How does one address an MP?
August 2, 2008 5:55 PM   Subscribe

How does one address a Member of Parliament (MP) in the UK?

Background: by midweek I need to write a letter to an MP; this letter will serve to inform / brief the MP on specifics regarding the credit crunch / housing crisis as it has manifested itself to date, and may continue to unfold in London.

I've been verbally informed by the MP's staff that as the subject is of much interest to the addressee, this letter may lead to a brief meeting to take place in early September.

Obvious questions:
  1. How does one address a Member of Parliament (MP) in a letter?
  2. How does one verbally address an MP, both on telephone and in a face to face?
  3. Any other points of protocol regarding meeting with an MP?
When dealing with staff I've been getting by with Yes/No Mam/Sir (I'm an American country boy and was raised proper), but I'd clearly like to show appropriate respect if things move forward. I have corresponded with Senators in America on US financial issues in the past, but have absolutely no idea about UK practices.

I realise that impressions have strong impact on messages, and considering what's at stake as well as the opportunity a personal introduction / meeting with an MP affords, I urgently need to make the best possible impression.

Many thanks for your help!
posted by Mutant to Law & Government (6 answers total)
Best answer: Address the letter to Mr/Mrs Brown MP. If s/he is a member of the Privy Council, use "The Rt. Hon. Mr Brown".

Write "Dear Dr/Mr/Mrs/Ms Brown". If female, find out Mrs/Ms/Miss preferences.

In person, play it by ear, but Mr or Mrs Brown should be fine. I think Sir and Ma'am would be excessive and a bit embarrassing; they're not royalty. (That said, I remember you saying that you live in East London: if your MP is George Galloway, flattery and ego-massaging are probably the way forward).
posted by matthewr at 6:25 PM on August 2, 2008

Best answer: Unless your MP is also a privy counsellor (e.g a minister or ex-minister) or has some other honorific, you address them in writing simply as

Joe Bloggs MP


Dear Mr Bloggs

In an initial meeting you would address them verbally as "Mr Bloggs" until either they ask you to use their first name, or they address you by yours. "Sir" is fine too - it's a bit anachronistic in the UK but it sounds great with an American accent, and they will be charmed.

MPs refer to each other in debate as "the honourable gentleman" "the honourable member for XXX" and so on, but this only applies within Parliament itself.
posted by standbythree at 6:33 PM on August 2, 2008

Best answer: I don't have it to hand to give you the 'definitive' answer, but for future reference Debrett's is probably the complete guide to this sort of thing. A bit old, stuffy, and probably very unlikely to be used more than a couple of times per lifetime for the average person, but will undoubtedly tell you the answer (Correct Form would probably suit you, although the Guide to Etiquette would also cover this and various other situations (such as when you invite the Queen to supper...)).
posted by djgh at 9:18 PM on August 2, 2008

Best answer: Mutant, I deal with MPs all the time here in Canada in work-related social situations, and I'm guessing Canada is a little less formal than Britain. However, as a government staffers, we're encouraged to call cabinets ministers and MPs by their first names rather than by some sort of official title or whatever. As for protocol, well, others in this thread have addressed how to write to the MP. When you actually meet this person, I'm sure your past experience in business meetings, as well as your obvious intelligence, will carry the day. I wouldn't start flattering or massaging egos - it's too obvious and is a waste of time. However, if you want to break the ice and form a genuine connection, you might want to display some knowledge of their constituency, personal interests, etc.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:13 PM on August 2, 2008

Best answer: matthewr and standbythree have the right of it. MPs are bound by an awful lot of protocol and procedures when dealing with each other in the house, but are almost universally honest, down to earth and decent-minded people with the general public - all the ones I've spoken to, anyway.

They have a difficult job to do, trying to represent the many different needs of their constituents. Generally, constituents either need something and don't know where else to turn, or have a personal hobby horse to ride. Treat them politely but don't go overboard - they can get suspicious if it appears you're being trying to be too smarmy or ingratiating.

Also, bear in mind they're a generalist rather than a specialist. Active members of the House of Lords can concentrate on areas that matter to them to an extent, whereas MPs have to cover a lot of ground, often in areas they have little personal knowledge or experience of - thus leading to the often marked difference in quality of debate between the Lords and the Commons. For example, most MPs aren't entirely IT illiterate, but they're not far off it, which makes explaining the downsides of some dodgy bill tricky at times.

On the plus side, you may well end up really shaping your MPs approach if you hit the right note and give a solid opinion backed up by sound reasoning. Just be aware of the probable limits of their existing knowledge as a layman, and the limits of their influence.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:00 AM on August 3, 2008

Best answer: The above is correct generically, but don't forget that many MPs have earned and honorary distinctions personal to them which would alter or supplement how they are properly addressed in writing. Ask someone English (and polished) should your MPs bio page disclose any of these!
posted by MattD at 6:05 AM on August 3, 2008

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