Welcome to the STV Letter Writing Circle
Good letters can help a campaign. Bad ones may harm it, but anyone can write good ones and we’ll help you.
This Circle’s mission is to encourage supporters to write letters to the local, regional and national press, other news media, politicians and other opinion formers.
General points for all letters
- Keep the letter simple and brief. Try to focus on one aspect of the debate about STV. A few lines will do. Always try to keep it to less than one side of paper and never more than two sides.
- Be topical whenever possible; try to link your letter to a current news story.
- Try to avoid jargon. Present your case as simple common sense.
- Always be polite.
- Always take the view that the reader or listener is open to reason and sensible debate.
- Be positive. Don’t condemn or attack those who hold opposing views.
- Avoid using a lot of emphasis.
- If you would like advice or help, please contact us.
- Use a spell checker.
Writing to news media
- Remember most Britons believe in democracy, although many don’t realise that first past the post elections are undemocratic.
- If you are writing close to a publication deadline (and you always are for a daily publication), consider using e-mail but, if you do, always include your full postal address.
- Tailor your letter to your audience. Don’t use Times language for Sun readers or vice versa.
- You can improve your chances of publication by including a local or regional aspect in a letter to a local or regional publication. For example, your local Council may be controlled by a party that won fewer than half the votes or even fewer votes than one of the opposition parties.
- Don’t be deterred if your letter is not published. It may nevertheless have influenced the editor. An editor is more likely to publish at least one letter on a subject if he receives 100 of them than if he receives only one, so the other 99 writers will have helped the campaign.
- Keep a copy and, if your letter is published, check it. You must allow editors to edit but, if you keep your letter short and to the point, they probably won’t. Don’t quibble about minor deletions to shorten letters, but don’t hesitate to tell them (politely of course) if they make changes that seriously affect your argument.
- Look out for replies and welcome them even if they disagree with you. You have done well if you have stimulated debate and replies may create an opportunity for you to write a counter-response.
Writing to MPs and other opinion formers
- Generally, write only to your own MP, but you may write to an appropriate Minister or Shadow Minister or an MP who has recently spoken or written on your subject.
- The rules are similar for MEPs, MSPs, AMs, MLAs, LAMs and LAMs except that, because they are elected by proportional systems, you may write to all the members for your region as well as, in the case of MSPs, AMs and LAMs, your constituency member.
- If your MP is a government minister and unable to raise the issue in the Commons or unwilling to go against party policy, you may wish to write to a Peer.
- You may write to any Peer, but remember they do not have constituency responsibilities and do not need public support for re-election so they may not reply. There will be more chance of a reply if you write to a Peer who has already shown support for, or opposition to, electoral reform or has shown an interest in the subject on which you are basing your letter.
- Your object is to persuade someone to support your views so persuade; don’t hector. Try to establish a link and some empathy with the addressee. For example, if you are a member or supporter of his or her party, mention it. Even if you are usually a political opponent, you may share your representative’s views on a particular issue or may have been impressed by a recent speech. Alternatively, perhaps you share a non-political hobby or interest. (Look in Who’s Who.) However, do keep such references brief.
- Assume the addressee’s integrity – even if you strongly suspect he or she opposes STV to protect his or her own position!
Writing to Government Ministers
- Try to keep the letter relevant to the Minister’s Department.
- Please consult: Questions for Ministers [defunct questionnaire]
What to write about
- Make it topical.
- Give it a local aspect if you are writing to a local newspaper.
- Don’t disdain the obvious; for example that the Government or Council was elected by a minority of voters. Although it is obvious to you and us, most people will not have realised until you tell them.
- Look out for less obvious subjects. For example, are local parties split internally on a controversial local issue? Did most voters vote against the ruling party that is now claiming a mandate for a controversial measure?
- You may pick up some ideas from our website, either general ones from our Frequently Asked Questions or topical ones from recent Blog or Forum posts.
- The postal address for all MPs is House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
- You can identify your MP at http://www.parliament.uk/commons/index.cfm and send e-mails direct from that site to your MP or any other MP. However, the site asks for your full address and post code and tells the MP whether you are a constituent, which probably reduces the likelihood that you will receive a reply or that the MP will even read your message if you are not a constituent.
- The Write to Them website allows you to identify – and send e-mails direct from the website – to your own MP, MSPs, MEPs, AMs, MLAs, LAMs, Councillors and to send messages to Peers. It can also identify Peers who have shown interest in particular subjects.
- To write to any MP without revealing whether you are a constituent, you can usually obtain an e-mail address from http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/page/2007/dec/18/1 or take a chance by addressing your e-mail to [surname][1st
- The Ministry of Justice’s postal address is Selborne House, 54 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QW. You can identify the current Secretary of State and the Minister with responsibility for democracy and constitution from www.justice.gov.uk/about/ministers.
- You can identify and find postal and e-mail addresses for your MEPs at http://www.europarl.org.uk/uk_meps/MembersMain.htm.
- The postal address for all MSPs is The Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh EH99 1SP. You can find other contact details, including e-mail addresses, at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/msp/membersPages/index.htm.
- The postal address for all AMs is National Assembly for Wales,
Cardiff Bay Cardiff CF99 1NA. You can find other contact details, including e-mailing, at http://www.assemblywales.org/.
- There is a list of MLAs (Northern Ireland Assembly Members) on http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/members/membership07.htm where you can also find contact details for some of them.
- The postal address for all LAMs is GLA, City Hall, The Queen’s Walk
London SE1 2AA. You can find their e-mail addresses at http://www.london.gov.uk/assembly/lams_facts_cont.jsp.
- The postal address for all Peers is House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW.
- You can find advice on how to address Peers at http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/members/lords_contact/address.cfm.
- www.wrx.zen.co.uk/britnews.htm provides a guide to UK newspapers.