Focus: Policy and Politics - Parliamentary 'snakes and ladders'

The RSPCA is using a game to illustrate the legislative process, writes Nathalie Thomas.

The RSPCA has launched an online snakes and ladders game that explains to supporters how the parliamentary system works.

The charity hopes it will help members of the public understand why they are often contacted several times about the same piece of legislation and why some Bills don't make it onto the statute book.

"We get calls or emails from people saying 'I wrote to my MP recently and I thought this was over'," says Justine Pannett, digital campaign manager at the RSPCA.

"Not everyone appreciates what's involved in a Bill becoming law and that it's not straightforward. Not all Bills become law. Some fall and some get almost all the way there, then fall at the final hurdle."

Supporters were sometimes confused as to why the RSPCA was asking them to put pressure on their local MP for a second or third time when they had read that MPs had already voted on a certain issue, Pannett explains.

Not all members of the public are aware that clauses or amendments can be voted on several times as a Bill passes through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

She says: "I'm hoping that this tool will help people buy into the idea of writing to their MPs on more than one occasion, rather than thinking 'I've already done that'."

The charity felt a snakes and ladders game was the best way of illustrating how a Bill could suddenly accelerate - and go up a ladder - or fall off the agenda without warning - as when players land on a snake and find themselves back at square one.

Information boxes are situated at several points on the board, explaining the different stages of the parliamentary process, such as the first and second readings of a Bill.

The game also contains some information about the Animal Welfare Bill - the principal focus of the organisation's current lobbying activities. The charity intends to update the information as different legislation crops up.

Supporters of all ages will be able to learn from the game, the charity hopes, and a link to the website will be sent out with every campaign email.

It is also displayed on the RSPCA's homepage, and the charity's education team is hoping to use the tool to teach schoolchildren about how Parliament works.

Design agency Lateral helped to develop the resource, which cost "less than £10,000", over several months.

But Steve Stretton, creative partner at marketing agency archibald ingall stretton, described the snakes and ladders idea as "a creative cliche that labours the point".

He said: "Explaining the lengthy, arduous parliamentary process in an online game is a nice idea, but this game is a bit, well, lengthy and arduous. Following the game to its conclusion asks an awful lot of the audience."

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