Stopping pavement crackers this Christmas

Martin HorwoodApparently, and perhaps rather unsurprisingly, it isn’t possible to send Christmas crackers through Parliament’s internal post. “Umm, let me just check with one of my colleagues, but I’m fairly sure it’s a “no””, was the gist of the response I received when calling the post room in Parliament. I’d be lying if I didn’t say at this point I had some doubt about whether I should have suggested using Christmas crackers as our medium for thanking MPs for their work this year, and raising awareness of our pavement parking campaign.

At the moment, cars parked on pavements are the most common obstacle for people who are blind or visually impaired, sometimes forcing them onto the road where they can’t see oncoming traffic. FLN January, a bill on pavement parking, is due to be debated. We wanted to raise awareness of the debate in a way that would stick in MPs minds– and as its Christmas, crackers seemed just the way to do it. Over 700 Guide Dogs campaigners helped us by sending supportive messages on the pavement parking bill to go into their MPs’ cracker.

Fast forward a few weeks and Guide Dog’s Campaigns Team found ourselves turning a meeting room in Parliament into a grotto to hand out customised Christmas crackers including the campaigner messages. To help us give away this surfeit of crackers we enlisted the help of three of our volunteer puppy walkers along with puppies Bobbi, James and Pearl.

We were delighted that over fifty MPs we’ve worked with in the past year were able to come along and collect their cracker. Many of the MPs entered into the Christmas spirit and donned some of the team’s Father Christmas hats to be photographed with the pups and lend support to the campaign.

Having worked with politicians before it’s very noticeable how enthusiastic and supportive MPs are of Guide Dogs. It’s a privilege to be able to get MPs from across the political spectrum to support our work in enabling people with sight loss to get around independently.

A real strength of Guide Dog’s campaigning style is the ability to present serious subjects in an engaging way, and although everyone had an enjoyable time (it is difficult not to when you’re playing with Bobbi, James and Pearl, pups which are nine, six and four months respectively), the enjoyment was alongside some useful discussions with our guests. Events such as these really help build our relationships with MPs, and ultimately get the changes that we’re calling for.

To learn more about the problems with pavement parking and what you can do to help tackle the problem, please see our website for more details.

Pictured: Martin Horwood MP (left), who is sponsoring a pavement parking law being supported by Guide Dogs. Martin is pictured with Campaigns Manager James White (right) and four month old puppy Pearl.

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