The LDV weekend meme: worst canvassing experiences

by Stephen Tall on May 30, 2009

Twas the week before polling day, when all through the land
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse

Well, we can scarcely complain that this election campaign has been dull. Far from. Trouble is, the single issue which has dominated the campaign for the forthcoming local and European elections has very little to do with either. There’s no doubting that the row over MPs’ expenses is a live issue on the doorstep.

On the basis of my doorstep canvassing experiences this year (more limited than in previous years), I’ve found it hard to discern how far it’s made a real difference to voting intentions. Of those who’ve told me to their face they’re completely disillusioned with the lot of us I can’t help harbouring the suspicion that many of these are folk who probably haven’t voted in recent years anyway – the row has, however, given their frankly pathetic apathy some semblance of undeserved credibility in their own and in the media’s eyes.

All of which is a mere pre-ramble to enquiring of your own canvassing experiences, whether in these elections or earlier ones – not the good times (the Tory/Labour voter you remember from last year who’s now a definite Lib Dem thanks to your local efforts), but the bad ones. What are the worst canvassing experiences you’ve enjoyed endured on behalf of the party? Here are my top three…

The most angry:
was in my first election campaign as a council candidate, in 2000. My ward then took in one of the more prosperous parts of Oxford, and stretched through to one of the poorer areas of largely council housing – and it was in the former (not the latter) that I met the most angry constituent I’ve ever come across. The warning signs were there, quite literally: Beware of the Dog, No hawkers, canvassers etc. But I was the candidate, and felt duty bound to leave no door unknocked. There was no answer, so I posted a ‘We called to see you’ leaflet through the letterbox and moved on. Some 15 seconds later I heard the door open and a loud voice screaming at me to stop where I was, and come back and speak to him, I pointed out I couldn’t do both those things at once – and given he had two large, barking dogs with him, I was disinclined to approach too closely. I decided cowardice was the better part of valour and walked away. Fortunately he didn’t follow me – but did continue to shout at me for some time to come, as I continued down the lane. He went down as an ‘anti’ (though I’ve a strong suspicion he was a Tory, one of those who views any knock on the door as a gross invasion of privacy, one which they’d know how to deal with properly in Singapore).

The most bemusing: this one did take place in the poorer part of my ward, with the resident I was speaking to seemingly convinced – and seemingly not joking – that the Lib Dem candidate for the general election had a thing for ‘ladyboys’. Now I know our party has something of, erm, a reputation when it comes to more outre behaviour; but in this case I knew it to be untrue. But the more I protested of his happy marriage and couple of kids – not that it would matter whatever his personal circumstances, natch – the more convinced this voter became that this was just a cover for his secret ladyboy fixation. There are times you just have to admit defeat.

The most depressing: the 2001 election campaign was, without doubt, the most depressing of my active political life. That nice cuddly William Hague was at his most rantingly xeonophobic at a time when tensions with eastern European refugees (‘those bloody Kosovans’ as they were known by some of my residents) were increasing. Though it was a failed election strategy, there’s no doubt Hague touched a raw nerve: I had conversations with second generation immigrants who argue for forced repatriation of asylum seekers, and one guy who told me – sadly with no trace of irony – that it was time to ‘stop all this bloody immigration and keep England for the Anglo-Saxons’. It did at least allow me a moment of canvassing purity, as I told him that it was absolutely clear he should not be voting Lib Dem, and that I hoped he would not even consider doing so. He looked surprised and suspicious, as if I might be guilty of reverse psychology. But if there’s one thing worse than ignorant apathy it’s ignorant racism (and yes, the word ‘ignorant’ is superfluous on both occasions in that sentence).

Now, who to tag with this new LDV meme? I know, let’s try those folks who made it into the Golden Dozen #118 this week, namely: Ryan Cullen, Linda Jack, ‘Costigan Quist’, Charlotte Gore, Alex Wilcock, James Graham, Jo Swinson, Ali Goldsworthy and Freedom Central, Duncan Borrowman, and Andy Hinton. Oh, and all the other Lib Dem Aggregator bloggers as well.