I was once in a meeting where Jeremy Corbyn MP for Islington said that MPs were obsessed with their postbags – i.e. correspondence from constituents providing a reliable guide to local opinion. MPs may be a slightly odd bunch but as far as I know none of them lists ‘reading the contents of postbags’ among their recreations in Dod’s Parliamentary Companion 2010, although ‘tap dancing’, ‘preserving paddle steamers’ and ‘stroking cats’ are all mentioned.
Now we’re in the run up to a general election, all these things will have been put aside while MPs give their full attention to their letters. So use this opportunity to take action and write to them about the shockingly low levels of asylum support – currently at £35.13 a week. The rates are about to be reviewed and will shortly be set for the next financial year, starting in April 2010. We’re calling for a minimum level of 70% of Income Support. Separately, UKBA are running a consultation on asylum support. We’re sending in a submission and we want MPs to do the same – click here for details.
MPs know that charities organise letter writing campaigns, partly because they often receive identical letters or emails on an issue. It is definitely still worth writing to them, as the volume of correspondence on a given topic shows the levels of concern. Although a letter is generally considered to be more effective at drawing an MP’s attention to an issue, it’s fine to use email if easier. We often provide people with the text for letters and emails, due to the complexity of asylum issues, though it’s a good idea to amend it to express the points in your own words. It not only shows that you have considered the content, it can also elicit slightly different – and therefore interesting – responses.
Your MP needs to be reminded that it is unacceptable for some of the most vulnerable people in our society to be expected to live on £5 a day. They know this is happening. Many of them oppose it. Others do nothing. So write to them today, just in case they are struggling to turn their thoughts away from dusty tap shoes, rotting paddle steamers, and the mewing of neglected cats…