Whether they are sat on Commons select committees or stood outside your offices with a banner, MPs can seem like fierce and unpredictable beasts. Many seem to take unwholesome delight in raking their claws across health service plans, particularly at a local level, and even when they have secretary of state for health on their CV.
As both a mental health trust chair and an ex-MP, Anne Campbell knows more than most about what 'the other side' looks like and how it reacts. In our Good Management section this week, she gives valuable advice on how NHS managers can take a more proactive stance in dealing with local politicians. As she says, it is pointless to decry MPs for only caring about votes - and naive to think they are going to sacrifice local support in favour of 'official' government policy.
Far better to figure out how that focus can be aligned to what the local NHS might need. That is difficult and time consuming and needs research (you could try HSJ's sister political information service www.dehavilland.co.uk as a starter), but not the impossible task some managers seem to assume when they do not even try to engage with MPs.
As Ms Campbell argues, winning them over outright is less likely than arranging a compromise that allows them to reasonably claim they have won something for local people. Leaving room for that compromise from the beginning is recommended.