be underestimated. As one politician put it, “If we get as few as five letters for individuals on one piece of legislation, it gets our attention”. Moreover, there is an unofficial rule of thumb, which states that for every letter or call a politician receives, he expects that it represents several hundred votes. Here are some hints on how to write effectively to politicians.
- Be selective. Find out which Minister or Member is most directly involved in the issues you are addressing. Make sure you get his name and title spelled correctly and make sure to get the correct address.
- Be legible. It is surprising how often politicians receive letters they can’t read. If possible use a computer or typewriter.
- Be specific. Write about one issue per letter.
- Be brief. No more than one page if possible as longer letters often are not read.
- Be courteous. Even if writing to a political ‘other side’, write in a constructive, positive manner.
- Be personal. Write in your own words. Do not use form letters or copy someone’s letter word for word – paraphrase if you must. Explain how the issue will impact on yourself and your family.
- Be informed. Make sure you have your facts straight. Do not rely on rumour or hearsay. Do not plagiarise the words / thoughts of others. Enclose newspaper clippings etc. sources, Internet URLs, to back up your points.
- Don’t delay. Follow up an issue as soon as it breaks or you will miss out.
- Be tenacious. Ask specific questions that must be answered by a specific person. Send follow-up letters if necessary.
- Be authoritative. Use expert opinion and literature with facts and figures.
- Be supportive. After a vote is taken, write back and say thank you if your advice was followed.
Another approach is to write to your MP or local member, possibly a simple one-sentence letter, without stating your position, and ask him / her what is his / her personal view on the subject about which you write. If you believe you are being given an evasive answer, write to him / her again seeking clarification.