Knock knocking on voters’ doors

The election is everywhere and many UNISON members and activists, along with other Labour supporters, are out canvassing for Labour on the doorstep – here are some tips from experienced doorstepper David Arnold

For those who haven’t door knocked or phone canvassed before, the idea might well fill you with doubts about being able to answer and deal with the questions or arguments a voter on their own doorstep or on the end of a phone might put to you.

So how can we make make the experience as painless as possible? Some of the ideas below are obvious, but they are all sure-fire winners, based on experience.

And remember that the first time you turn up to help canvass, you will get some training and an opportunity to buddy up with a more experienced canvasser until you get the hang of things.

Information is key

The central goal is to find out how the people you are talking to are going to vote.  You need to know the names of all the voters in the house and ask to speak to them all.

This is not as hard as it sounds – after you’ve spoken to Terry, you can ask if June is around.

Make sure you record their voting intention and any useful comments they have: for instance, if they’re thinking of voting Labour, but would like some more information about the party’s position on a second referendum.

Be safe out there

You will never be expected to canvas on your own: typical canvass groups will include three to six volunteers.

One – the person said to be ‘running the board’ – will be carrying all the data, the route map, spare posters and leaflets etc.

They’ll decide who goes where, one property at a time. Collect the data and then feed it back to the board runner. The whole group should stay fairly close together.

Although some calls take longer than others, make sure no one is left behind.

Always have your phone with you. Swap numbers with the board runner. In some areas, volunteers will stay in pairs.

If you encounter any abusive or threatening behaviour, leave immediately and report it to the board runner.

Paint the town red

Always use campaign materials to create a sense of Labour’s presence.

Ask people who tell you they are definitely going to vote Labour to put a poster up. This is especially important if they live on a street or in a location where lots of people will see the poster.

Of course it’s inevitable that many people you call on will be out. In these cases, don’t forget to put something through the door, so that people know Labour has called on them and is keen to speak to them.

Many candidates will have something called an ‘out card ’for this purpose. This includes a ‘sorry we missed you’ message and a few of the candidate’s/party’s key messages.

Wrap up and keep warm and dry

This is the first winter general election since 1974, which presents all kinds of challenges: trying to write with a pen on soggy paper; trying to knock on a door with a faulty bell when your hands are frozen; looking someone in the eye when your glasses have steamed up.

Well, you get the picture.

The rule of thumb should be to stick at it for as long as you can.

Some local campaigns and candidates have also set up phone banks. And the party itself has created an app for volunteers to be able to call from the warmth of their own home. Do look into this if you’d rather!                 

Be polite

Remember, you are not going to convert someone who has made their mind up.

If we get the information of how they’re planning to vote, we have secured our objective and won’t have to waste our time calling on them again in this election campaign.