(P143) The Write Way to Get Noticed

by Tom Levitt, MP for High Peak - Society Guardian 14 April 2004

If you want your MP's attention you need to use the personal touch

The campaign postcard is a political icon. Dozens come into my office each week. Most recently they have concerned transport policy, export of horses, HIV/Aids and cycle helmets. Those supporting trade justice, opposing hunting and concern about climate change are perennials.

I like campaign postcards. They are usually well designed, with a powerful message conveyed in a few words, an aide memoire to a busy MP or minister. Often, hard-hitting illustrations add to the message.

The politician who receives 500 postcards on an issue will be more impressed than by a single petition with double the number of names. The exception is the local issue, where a 100% petition of residents on a street - while small in number - may punch above its weight.

I have least respect for the bland photocopied letter topped and tailed by hand pretending to be something it isn't. Neither personal nor original, it is not effective. Campaigns on student fees, animal experiments and GM crops have fallen into this trap. Send me a standard letter, you get a standard reply. What do you expect?

Which is where emails can be clever. Each one I received on university pay clearly had a common source, but the technology allowed the writer to cut and paste making the message personal.

The best opinion letters of all come from the heart, portray an original viewpoint on a thorny issue and make the recipient think. Send me a letter like that and (I hope) you will get a sensible, focused and reasonable reply. Unlike the reply to your postcard, this response will belong to you.

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17/4/04 Last Updated 17/4/04