Jan 18, 2024
Dear MP Watchers,
Since we are nearing the end of 2023, we just wanted to wish you a glorious Christmas and a splendid New Year before we clock off (ish) for a few days. Talking of which, Santa has brought us a fantastic website as an early present, and it’s just gone live. We believe the talented web developers have taken us to a new level. See if you agree by checking it out here: www.mpwatch.org. We have many intriguing new groups, such as Liz Truss Watch, Fareham MPWatch for Suella Braverman and Clive Lewis Watch. We are now watching MPs from the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.
It's been such a stupendous year for MP Watch that we feel warm looking back. We achieved our first tranche of funding, growing the number of groups from six to almost 60 (including the freshly trained groups), and we simply couldn't have done any of it without your help and commitment. So thank you! As you know, constituency groups are the beating heart of our campaign, and we are so grateful for your support and commitment to making this year happen. With our new website, people can now easily find their constituency group, and we hope this will result in many new people joining your groups. We’re excited that we can, if you will, be a ‘dating site' for concerned constituents to meet and work together. (Of course, if you want to take dating more literally, that’s up to you. But do let us know if there are ever any MP Watch babies!)
As a start-up organisation, even with the new funding, we’ve been watching the pennies. Hence, we’re also super grateful to those of you who haven’t had time or bandwidth to start a group but have generously donated to both the central group and individual campaigns. Before we go, let us share a few snaps of our folks sending Christmas cards to their MPs:
One of the MPs, Clive Lewis, responded to our Tweet of his constituent Lesley with this: "‘Thank you, Lesley. It will have pride of place on my shelf." Perhaps that means we now have real constructive engagement. We bet that, by the end of 2024, there will be even more. Oh and… if any of you did feel in a generous Christmas mood, here is our latest Crowdfunder with a great new short film by Guy Ducker that we’re very proud of. With love from the MP Watch Team
Jessica, Tom, Marijn, Ed, Daisy, Sasha, Julie and Lesley
Next year is almost certainly going to be an election year. That could come in May or it could be in the autumn. To mark this, we are stepping up what we’re doing. This includes:
Developing election strategies and training for constituency groups to be effective AND keep them on the right side of electoral law.
The 'What Makes Your MP Tick?' strand of our work in which we will be talking to MPs, the staff in their offices, and other insiders to map what might be most helpful in developing constructive collaborations with MPs. We have some good names booked up already. Make sure to sign up to the first session, which will be on Tuesday, 23 January 2024, at 18:30.
'Who’s In Your Constituency and What Do They Think?' is also a new strand that will use focus groups to get the communities within your constituency to respond to your campaign messages, say what they think about the lack of honesty in public life and how they think their MP is doing on the big issues including climate.
So buckle up. 2024 is going to be a game-changer of a year. With a fair wind, our local groups can make a difference in the election and be part of a broader movement to enable citizens to take democracy back into our own hands so it serves us instead of vested interests!
A message from Ed, who delivers our MP Watch training:
Hello newsletter readers! It has been a pleasure to train some lovely constituents across the UK on how to set up local MP Watch groups. The training is evolving and with the help of constructive feedback from participants and expert input from Tom Hardy, it has come on leaps and bounds.
It has been condensed, with four one-hour rolling weekly sessions via video call. We will equip you with the essential knowledge required to become an active citizen. After completing the training, you will be able to effectively shine a light on your MP’s actions alongside your fellow constituents.
MP Watch is uniquely placed as a non-party affiliated training designed to empower ordinary people to monitor their MP’s effectively. MP Watch looks to promote its core values across the political spectrum: honesty and appropriate climate policy.
Watching ‘The Great Climate Fight’ on Channel 4 reinforced that we are applying pressure in the right area – it is our politicians are chiefly responsible for our underwhelming efforts to enact excellent environmental policy. As a grassroots movement, we are growing stronger as more active citizens get involved. Hopefully, I will see some of you reading this in the next training sessions! If you are keen, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get booked on!
MPs will be marking their first day back after Christmas – Monday January 8 – by debating the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill. This is Commons Second Reading, the main debate on the principles of the Bill. The Bill is the one of most interest to MP Watch in the current parliamentary year, and we are calling on MPs to vote against.
The Bill gives governments the duty, every year, to announce new rounds of licensing for offshore oil and gas around the UK’s waters. This is made subject to two tests which have to be satisfied before these new rounds can go ahead. The tests are, predictably, very easy to meet, but this part of the Bill opens up the opportunity for amendments at Committee Stage, which comes after Second Reading, to add harder tests. Read: Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill Explanatory Notes As the general election gets closer – Autumn still the favourite around Westminster, with May second – parties will be making sure they have candidates in place around the whole country. So we can expect a flurry of selections and candidate announcements. Crucially of course we are interested in where candidates in winnable constituencies stand on climate issues.
US politics inevitably has a big impact in the UK, and 2024 is presidential election year. The Iowa Republican caucuses on January 15 is a key event kicking off the new year, with politicians and businesses around the world increasingly factoring in the possibility of the return of President Trump. ‘The Economist’ magazine reckons there is a one in three chance of this happening, and that this time his supporters are better organised for pushing through and implementing his policies from January 2025.
January 22nd will be the 100th anniversary of the first Labour Government, which initially had Liberal support, so we can expect some nostalgia and quite a bit of analysis, especially about Lib-Lab relations, an issue 100 years ago that will be back any time the LibDems look within striking distance of holding the balance of power. With the SNP losing ground in Scotland, the LibDems at least look on course to return to their traditional place as the Third Party in Parliament, which brings with it various perks (like your leader gets to ask two questions in PMQs and not just one).
In 2022, in its Food Strategy, the Government promised 2023 would see the publication of a Land Use Framework. As the seconds tick away to Christmas, there’s still no sign of what could turn out to be an important document. It’s one that is very difficult to write, given the many competing uses for land, most obviously for housing, industry, countryside, and transport – and the fact that despite increasing demand for land, there isn’t any more of it. This coincides with much ambivalence within the Government about how tough to be with ‘nimby’ Tory local councils refusing planning permission for new housing developments.