Sunday, March 08, 2009

A fascinating weekend canvassing
When you get involved in politics the first thing you discover is the value of doorstep canvassing.
Every week, on at least two days, we get a small group together and go knocking on doors talking to voters in Torbay.
At election time this activity is targeted at establishing the whereabouts of people committed to vote for you, so that on election day you can remind them to turn out; but in 'peacetime' canvassing is less about how people are going to vote and much more focussed on issues that worry them.
Most politicians have a bad habit of being elected and promptly losing touch with real people, they glean all their public opinion eitehr second-hand from activists, the press or the TV or they form opinions by talking to people at surgeries or reading mail (about as unrepresentative as it is possible to get, these people have already taken the huge step of contacting their political representative, something less than about 1% of votes actually ever do.)
Over the years I have canvassed most streets more than once, indeed where we were this weekend is an area I have done three times before. You do remember people, you remember individual houses -especially where residents have engaged with you before.
Time after time this weekend I have said to my activists as they headed off up the path of homes "They are "Against" there; if I recall" only to be told when the activist re-joined the group that I am wrong, that they are 'strong C' (These are codes for certainty to vote for us).
At the last election I was particularly interested in any UKIP supporters and I spent longer than I should have chatting with anyone who told me they were going purple in 2005. There were many homes we visited this weekend where I remember UKIP signs swinging in the wind and people gleefully telling me that I couldn't count on their support last time that are now firmly back in the Conservative fold.
I'd love to feel that it was my charismatic personality :) that had made the difference; but realistically I know it's nothing to do with me and everything to do with a certain Scot in Downing Street.

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