The Guide for Canvassers – Lesson 1 – The Basics


The Elgin Marbles - it would surprise you the issues that voters will bring up on the doorstep!

Following the Agents Training that was published last week, I was reminded, by a few friends, of a number of canvassing incidents that might benefit from publication.

I have been campaigning for Liberal Democrats, and the SDP/Liberal Alliance before that, for almost 25 years now, and still one of the most memorable canvassing moments was from my first General Election campaign in 1987.

Previous to this I had campaigned on a by-election in Knowsley North, for the now Labour MP, Rosie Cooper, caused by the resignation of Robert Kilroy-Silk to become a TV personality.

This gave me a sound grounding in campaigning, meeting such great Liberal campaigners as David Penhaligon and Paddy Ashdown whom were both churning out leaflets at the HQ when my mum and I arrived to help campaign.

So, having had all this training in Huyton and Knowsley to prepare me, I was ready for the streets of Warrington in the 1987 election, campaigning for Ian Marks. I went to my first door, with canvass leaflets and posters under my arm, to be met by an apparently normal woman who eyed me with general suspicion.

I said I was there on behalf of Ian Marks, the Liberal/SDP Alliance candidate, and wondered if she was likely to support Ian in the election.

She gave it a moment of consideration and said; ‘Well, you’ve definitely got my vote, because you want to send all the blacks back, that Enoch Powell had it right.  But, my husband is another matter!’

As you can probably imagine, this being my first door, and having a relatively good grasp of party policy, I was not under the impression that this was indeed our policy, but before I could reply she called for her husband, who came bundling to the door. I feel certain that I raised an eyebrow.

‘What’s your policy on the Elgin Marbles?’ came the question.

For a moment I was lost for words, neither knowing what they were, or whether the party even had a policy, but, after a moment’s consideration, I responded: ‘what do you think?’

After 5 minutes he had explained what we should do, which was to keep them, and then having taken a poster to display I tripped happily back down the path.

When asked by the candidate who they voted for, to mark the canvass card I replied, ‘two votes for you and they took a poster!’

I didn’t think it was sensible to tell him how broad the church was that allowed them to support him.

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