Update: This post was written before the General Election. For our reaction to the result and to find out what it means for cancer, read this post.
Without political action, the life-saving research we fund wouldn’t have much of an impact.
Whether it’s a clinical trial testing a new drug, working out the best way to prevent more cancers or diagnose them earlier, political decisions help bring research to the people who need it.
Over the past nine months we’ve been hard at work, asking all election candidates to join the fight to Cross Cancer Out, ahead of the General Election tomorrow.
And with just one day to go, we’ve had conversations with more than 1,110 election candidates from all political parties; that’s a third of all those standing. Our aim? To make sure that cancer isn’t seen as a ‘done deal’, and remains high on the political agenda.
We’ve been focusing on two things that we think politicians should make a priority. And as you can read in these guest posts from four of our Ambassadors, these priorities – diagnosing people earlier, and making sure they’re offered the best possible treatments, whether radiotherapy, surgery or cancer drugs when appropriate – are really important to those affected by cancer too.
By tackling all these issues together, politicians can make sure cancer patients have the best chance of survival – and that’s the message we wanted to share with all election candidates.
So how have we done it?
A big day out
It all started back in July. We launched the campaign with the biggest day of political action Cancer Research UK has ever seen! More than 100 of our dedicated Cancer Campaign Ambassadors came to Westminster, where we met more than 210 MPs across the whole day.
Since then, nearly 11,000 of our supporters have shared their personal stories with their election candidates, showing how cancer affects every family across the UK and explaining why beating cancer should be a priority for them if they get elected into the next Parliament.
We’ve also been taking our campaigning into the community. Armed with local statistics and our key campaign messages, our Ambassadors have been having face-to-face meetings with candidates, attending important local meetings where members of the public can ask candidates questions about issues of concern in their local area – and, importantly, hear their responses.
This has ensured our General Election campaign has stayed at the front of potential MPs’ minds.
The shop visit series
Numerous election candidates have visited their local Cancer Research UK shop. They have been meeting some of our fantastic shop volunteers, and finding out about our campaign and what they can do in their local area to help those affected by cancer if they’re elected.
These visits were targeted at the real battleground areas for election campaigning, where it’s unclear who will win the seat. This meant we could speak with all the different parties. In total, we saw 26 candidates visiting 11 shops across the country.
Our science up close
To help people understand the work we do, it’s best to show them. And tours of our research centres have been a key part of our work, connecting MPs, who may not know about our research, with our scientists in the lab near them.
With the opening of the Francis Crick Institute next year, this is something we hope to do a lot more of over the next five years – a great opportunity for MPs to don a lab coat and hear first-hand from researchers about their life-saving work.
Creating a buzz
Drumming up wider public support has been crucial for getting our message across. Back in February we organised three public stunts in London, Birmingham and Manchester. More than 5,500 new supporters helped us cover our ‘CANCER’ structure with crosses, illustrating how the combined force of the voting public will help Cross Cancer Out.
Watch the video below to see the impressive amount of support we received.
With articles like this one about “who is #winning at Twitter”, it’s clear that this election has gone digital. And with live blogs and regular updates to polling figures the media plays a vital role in reaching people, including policy makers.
We’ve asked supporters to post a ‘pen pledge’ and election candidates have also been getting involved by tweeting their support for the campaign.
And we were delighted that our oversized ‘prescription’ for the new Government really caught the media’s attention.
And the winner is…
This is the first election in modern times where it’s expected that no party will win an overall majority.
All the parties have published their manifestos, outlining what they would do if in Government, and we’ve taken a close look at them to see what they mean for cancer and research. All that’s left to do now is wait for the polling results, and then get to work ensuring that the next batch of MPs play their part in helping to Cross Cancer Out.
Lara Stanley is a senior campaigns officer at Cancer Research UK
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