I’m occasionally asked for advice about how to do this, that or the other in campaigning. This week it was how to handover a petition at Downing Street.
In hope it’s helpful to others. Here are my top tips;
- The security for Downing Street is overseen by Charing Cross Police Station so you’ll need to give them a call about booking a slot. Make sure you give as much notice as you can. I’m not clear on how many slots there are per day, but there are some times when you shouldn’t expect a slot, when Cabinet is meeting for example.
- You’ll need to fill in a form which provides the details of everyone who’ll be going up to those famous doors. Your allowed to take 6 people and unless your photographer is a member of the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) they count as part of the 6.
- On the day you’ll need everyone coming to bring along appropriate ID. MPs and members of the media who are members of the NUJ don’t count as part of the total.
- You can’t take in props or fancy dress and you’ll probably be limited to a box of petitions (about the size that a ream of paper comes in). The best hand-ins that I’ve seen normally have someone holding a sign which explains the campaign and the number of actions plus a well branded box. Organisational T-Shirts are fine. If you Google Image Search ‘Downing Street Petition’ you’ll get a good idea what’s possible.
- When you arrive, go the security gate on the left of Downing Street, expect to go through airport style security (so perhaps have someone waiting outside with bags and other belongings) and then your given an appropriate amount of time to walk up the Street and to the Door.
- Don’t expect to be able to linger too long- you’ll get 30 minutes maximum. Most of the time the street is quiet but if your lucky you might find a few journalists and camera crews waiting in the pen across the street you seen them talking from on the news.
- As with any good campaign, plan what photos and footage you want to get before you go in. Think about how you want your photo to look like. If you want to get any short pieces to camera for filming expect to do that by the media pen you see on TV.
- The Prime Minister doesn’t come out to collect your petition, but you do get the opportunity to knock on the door and handover the box of petitions to the police officer.
- Remember the front door to No 10 is the door to an office, so staff will be coming in and out while you’re on the street. They could be important so make a good impression!
- I’d always make sure that at the top of your box is a letter which has your campaign asks in it and the number on people who’ve taken action. You probably want to get your public affairs colleagues to email a copy of that to your relevant Number 10 contact – don’t suppose they’ll hear about it because you were outside the building!
- If you’ve got loads of boxes of petitions then the rest need to be taken to a Post Office near Victoria Station – exact details are on the form you’ll fill in. I’ve no idea what happens with them after that, although sadly I don’t think they end up at Number 10.
- Your going to get loads of footage and images from your handover. They’re great for feeding back to supporters who took action and on social media.
These are my notes based on my experiences over the years. Things change so please do share any updates you have in the comments below and always check with the relevant authorities before you start planning.