This is about civil engagement in democracy. This is about all of us, not one person. MPs should see what life can be like for some of their constituents.


First published in July 2020.


I wrote an article in PMP yesterday. I thought I’d explain a bit more about what I envisage and how it might be.

If you’ve written to an MP one of these things might be familiar:

  • Silence;
  • An irrelevant reply in which they answer the question they wanted you to ask but didn’t;
  • A reply which is almost a cut and paste from their manifesto.
  • A detailed and relevant reply explaining that they understand but can’t do anything.
  • A relevant reply promising to take it further then it all goes very quiet.
  • Rarely a “Yes, good point. I’ll do that.” And they do.

In “normal” times, this is part of the democratic process and we deal with it. These are not normal times and this will not do.

If you have met your MP to discuss an issue, things are slightly different but, eventually, some version of the above will follow. In “normal” times this is part of the democratic process and we deal with it. These are not normal times and this will not do.

The government we have now is engaged in the wholesale destruction of almost every aspect of our lives. If they were competent and honest this would be bad enough but they’re not.

The Prime Minister is a reckless narcissist who never knowingly tells the truth, supported by a rabble of right-wing ideologues utterly incapable of understanding or dealing with the complexities of any situation they get their hands on.

The Prime Minister is a reckless narcissist who never knowingly tells the truth. / Flickr – Number 10

They refuse to take part in any kind of accountability, and with ever more power concentrated in Number 10 our democracy is hurtling towards authoritarianism where we become utterly irrelevant servants of unhinged free market capitalism which is wrecking the planet.

Which is where the idea of politely queueing to ask questions comes in.

If you’ve read my article in PMP mentioned above, you will have seen the basic idea. Here is what I see: As many campaigns as possible need to share this idea with their supporters and get in touch with others to sort out contacts in every constituency.

Find out when your MP will be in their office. Be polite to whoever you deal with – they are not destroying our democracy.

Network locally and agree a date. Think what questions you want to ask. What matters to you that the government as a whole, or just your MP, needs to do something about.

Protect yourself and others – wear a mask and remember to maintain a safe social distance. Go and join the queue. Whatever happens, remember, it is your democratic right to ask questions to your elected representative. If they want to set an appointment, up to you – I might say, “That’s ok, I’ll wait.” While you wait, chat to others around you. This is a great chance to learn about other campaigns in your area. Support each other. Learn from more experienced activists.

If you get to see your MP that’s great. Ask your questions. The realisation that you may come out and immediately tell a group of other people what you discussed means you might get a much better answer than you’d get on your own.

Overall, the idea is to make a peaceful, legitimate demonstration to your MP that their voters are not happy. The specific campaigns can keep their specific interests but we show the size and polite determination of the opposition to the current direction of the government.

The idea is to make a peaceful, legitimate demonstration to your MP that their voters are not happy. / Flickr – UK Parliament

I think it’s important that this has a local, grassroots drive.

The action, if it’s successful may happen everywhere but not necessarily (very unlikely) on the same day or days. This is about all of us, not one person.

We may be asked to move on. We can be polite but clear – we are constituents wishing to see our MP and we are politely and safely queuing to do that. The image is important, numbers matter. We are not there to aggravate anyone and if trouble makers turn up, call it off immediately and leave. This is about civil engagement in democracy.

If people see a queue they may ask what’s going on. Fantastic. Tell them, get them engaged in whatever matters to you. If you get heckled or hassled, please be calm and polite. If it’s too much, leave.

Your MP should see what life can be like for some of their constituents.

Please, if this is something you want to support, share widely. Be bold. Ask someone famous if they would share it and join in.

Make it big.🔷


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[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 23 July 2020. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Flickr/Number 10. - Boris Johnson. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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