I’m getting quite excited – the travelling circus will soon be coming back to town. Yes, the party political conferences are upon us once again. Did it ever really leave? It doesn’t feel that long ago from last year when I was feeling dead proud of Laura Bolter for showing firsthand to MPs that deafness shouldn’t hold anyone back and also being overly excited by a freebie Slinky, courtesy of NASUWT.
As always, a lot of work has gone into preparing for the conferences. Sadly, it’s not just a merry jaunt around the UK to talk politics over cocktails. Some of the key elements of our preparation have included:
1) Arranging meets. The real value for a small charity like NDCS is the opportunity to get to meet lots of MPs in a relatively short space of time. So for the past month, my colleagues have been busy writing letters and chasing MPs on the phone. Whilst I’m wary of naming any at the risk of jinx-ing it, we are set to meet some of the big beasts. And this year, we’re also meeting some of the would-be MPs, otherwise known as Prospective Parliamentary Candidates. The aim is to make sure that the next generation of MPs are familiar with our work when they take up residence in the halls of power.
2) Getting our ‘asks’ right. One of the early lessons I learnt as a campaigner was to always have something to ask a MP to do. So we’ve been thinking how to tailor our wish list of actions for MPs to do to support us as appropriate. For most MPs, we’ll be focusing on our Sounds good? campaign and encouraging MPs to support the call for mandatory acoustic testing. But we’ll have different asks for MPs who are interested in, for example, health and social care issues.
3) Planning which fringe meetings to go to. These are not actually a chance to discuss the most stylish haircut length over the forehead but, in essence, seminars on a range of topics, normally set up by a charity or organisation to promote their cause (or themselves). Normally, a senior MP will come along to speak so it’s always interesting to see what he/she has to say. And normally there is also a questions and answer session at the end, giving charities like NDCS an opportunity to flag up an issue.
4) Working out which stalls to visit. This is the bit where the conferences feel more like a student fair. Lots of charities and organisations will have a little area in the exhibition centre to promote their cause/themselves. It’s a good opportunity to network and make new friends. Many give away freebies, which I may have got a bit carried away with last year…
And that’s our prep to stalk MPs 2009 in a nutshell. The Liberal Democrats are first up and we’ll be heading to Bournemouth to see them next Monday. You can follow the latest here at this blog, and also via Twitter.