“I don’t mind delivering leaflets, but I wouldn’t want to do canvassing.”
My thoughts exactly, a few months ago. I joined the LibDems in the aftermath of the EU referendum, determined to do something to demonstrate my frustration at the direction the Tory Government was leading us. Delivering leaflets was a positive activity and in the excitement of the 2017 General Election, I felt I was doing my bit. But over time, it has become clear that the task to influence public opinion and make the Government take notice of the 48% is huge. The leaflets were great, but I couldn’t help wondering how many of them went straight in the recycling bin. What could I do that would make more impact with my time.
I began to wonder again about canvassing. Research shows that people are 20% more likely to vote if they have been visited by a canvasser: even just a smile and a friendly greeting is enough to make a difference. But I was worried about what it would be like. Would I be on the receiving end of angry householders determined to give me chapter and verse of their views, or would there be endless doors slammed in my face? Eventually, I summoned up some courage and went along to an action day to find out.
I was surprised to find how pleasant the experience was. When I arrived, I was paired up with an experienced canvasser and we went to each house together. We only called at houses where previous canvassing had shown that the owners were open to voting Lib Dem, which meant that we had a friendly reception at nearly every house - a surprising number of people were happy to stand on the doorstep and tell us their concerns about the local area and Brexit. It was fascinating to find out what people thought and how they saw the local scene and the national picture. When we found someone who was willing to join the mailing list, have a stakeboard in their garden or even become a volunteer, it was a cause for celebration! At the end of the morning, we all gathered at a pub for lunch and to share our stories. After that, I was keen to have a list of my own to do.
The practicalities are easy as well - the Lib Dems use a canvassing app which was developed for Barack Obama's campaign which means you can see details of who lives in the houses you visit, and record their responses with a swipe or a tap. And it was explained to me that I don't have to persuade people to vote for us - canvassing is about listening to people's concerns and finding out what they think, not trying to convince them of anything.
So if you want to make a difference, give the Government something to worry about and help the Lib Dems make their mark again, why not go along to your next local action day and have a go at knocking on doors? It’s the most effective way to gain the votes that will elect more Lib Dem councillors – the more volunteers we have, the more houses we can visit! And you may even find that you enjoy it!