For a week now, I have been peeping thru the Venetian blinds looking out for canvassers. Still none. This is disappointing as I feel like a good argument with people who wont actually punch me.
First off, I will be expecting canvassers to close the gate. Its the little things.
The downside of living in a village that is 100 per cent nationalist/Catholic is that we only get SDLP and Sinn Féin. As I am actually a member of the local branch of SDLP, I hope they call to say hello.
Sinn Féin always call…more than once. Their tactic should be interesting. Either they will tell me that SDLP is not “republican” or “nationalist” or they will agree that it is and ask me for a second and third preference.
As always Sinn Féin will use any tactic that they think will work. In 2011, they told me that my SDLP vote was unecessary as the candidate was “safe” and that by voting SF, “we” could take another seat for nationalists. But in another part of the constituency, they told would-be SDLP voters that the candidate was “toast”. So at least Sinn Féin will give me an argument but to be honest I cant be arsed. I probably wont answer the door.
I have never actually seen a unionist canvasser at any house where I have lived. ….West Belfast, Dungannon and this village. To their credit, they have canvassed Catholic homes and while they might not get many votes, they at least take the voter seriously.
SDLP are certainly canvassing non-nationalist areas. Again it is treating voters with courtesy. The reaction….well often the real vitriol comes from committed SF voters. SDLP canvassers across eighteen constituencies seem to be getting good feedback.
The phrase “positive reaction on the doorsteps” is of course standard for every political party. But certainly SDLP have more canvassers out there than in any recent election. They also seem to have started early so that Euro/locals (2014), Westminster (2015) has at least given continuity. The supporters and the “dont knows” are better known and there is a different kinda canvas ongoing with organised groups such as trade unions, charities and pressure groups. Visibility is everything….and a young, Stormont-based Leader like Colum Eastwood pressing the flesh and appearing in very localised media (yesterday it was Castlewellan) might be making a difference. All Politics is local after all.
Yet “positive reaction on the doorsteps” is not in itself a good thing. In 2015, part of the shock of Labour’s collapse in Scotland was that it seemed to contradict at least some canvassing returns. The fact is that too many people had already given up on Labour and thought they were not worth the bother of a doorstep fight.
I live in hope that Alliance…hopefully some cherubic 20something IT consultant will knock my door. They did actually leave us a leaflet (mostly about dog-fouling) in early 2014 but they havent been seen in the village since. I did see an Alliance member from this constituency canvas last year. He was canvassing ….in East Belfast for Saint Naomi Long.
It is a shame….I have my entirely reasonable “Alliance Party are undemocratic scumbags” argument all prepared and they never show up.
For the record, the answer the canvassers hate most is not “I wouldnt vote Alliance/SF/DUP/ UUP if you paid me”. That changes nothing. The response they really hate is “I always vote Alliance/SF/DUP/UUP….but not this time”. Thats the response they dont want to take back to the de-briefing. And as a bonus….you might get re-canvassed at a later date with a “please, please, please dont desert us” and you can enjoy the fact that you are wasting resources of your rival.
Dont forget….walkabouts ….in strange towns. If you have a bus pass and can travel free to Bangor, East Belfast, Antrim , you may be lucky enough to be canvassed by Stephen Farry, Naomi Long and David Ford and you can agonise with them that you are a gene pool letsgetalongerist who will never vote Alliance again.
Remember in canvassing, nobody actually expects you to tell the truth.