Counter-lobbying / Re: Should Scotland go GM-free?
2.Video on PR/lobbying etc.
3.Counter-Lobbying: the protester's handbook
1.Re: Should Scotland go GM-free
Scotland of course already has a declared Moratorium on the planting of GM crops:
"The Scottish Government intends to maintain a moratorium on planting GM crops in Scotland. This respects the consumers who demand locally-produced conventional and organic food."
The issue is presently around imported GM animal feed, which some of the leadership of the NFUS [National Farmers Union of Scotland] has taken a very perverse position on, considering the ability of Scotland to produce substantial quantities of its own animal feed.
There is work being done to change their views, and to develop an agricultural policy that promotes quality Scottish produce including animal products fed on GM-free feed.
2.Video on PR/lobbying etc.
Bibi van der Zee
The Guardian, May 28 2008
*If you're not ready for direct action, you can play an equally vital role for a good cause by turning yourself into a political lobbyist*
[Bibi van der Zee is the author of Rebel, Rebel: The Protestor's Handbook]
The weathermen foretell downpours, thunderstorms, and the occasional blast of sunshine for the summer. The political forecast is equally sulphurous: an out-of-ideas government, a restless and detached electorate, and semi-interwoven issues - escalating oil and food prices, climate change, airports, taxation, nuclear power, GM foods - that are firing anxiety at local and national levels. The result could be an explosive summer of action.
Frustration over the government's failure to address climate change, coupled with a perception that the interests of big business are being served above the interests of ordinary people, is creating a volatile compound. There is plenty of direct action planned, with marches, political carnivals and meet-ups in the pipeline. The Camp for Climate Action's planning meeting a couple of weeks ago was attended by more than 100 people. When you're getting that many turning up for planning, you know things could get interesting. Affinity groups and grassroots campaigns are forming all round the country, not just in the usual greeny towns - Bristol, Brighton, London and Leeds - but spreading to Belfast, York, Dublin, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Norwich.
In the past few years, activists have been running workshops in non-violent direct action techniques, setting up social centres, getting strategies in place. Older activists are refreshed and ready to go, and the younger ones are signing up to groups such as Plane Stupid. In the face of disasters in Burma and China, rising food prices and crisis in the banking sector, climate change has been slipping down the news agenda. But if everything goes as the activists hope, it will soon be moving back up.
You may have contemplated direct action yourself but decided that you're not quite ready to D-lock yourself to a digger, or live in a tunnel for three rainy weeks in June. No matter. The important thing is that you can be playing an equally vital part while the activists are out there. While under fire, the government is going to be open to helpful suggestions and avenues for compromise - albeit a compromise that leaves them looking good. This is the moment you take on your new identity: as a political lobbyist.
Lobbying is probably one of the most reviled professions around. As one American lobbyist said: "My mother has never introduced me to her friends as 'my son, the lobbyist'. 'My son, the Washington representative', maybe. Or 'the legislative consultant' . . . But never as a lobbyist. I can't say I blame her." But that's because it's been taken over by the professionals - grassroots organisations need to reclaim lobbying from the huge firms such as Weber Shandwick and Bell Pottinger.
Lobbying is just putting your point to parliament and having some effect on the decisions of the government. If we had a constitution, these would certainly be constitutional rights, and they need to be exercised. Lobbying, and lobbying hard, is also a way to counterbalance the fact that representatives of big business have breakfast with the prime minister once a week. You may think that, against the big money of corporation lobbying, you don't stand a chance, but a study of MPs' receptiveness to lobbying revealed that they were actually far more likely to listen to what a charity was talking about than a business. Here's how you do it.
Pick your issue
First, pick your issue. Do you want airport expansion to end? Do you want investment in renewables to increase? Make sure it's something specific, rather than just a general wish that climate change would go away and that everyone would be nicer to each other. Make yourself a bit of an expert in it. If you're going to talk to MPs about airports or nuclear power, you need to be able to answer their questions. You need to be able to help them with information and potential solutions.
Then familiarise yourself with the workings of your governing body - the national assembly for Wales, the House of Commons, the Northern Ireland assembly or the Scottish parliament. What is the current legislative position? Is there a relevant bill going through? What business are the committees considering, and are they carrying out an inquiry into your area of interest? Is there an all-party group working on your specific area? Almost all this information is available on the representative body's website but if it isn't, ring up and ask. You have a legal right to this information, and you will be surprised at how helpful people will be about giving it to you.
This is the point at which to start collecting all the representatives - MPs and assembly members - who have expressed an interest in your subject. You also want all the names of representatives connected with your area; perhaps they sit on the environmental audit committee, or the business and enterprise committee, or are in the relevant government department. Thanks to the internet, in particular to sites such as TheyWorkForYou.com (which covers England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and is looking for volunteers to extend its work to Wales), this is easier than it once would have been.
Finally, decide what you want to ask for. You can aim at giving evidence at a committee meeting; or setting up an all-party group; or getting a question asked in the Commons, or an early day motion; or an amendment to a bill; or a private member's bill; or, even better, a government bill.
You are now ready to start lobbying. Begin by contacting your own MP: he or she has the most at stake in keeping you happy. MPs really do pay attention to letters from their constituents. I sent one to mine, which resulted in a question to the Home Office and no less than three reassurances and follow-ups (he's in a marginal seat, needless to say). Your letter is one of the main ways they keep up with constituency and national issues: if they get three, or 10, or 100 on the same subject they will start to be very aware of it indeed. In the US, a couple of organisations have regular letter-writing sessions where everyone gets out a pen and paper, while Quaker groups regularly set up a table after the service.
But don't just stop with one MP. Carpet bomb everyone on your list. Polite, well-researched, well-presented letters will put the wind up these sensitive souls, who really do want to please. Campaigner Ron Bailey, who specialises in putting private member's bills through, says you can hear MPs talking in the tea rooms about what they've been hearing in the constituency: if three or four MPs have all been contacted about an issue, they begin to cluck with anxiety. Telephone them. Write back when they answer you. Ask to meet them. Make yourself into their best friend. Smile politely when you bump into professional lobbyists.
And if, after a couple of months, you feel a sudden impulse to go out and climb on to the roof of the Houses of Parliament, you couldn't be better placed. Congratulations, you are now a lobbyist. Have you told your mother?
* Rebel, Rebel: The Protestor's Handbook, by Bibi van der Zee, is published by Guardian Books (GBP14.99). To order a copy for GBP13.99 with free UK p&p, go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0870 836 0875