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Five ways to lobby your MP on maintenance grants

Friday 28-08-2015 - 16:13

Brought to you by Shelly Asquith and Sorana Vieru.

NUS is calling for students’ unions to lobby their Members of Parliaments on Friday 18 September and ask them to pledge opposition to the government’s proposed scrapping of student maintenance grants.

This is a campaign we can win, if we can reach as many MPs as possible and demonstrate resistance from thousands of students. To do that, we need students’ unions and associations from across the UK on board using a variety of tactics - applying persistent pressure that politicians cannot ignore.

Put Friday 18 September in your diary now. In fact, send an event invitation to everyone you know.

Here are a few things you can do on the day to lobby your MP:


1. Tweet

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Tweet photos of you and your students with the #CutTheCosts poster (which you can download here) and reasons why they support the campaign using the hashtag. Tag your MP in the picture or include their Twitter handle in your tweet texts so every time this gets retweeted or favorited they’ll get a notification.

Set up a thunderclap specifically for your own MP. If more than 100 students sign up in advance, your MP will be tweet-mobbed at a time determined by you.

If you’re not sure if your MP has an account, tweetyourmp.com is a great place to start – and of course, if you’re unsure who your local MP is, simply type your postcode into www.theyworkforyou.com to find out.

Use the #CutTheCosts hashtag and tag @nusuk in your tweets!


2. Meet

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Contact your MP in advance to book an appointment to meet on the day. Ideally, invite them to your campus so more students can engage and ask questions.

Here’s a model letter you can send your MP and some guidance on how to get that meeting. If your MP won’t come and speak to you, then you should go to them.

Find out if they are hosting or speaking at any events soon and put them on the spot. A static protest or a planted question should make them sweat.

Put the posters and stickers for the campaign up in various places that you know your MP will be, or better yet, go and find them there to talk about it.

Research who your MP’s allies are. For extra pressure, find out who is close to them on the city or borough council, and lobby them, too.

Work with other students’ unions. If there are a number of unions in your constituency, suggest a joint lobby; the bigger the presence, the stronger the pressure.


3. Stuff their inbox

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It’s easy for MPs to ignore a few emails - especially since they get so many. It’s harder to look past a huge influx of physical post, though.

Why not bulk-buy postcards, get students to write their experiences of maintenance grants and send these to your MP and ask to support the campaign? Or go old school and fax them – you can’t stop fax messages coming through!

Get creative in getting your message across - embroider a message on a hanky or send a giant card. The possibilities are endless – in 1968 NUS representatives and art students delivered a large cabbage to 10 Downing Street!

Alternatively, do some phone banking and encourage your students to call your MP’ Parliament and constituency offices and ask to speak to the MP or leave voice messages. Or go old school and fax them – you can’t stop fax messages coming through!


4. March to their office

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If you want to make a big impact, consider using direct action to show how students won’t let this go.

Take a crowd of activists to your MP’s office and link up with local anti-cuts groups to bring the local community on board.

If a noisy protest outside doesn’t result in any progress, consider using other creative tactics. Hold a public meeting on campus or drop a banner. Often, you can be more effective if you step out of the “combative speech box” and consider alternate modalities, like visuals, song, theatre, and humour.

Find events where your MP is speaking and make an intervention or creatively disrupt them, such as waiting until the end of the event and silently surrounding the stage holding the paper CutTheCosts megaphones, or using any props signifying debt (such as cardboard shackles, ankle balls & chains with ‘student debt/loan’ scribbled over them etc.).

Or you could occupy the office and refuse to leave until they listen. We recommend you read legal guidance on occupations and protest rights before planning any such actions. The disruption this will cause is minor compared to the thousands of students who may be shut out of higher education as a result of this cut - and it may be just the action that will force them to rethink. It’s been done before in Sheffield and Birmingham to name a few!

Take a photo and send it to your MP and local press - and of course, to NUS! Here’s some other ideas.

Promote the lobby. Think of things you can do in advance of 18 September, like calling a banner-making workshop, inviting hundreds of students to the Facebook Event or including it in your SUs freshers week promotions.


5. Choose big targets

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A focused action on an important MP will create more media coverage and awareness, and is more likely to rally students to the campaign. For example, Goldsmiths Students’ Union are encouraging their students to protest outside Zac Goldsmith’s office, who is running for Mayor of London. Join their demonstration, or call your own!

On Friday 18 September, students from Machester - the largest student city in the UK - will be we will be protesting outside George Osborne’s constituency office in Cheshire

Jo Johnson is the Minister for Universities and Science and MP for Orpington and Sajid Javid is the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and MP for Bromsgrove.

If your MP is already on board, why not help out other students’ unions who have more resistant MPs in their constituency.Work with other Student Unions, especially further education unions in your city as many FE students could be looking to enter higher education and they could provide much needed evidence on how this measure would harm access to higher education.
If there are a number of unions in your constituency, suggest a joint lobby; the bigger the presence, the stronger the pressure.

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