Parish Volunteer in Camberley and Bagshot Parish and MP Correspondent, Ian Newton, recently attended our MP Correspondent Training and reception. At the end of International Refugee Week, we wanted to share his experience.
Camberley and Bagshot – Ian’s home Parish
‘I attended the CAFOD MP Correspondent training day on behalf of our parish. The event covered the main issues with which CAFOD is primarily concerned this year i.e. the refugees and migration and climate change.
‘The event focused on the importance of ensuring that individual MPs were made aware of their constituents’ concerns on these issues and on the best ways to get our points across. These included personal contact, emails, letter writing articles in the local press and others.
‘There was also a talk from the head of an MP’s private office who made clear the sheer volume of correspondence that an ordinary MP, let alone a Government Minister, has to deal with and how personal contact was always the best way to secure their attention. Correspondence also worked providing it was personalised and well written whereas emails and template letters were unlikely to be put in front of him or her.
Sheila and Becky Higgins, a mother and daughter from Solihull, speaking to their MP Dame Caroline Spelman in Parliament
‘It’s important also to know what you were asking for and how you thought the MP might help e.g. tabling an oral or written question in Parliament. If you feel strongly about an issue (and why else would you contact your MP!) it is worth following up along the lines of ” Disappointed you are unable to……” if you get a bland or unsatisfactory reply. Always remember that your letter might have been weeded out by the MP’s office and a follow-up emphasises that this an important issue to constituents.
‘Late afternoon we walked over to Westminster for a Parliamentary reception hosted by the All Party Friends of CAFOD Group. About a dozen or more MPs attended. There were short talks from a range of interesting people:
- Lord Bates, Minister of State for International Development
- Leah Fox, a CAFOD Young leader who had recently spent time in the Lebanon
- Catherine McKinnel MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary Friends of CAFOD
- And from a delegation of CAFOD’s Bangladesh partners (OKUP) including a lady who spoke movingly about the physical, mental and sexual abuse she had had to suffer from those within her own community and who (through an interpreter) asked what our Government could do to impress upon her Government the need for more attention to human rights and the rights of women.
Click for more info on our campaign about refugees and migrants
‘My MP, Michael Gove, was unable to attend (I have emailed him to let him know what he missed) but I did get to speak to Catherine McKinnell MP, Iain Duncan-Smith MP and Lord Bates. I asked the latter two to pass on my disappointment that Michael Gove had been unable to attend and that I hoped he would be able to attend the next such event.
‘We finished up with an Ascension Vigil Mass in the beautiful Chapel of St Mary Undercroft within the Palace of Westminster (the Mass was interrupted on two occasions by the need for MPs present to leave briefly in order to vote in division lobbies – this seemed to be a fairly common occurrence and the priest seemed well versed in coping with it!).
‘This was an excellent day with around 50 attendees for the training and a few more for the reception. I would welcome the opportunity to go to the next event but believe others would also find it interesting but places get taken early but so apply quickly!’
Emily Thornberry and Matt Rodda were amongst the MPs who spoke to CAFOD supporters in Parliament. Here we also see CAFOD young leaders from St Joseph’s College Reading
Our thanks go to Ian for his sterling work as an MP Correspondent and for giving us this great report of the training and reception. Could you get to know your MP and raise important concerns to help ensure that the voices of many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people are heard in the corridors of power?