Mark Flannagan: How to engage with the new government

Our columnist provides top tips on how to develop constructive relationships with those in power

The general election is almost over. I will certainly be tired on 9 June, having stayed up through the night watching the results come in.

At the time of writing there is a sense that the initial certainty of a landslide for the Conservatives cannot be counted on, although it would still be a huge earthquake if Jeremy Corbyn actually wins over enough voters in the remaining days to become Prime Minister.

In the weeks after polling day I am sure that there will be plenty of advice on how to engage with the new government. Get ahead of this and prepare now to act on day one. Here are some suggestions.

Be old-fashioned and polite. Immediately write to successful and unsuccessful candidates with whom you already have developed relationships. Politicians like to have contacts and friends who value them as individuals and not just as elected representatives.

Do not assume the losers are no longer of use to you and only the winners matter. Of course, offer to make the new and returned MPs lives easier.

But remember that those who failed to get elected this time may well return one day, and they will not forget their friends.

In the same vein, once the new government has been appointed, write to those who are no longer ministers in your area thanking them for their work.

Let the relevant newly appointed ministers know you are there. Do not forget their special advisers, who are usually your first point of contact.

Do not bombard MPs with demands and briefings, unless you are asked for them. They will arrive in their office with a postbag and inbox bursting with constituency issues.

The returned MPs will know what they want to focus on and will be looking outwards.

The newly elected will be dazed and confused as they try to find an office, get their equipment sorted, find support staff and get to grips with the rules and etiquette of the House of Commons. Give them space to breathe.

Use this space to research every MP thoroughly. Identify every individual with a connection to your cause.

Ask yourself why they have that connection. Is it personal or professional? What might they do for you? Are they committed elsewhere, or are do they have space to take a leadership role for you?  

Don’t assume you know where someone stands until you actually have evidence for this. There are often surprising interests among individuals you wouldn’t necessarily have predicted from their political colours. 

Do not forget each MP is a constituency MP and local contact from your charity adds reason and value to their work with you.

While national charities often ask for meetings between their senior staff and the MP, I still believe that bringing in a constituent early on will embed you better in their standing.

Once you have a relationship please, please, please make sure you "service" this properly. 

Help an MP with short, easy-to-read briefings, help them with draft parliamentary questions, show you understand how parliament works by making sure you use the right channels in the right way. 

Be at the end of a telephone line for the MP and their staff – and act quickly when they request help. In effect, be part of their office when they are working on your cause.

Finally, do some things privately without the need to tell the world.

Set up meetings between people and take time to grow relationships. Too often charities take a transactional approach to politics and expect politicians to deliver. In reality, you are very unlikely to have an immediate impact. 

Change takes time, patience, a process of persuasion and eventual ownership by the system. You are not there to argue aggressively for change; you are there to develop a shared vision for a better world.

Mark Flannagan (@MarkFlann) is an independent consultant and commentator, and a former charity chief executive

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