By Laura Addison, Disabilities & Mental Health Officer of Warwick Labour Society.
Just over a year ago, I definitely wouldn’t have seen myself door knocking, phone canvassing or even talking to the public at all about politics. I’d been involved in Labour for a while, but the thought of actually going out on the doorstep was really intimidating, and definitely not something I wanted to do. Eventually, once I got to know people in the society a bit better (and I’d run out of other ways to procrastinate my essays), I went out and campaigned for the council elections last year. I was partnered up with an experienced campaigner in the society, and assured that I didn’t have to do much, if I didn’t want to.
Because it was polling day, we only knocked on the doors of Labour voters, to ensure that they were going to actually go out and vote for us, so everyone was really friendly. We met some cute cats, and then went to spoons for tea. It wasn’t at all what I’d expected, and it definitely gave me a lot more confidence. In that first session I don’t think I said anything at all, and in my second I barely did, but by the third I felt confident enough to door knock by myself, which is something I’d never believed I’d do. But it turns out, canvassing is not what I thought it would be.
My first thought was that I’d constantly be getting into debates on people’s doorsteps, which I wouldn’t feel knowledgeable enough for, but this isn’t the case at all. A lot of canvassing doesn’t directly involve knocking on people’s doors at all; a lot of the time we just post leaflets through people’s letterboxes, rather than actually knocking on the door. Even when you are door knocking, we usually just go to the houses of people who are undecided, or are already Labour members. This means that most of the time the people you door knock are really friendly, and all you have to do is remind them to get out and vote. Even if somebody does disagree, it is very unlikely they’ll try to start a debate on the doorstep, instead they’ll normally just say they’re not voting labour, and that’s that. I have never had a debate or an argument on a doorstep at any campaigning session, it just doesn’t happen like you’d expect. And even if somebody on the doorstep did want to start a debate, there is always somebody close by who you can call over. But honestly, it just won’t happen.
But if the thought of speaking to people at all puts you off (as it did for me), there are lots of other options. Firstly, when you campaign you always have the option to be buddied up with somebody, and this means there is absolutely no pressure to speak at all. You can just follow them round, and listen, and throw in a thank you at the end. Nobody will ever make you do anything you aren’t comfortable with.
If you aren’t comfortable with knocking on doors at all, there are other options too. If we’re out door knocking, you can run the board. This means you have all the addresses of the houses we need to door knock, and you just tell the people in your group which house to go to, and then mark on your paper how the person said they’re voting. This is probably my favourite part of campaigning because you get to carry a clipboard and tell people what to do, which is always fun. If you come campaigning, and would rather run the board, that’s absolutely fine- just have a word with whoever is running the session.
If you can’t come out on the doorstep to canvass, you can still canvass from campus when we phone bank. This pretty much involves being given a list of phone numbers, and ringing them up to see how they intend to vote. Usually the sheets tell you who they’ve voted for in the past, so if you want to avoid calling any Ukippers (like me), then that’s not a problem- you can just pass those numbers onto somebody who is happy to call them.
If you’re worried about travelling to wherever we’re campaigning, then that’s something we can make easier too. There is always a member of the exec to meet people on campus to campaign, but if you’re still unsure about this, you can also message anyone on the exec, and they’ll make sure you’re buddied up with somebody from campus who can stay with you.
Canvassing is honestly not as bad as you’d think. It’s actually quite fun once you get into it. It gives you a real rush to be out there trying to make a difference, and you meet so many lovely people on the doorstep it makes up for anybody who might be rude (which is so rare). Whether you’ve never come to a Warwick Labour event, or you’re a long standing member, you will be so welcome to come along. It’s a great way to get to know people, and you’ll never be left on your own or thrown in at the deep end. Our society is really focused on liberation, so if you ever have any access issues, we will do everything to accommodate them.
So, in a year, I’ve gone from never thinking I’d dare to campaign, to actually enjoying campaigning. And (as cheesy as it sounds), if I can, then you can. I really recommend giving it a go, and I promise it isn’t as scary as you’d think. You might even enjoy it.
Campaigning will be held every week at 6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 2pm on Saturdays. More details will follow in the Warwick Labour Discussion Group and, in the meantime, you can join in on our Saturday 29th campaign here.