By Rina Bao, Divest Parliament Campaigner, originally from Inner Mongolia in China, currently residing in Finland.
I was very nervous at the thought of meeting with the Conservative MP Ben Howlett during his public surgery day. I was not sure how to convince him to sign our Divest Parliament pledge. So I persuaded an experienced Fossil Free campaigner, David, to join and support me, and he agreed to do all the talking with Mr Howlett. I would be a supporter and explain about our campaign only when necessary.
I made an appointment for us with the MP’s assistant and still had half an hour to wait for David, my “talking hero”. Meeting an MP! For the first time in my life. Not something we would ever do in China, totally different political systems.
When my appointment was approaching, there was no sign of David. I called and texted, no answer! I felt panic and wanted to cancel the appointment or simply not to show up. I felt unprepared for the plan B without David’s presence, and wasn’t entirely sure about the tactics for talking to a Tory MP. How on the earth would I do that?
With five minutes to go, I went outside for some fresh air, to calm myself down. I almost left. Then I thought I cannot be so shy, at least I should find out what Mr Howlett thinks about climate change and a fossil free future. I am sure he will not bite me. So I went in to meet him.
I introduced myself and our divestment campaign. Then I asked Mr Howlett “What do you think of climate change?” He said something like: “it is not good and I agree that the consequences of climate change…” (and then proceeded to state some very important statistics) “…our government is doing everything we can to tackle climate change etc…” I nodded a lot and thought with a relief that he is not a climate denier at least. It is a good start!
I let him do some talking and then I asked, “Have you heard of our campaign pledge?” He answered yes. I took the chance and went for it: “Can you please sign the pledge to divest the Parliamentary Pension Fund of fossil fuels, and show leadership on climate action?”
“Yes I will sign the pledge.” he said, and just like that, he did.
I thanked him for his support and took photos for social media.
— Ben Howlett (@benhowlettuk) April 29, 2017
I called David and thanked him for not coming! He apologised that he had to attend to some personal matters urgently and did not manage to contact me. He saluted to my achievement! I was buzzing for days about this. I gained so much confidence and felt excited that I had been able to help our Divest Parliament campaign, and got a Conservative MP on board!
To find out more and get involved in the campaign to #DivestParliament, go to divestparliament.org.