As the summer was about to finish, at the end of August, we had a fantastic session with the activists from the Taking Part project. The session was on the extremely hot topic of working with politicians , which obviously cannot be avoided if we want to achieve significant change and improvement in quality of life for people living with HIV.
The session was facilitated by Bill Morgan from Incisive Health. a consultancy agency which has a wealth of experience in health policy. Unfortunately being a holiday period we only had 4 participants in the workshop, which is really sad as many of us thought it was one of the most useful and insightful sessions we have had this year. Here, I want to share 5 main learning points I got from the session:
1) Politicians mainly want to look good for their constituency and make their opponents look bad, so that they get re-elected. If you have a photo opportunity with a politicians try to have them photographed signing a statement like “ We are committed to support people living with HIV and invest in psycho-social support’. Something they can be held accountable to. In a few months you could write to them asking: what they have you done about it.
2) Getting MP to sign an Early Day Motions is useless, as they do not lead to debate in parliament and many MP refuse to sign them as principle.
3) One important thing you can ask your MP to do for you is to write to the minister about your issue, as ministers are the one who have a lot of power to change things – by the way your MP has a duty to reply to you!
4) In election time MPs who can be targeted for support are those in marginal seats ( which means they depend on just a few voters to be elected), and who live in areas of high HIV prevalence, as they may depend on the vote of people living with HIV to be re-elected.
5) Labour are more trusted around health issues and running the NHS so they will be more sensitive to mobilise regarding HIV
When approaching politicians it is important to communicate effectively. We need to make sure we:
• Identify the problem clearly
• Make dealing with it urgent
• Make use of emotive language
• Be short and coincise
• Make it personal,
• Set a clear goal
Remember the role of government is to legislate ( create laws, ) show leadership, and… spend the budget. It is important to make sure our demands to politicians point to one of those directions. Ask a politician to lead on an issue is one of the easiest thing to ask, as it doesn’t involve to spending money.
If you don’t know who your MP is you can do it through the aptly named website: they work for you.
The slides of the full presentation are available here:
The next Taking Part workshop will be on the 23rd September 2014 and will focus on Public Speaking.I I know many of us dread the idea of having to make a speech. However this will be an fantastic opportunity to develop this crucial skill through the experience of an amazing activist: Winnie Sseruma. Moreover it will be in a very safe environment and I am sure we will have fun doing it.
I tell you this is a session not to miss: Winnie is a force of nature!
You can see Winnie Sseruma in action here.
Please contact me if you would like to come:, places are limited : firstname.lastname@example.org