Involving your politicians

How do you change something?

To make your campaign a success, you need to identify:

  • what you want to achieve
  • who makes the decision to change
  • who can help you make your aim a reality.

Local politicians can be great allies in campaigning for change and raising awareness. They may be able to help you reach your decision maker.

In this section, we give you some of our top tips for engaging with politicians and decision-makers. We've focused on MPs, but many of the principles will be the same, whether you're talking to councillors, NHS bosses or MPs.

Don't forget a great way to start is to make sure your MP is an Arthritis Champion – check if your local MP (and MSP if you live in Scotland) is an Arthritis Champion.

What can your MP do

There are many things that your MP can do to become a voice for local people with arthritis and help with your campaign. Use this list of steps as a starting point and think about any additional actions you want from your MP before you contact or meet with them.

Become an Arthritis Champion

Is your MP an Arthritis Champion? If they're already signed up this is a fantastic start! They're more likely to be sympathetic to your cause, and have already committed to campaigning to prevent and cure arthritis, and transform the lives of people with arthritis.

You can check the list of Arthritis Champions and if your MP's name isn't on the list then ask them to become an Arthritis Champion.

Your MP can also request to be an Arthritis Champion by emailing action@versusarthritis.org.

Help you get answers

Your MP's job is to represent you. That means they can help you get answers on issues that are affecting you and other local people with arthritis.

If the issue is related to what your council does, you can ask your MP to write to them. For example, here's our template letter for MPs (word doc, 74.7 KB) to write to their local council to make sure that their health and well-being plans cater for people with arthritis.

Your MP can also write letters to local healthcare bosses to ask questions and make sure that local health services are delivering for people with arthritis, or they could raise the issue with a Government Minister if it's appropriate.

Contact the media

Your MP can put out their own press release (word doc, 109 KB) supporting the campaign or even do a joint one with you, which they can also place on their website.

For example, they'll receive a template press release when they become an Arthritis Champion. You may want to help by providing a quote as a local campaigner.

Your MP might also be able to help with press events or stunts aimed at raising awareness of arthritis or your campaign in your community.

Spread the word on social media

Most MPs are on Facebook and Twitter and can use their accounts to help to raise the profile of your campaign.

Ask them to tweet about the campaign or post about it on Facebook to help reach a bigger audience and spread the word. They can use our campaign hashtag #ArthritisChampion!

Visit one of our research centres, or meet with a local Arthritis Research UK group

Get in touch with our team via action@versuarthritis.org and we can look at arranging a visit for your MP to one of our research centres, shops or branches. This could be a great chance for a press event and to show the strong support people with arthritis have in your area.

Contacting your local politicians

Contacting your MP is much easier than it sounds!

Their job is to represent local people, so they expect to be asked for help, it's what they're there for.

Remember, MPs and councillors are human too: they have brothers and sisters, parents and children, and they do genuinely care about issues affecting the local community. Many of them may well have personal experience of arthritis too.

A friendly, professional and polite letter or email to your MP explaining your campaign is a sensible first step. We’ve included a template letter (word doc, 109 KB) in this toolkit, but it’s a good idea to use this as a guide and to personalise your letter as much as you can.

Here are some tips on how to make your letter stand out:

Provide evidence

Why is your campaign important? What impact would a change make on the lives of local people living with arthritis? It's vital to make your politicians understand what you're campaigning for and why. Our MSK Calculator is also a good tool for this, it can show you how many people in your local area have the most common forms of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, such as osteoarthritis of the knee and hip, and back pain.

Keep it local

MPs respond best to local issues raised by local people. Think about the local angle to your issue – this could be statistics on arthritis in your area or a local example of our manifesto challenges for example.

Use real stories

Talking about your personal experience can really help to get across to your MP why it’s so important that they back your campaign, and also become an Arthritis Champion.

Finding other people directly affected by the issue you’re campaigning on is another great way to emphasise to politicians the impact the issue has on your community.

Keep your campaign non-party political

To deliver a successful campaign you need to appeal to as wide a section of support in the community as possible. Keeping political affiliations out of the campaign will mean you can get the maximum level of support and coverage.

