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Making Your Letter Effective

Aug 03,2006 Leon Roskilly

It might often seem that there is little that individual anglers can do, in the face of a distant and faceless bureaucracy, other than to sit back and watch as the seas become more polluted and fish are hunted to the verge of extinction. But in these days of consensus government, where guidelines are given to officials to identify and to consult with ‘stakeholders’, a well-placed letter can set wheels in motion. A co-ordinated letter writing campaign can achieve near miracles.

If you prefer to fish on biteless, spending fruitless hours moaning to your fishing companion about the state of the seas, the lack of fish, the way things used to be, well that’s up to you. But things needn’t be that way. Just 20 minutes, spent writing out a letter can help to make the difference.

If you’ve never written to your MP or a government official in your life, well for some people, that can be a daunting prospect.

Especially if you have difficulty in putting words together, perhaps your spelling isn’t too hot.

Don’t worry. Even the worst composed letter, written in the scrawliest handwriting, full of basic spelling mistakes, gets read, and noted.

In fact more notice may get taken of such a letter than an obviously professionally produced letter, spell-checked, proof read and worded by a committee of wordsmiths.

But, if you really want your letter to get results, there are some basic rules to follow.

Assuming that you are writing to your MP: -

Keep the letter short and to the point.

Once you start writing, you may find that you cannot stop. All those years of moaning suddenly finding voice in rambling prose. Resist the temptation to go on and on. The MP is a busy person; he/she has a sackful of correspondence to get through and not a lot of time. A letter that takes a moment to read and makes a point strongly is more likely to make the impact you want.

Explain the problem and tell him/her what you want him/her to do about it.

A letter that reads ‘I want you to do something about over-fishing’ will be read and noted, then perhaps forgotten.

Give the MP something to work with. But don’t swamp him/her with information either.

Remember he/she is a busy person with a lot on their plate. He/she probably knows nothing of the sea, or of angling.

Do you want quotas reduced? Tell him/her why; ask them to express your concerns to the minister responsible.

Keep it local

An MP’s job is to look after their constituency, with one eye on the local press and voters.

If the problem has local effects, make a point of emphasising these.

If not, include something along the lines of :-

I, together with many other local anglers, make regular weekly trips to the coast…..

The livelihood of the many local tackle shop owners depends on…..

Who will local people blame when the chip shop on the corner of Cross street starts charging £10 for a portion of cod?’

Offer support

‘If you need further information, I shall be only too happy to provide this…..’

Most MPs are interested in advancing their careers. By raising matters on the floor of the house, by moving private members bills, they get noticed. If you have convinced your MP that you have an important matter that must be tackled, they are more likely to run with it, if you can back them up with all the facts figures and support which they are going to need. This is where the Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network can really help you to start to make a difference.

If you’ve got a bite, but aren’t sure what to do next, contact us. We know a man who can help J .

(There's useful information on contact with your MP at: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/m01.pdf )

Writing to an official.

Generally officials will already know a lot about the subject you are writing about. You can feel far more comfortable supplying quantities of data and information and discussing the technical issues arising from these. (Perhaps gathered from elsewhere on this site ��" that’s what it’s here for).

As a consequence of their jobs, they are likely to be conditioned to think in certain absolutes and along certain tracks.

Emotional arguments will hold little sway. Jolts to their current way of thinking can make the sit up and take an interest;

‘Do you realise that a consequence of this will be …………?’

Again, they are likely to be career minded, perhaps happy to take on issues that may lead them into new territory, and give them an opportunity to shine. But always with a certain caution.

Remember, they will always have one eye on the overall political situation. Copy your letter to your MP, or the minister concerned, and show on the original who the copies are going to.

Get your mates involved

One letter from you may find itself lost amongst the sackful which your MP receives each day. A letter from you every week, with little in the way of new content, will soon prove tiresome.

A steady small stream of letters, individually written by different people, on the same subject, starts to get noted.

If you belong to a club, try to get the members involved. A letter from one member each month, arriving in a steady trickle over the year, is likely to convince your MP that there is an issue here worth pursuing (It might cost you a few drinks, mind!).

Join in co-ordinated letter writing campaigns

From time to time, Sea Angling organisations will approach the Sea Anglers’ Conservation Network with appeals to help with a letter writing campaign. They will supply all the necessary facts and figures, who you should write to, who you should copy in. They will also supply further suggestions and suggested drafts of letters to write. If you care about your fishing, if you care about the preservation of the Marine Environment, please join in and support them.

Similarly, if you represent a recreational sea angling organisation which needs support for a letter writing campaign, let us have the details and we will publish them here.

Need Help?

If you have an sea angling conservation issue on which you want to write a letter, but don’t feel confident in drafting it yourself, or want some advice on who to send it to, what information to include etc, send us the details and we will try to help out.

Remember, moaning to your mate doesn’t change anything. Never forget, you, and lots of people like you, can make a difference. That’s what the SACN is all about.

Leon Roskilly


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