There’s been a bit of a hullabaloo in the UK media this week about how lobbying companies may influence political discourse. Prompted by a question on Twitter, I was reminded of my limited, yet varied, experience of attempting to influence politicians directly.

I’d become aware that there was going to be an event to mark Rare Disease Day at the home of our political Assembly, Stormont. I emailed all of my local representatives and all of Herself’s. I wrote about her condition, that rare diseases don’t mean rare care needs, and how I hoped they’d all come along to chat, and to learn. Within the hour, one of the politicans had phoned me (I hadn’t provided my number) to talk about the event, his personal interest in the issue, and ways of targetting the politicians on the Health Committee. Wow. Someone was interested in the issues his constituents raised. Someone  was prepared to work for me. I was hugely impressed. He was new to the assembly then; he’s now a force to be reckoned with, still working for the real people. (I’m not deluded; I know he’s only a politician and so will disappoint me sometime.)

The following year there was a similar event. While I was primarily there to represent families and patients with PSP, I took some time to accompany a friend to speak to a senior politician about the needs of those with ME/CFS. L is very knowledgable and experienced in all aspects of ME/CFS care, or lack of it. I nodded and put in my tuppence worth to support her informed and reasoned arguements. The tall man looked down at us, metaphorically patted us on our heads, and asked us to send somebody “professional and articulate” to talk to him, as there was no point in talking to “amateurs”. He suggested a lobbyist we could use.

Guess which of these two has the most influence in health issues in Northern Ireland?

Colleagues spoke to him recently, and he wasn’t dismissive or rude in any way.  Rumour has it that he listened. He must be being groomed for higher office.

click for a virtual tour of Parliament Buildings


8 thoughts on “lobbying?

  1. I had to do some research, am not good with abbreviations, especially those of a medical nature. I thank you, as I truly did learn and became aware of progressive supranuclear palsy as result.
    Who has the most influence on health issues? -politician vs lobbyist. Probably neither or not to the extent one might believe. Politician come an go. Lobbyist are hired guns. There might be a third element which needs to be considered; the public servant sector who, one hopes, has all knowledge and means to put in affect the resources and support. In the end, it is the fourth element that offers the most hope to influence health issues. You have already mentioned them. It is yourself, your friend, the groups who form together, who passionately fight for change and help for others. Don’t sell yourself short.

    1. I recently joined a group to work with civil servants on designing ways to improve services for those with neurological problems- fighting on all fronts 🙂

      Apologies for an abbreviation overload Hudson- there’s a link to information on PSP on my blogroll. My mother, Herself, died from PSP in July. I’ve written quite a bit about her illness here. (Long term readers nod, and yawn)

      1. I knew you were clever! I guess that is what the passionate do -fight the fight on fronts.

        T’z okay, you compelled me to research it on my own -I have google and I know how to use it.

  2. My few attempts at lobbying politicians have been pretty unsuccessful. They either ignored me; or sent me a stock letter expressing their concern but after that, nothing; or said it was someone else’s responsibility; or made promises which they never kept. Politicians are good at fobbing people off. They only seem to get off their arses if it’s an issue that affects them personally as well as the constituent.

    1. It’s an interesting process, this knocking on doors and getting nowhere! Although I did make it to the Belfast Telegraph health page this week, so small steps 🙂

  3. Well done on the Telly’s Health page this week.

    I have been a guest at Stormont on two occasions for lunch, and once for the grand tour. It was nothing to do with politics. Did you know that during World War II, the building’s Portland stone was painted with supposedly removable “paint” made of bitumen and cow manure for to camouflage it. After the war, removing the paint proved a to be a problem, the paint having scarred the stonework. It took seven years to remove the “paint”, and the exterior façade has never regained its original white colour. While most traces of it were removed from the façades and damage can be seen up close, some of the remains of the paint survive in the inner courtyards and unseen parts of the place.

  4. At the last elections I, unusually, took the very pro-active step (for me at least) of emailing all my candidates for their policies on a number of issues of concern to me. Only two of the eight candidates responded. Neither of whom managed to garner enough votes to be elected. It seems that there is really no point at which a politician needs to answer to his/her electorate.

  5. Very interesting story. SOunds like someone is on a drumming up business drive for mates (though I do know a very nice lobbyist should you be so inclined).
    Feel free to name names (by email if you want.)

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