Don’t overcomplicate your message

The simpler the message, the more likely you are to be successful. MPs have a limited amount of time, so your message needs to be clear and easy to understand.

Finally, ask for support and a meeting

The key point is to make sure you get across what you want MPs to do. Request their support for your campaign, and encourage them to become an Arthritis Champion if they aren't already (you can find out from our list of Arthritis Champions).

You might also want to ask them for a follow up meeting or MP surgery appointment to discuss the issue in more detail and get across your points in person.

Meeting your politicians

Writing to your MP is a good first step, but an even better way to get your message across is to meet your MP in person.

There are a number of ways to do this, depending on how ambitious you want to be, the support you already have, the size of your team, and what you want to achieve. You could:

  • Meet them individually
  • Invite them to a group meeting or coffee morning
  • Set up a public meeting for people to come along and put questions to your MP to generate local interest and press attention.

Asking for a meeting

Ask for a meeting in writing and follow-up with a phone call if you can. Having that personal contact with your MP or their office staff can make the difference and will help secure a meeting.

If you don’t have your MP's contact details, you can find them at www.parliament.uk, or contact us on action@versusarthritis.org.

If you don't hear from your MP straight away, don’t give up! Keep politely chasing them for a meeting. MPs are elected to represent local residents and it's your right to see them. They expect to be chased if they don’t respond to an email.

Top tips for meeting your MP

Here are some top tips for meeting your MP and getting across information about your campaign.

Don’t forget to let us know via action@versusarthritis.org if you get a meeting with your MP – we can provide advice and support.

Prepare

Make sure your MP (or their office) is aware of the agenda and purpose of the meeting in advance. Take a copy of our Prevent, Transform, Cure manifesto (PDF 2.9MB) to give to your MP. Contact our campaign team on action@arthritisresearchuk.org if you'd like a printed copy.

Anticipate what your MP might say and what they might ask you. You can check what MPs have previously said on any subject by using resources like www.theyworkforyou.com. A search for 'arthritis' or 'musculoskeletal' is usually a good place to start.

Be ready with what you want your MP to do – as well as asking them to become an Arthritis Champion, are they willing to do more for your campaign? See What can your MP do? for suggestions.

They might be able to suggest other people it might be worth meeting, or some press ideas that might help further your campaign.

Tip: Be comprehensive, but don’t overload your campaign pitch with too much detail or make it too emotive.

Tell your story

People often buy into people as much as they do an issue. Think about your personal experience of living with arthritis – what impact does it have on your life? How does it affect your family and friends?

Back it up with the evidence you’ve found (for example local statistics or expert opinion). Try to make it relevant to your area to make sure your MP understands the impact on local people living with arthritis.

Treat it as a normal conversation

Give your MP the chance to talk and respond to your points. Their input might be useful and they may have some useful advice to help progress your campaign.

It's vital to stay polite – don’t be hostile, stay positive, say thank you. Most people, MPs included, will be more likely to be supportive if you're polite and positive.

Take photos

It’s a good plan to take a photo at the meeting of the attendees, including you with your MP, for use on websites/press. You can even arrange a photo session, for example, with campaigners and your supportive MP at somewhere connected with your campaign. Make sure you check the MP is happy to be in a photo!

We’d love to see your campaigning photos! Send them over to the team at action@versusarthritis.org.

Follow up

After your meeting, email all attendees to thank them for coming. Include action points from the meeting that people committed too. This helps to maintain momentum and keep things on track.

Why do we need politicians to get involved

Getting politicians to support campaigns to push back the limits of arthritis for people living in pain is vital.

Politicians decide how much money goes into our NHS services, what priority is given to tackling the causes of arthritis and how much support medical research gets.

From day-to-day care and the services available in your area, to GP waiting times, to employment support and a welfare system that treats people with arthritis fairly, political action and engaging with politicians matters.

The decisions they make can have a massive impact on our chances of preventing and curing the pain of arthritis, and transforming the services and support available for people living with the condition.

To make sure as many politicians as possible are fighting on the issues that really affect people with arthritis, we need your help to get your local politicians involved, championing people with arthritis and everyday freedom from the limits of arthritis.