Thursday, 15 March 2012

Hunting for Votes

Just before Christmas, there was a knock on the door one evening. There was young man, perhaps early twenties. Straight to the point, he said he was looking for work, and thought he would try a different approach. He was polite and well spoken, so I had a chat with him for a few minutes. Having previously worked in the recruitment industry for a few years, I gave him a few contacts and also some companies that I knew were recruiting anyway.

This guy was keen, and showed a commendable amount of motivation. Hopefully he has been successful in securing employment.

How many doors had he knocked on that evening? Perhaps twenty, thirty, forty? How many nights? Who knows. Most people would have said "can't help, bye". Door closes. Next. For all I know, I may have been the only person who took time to speak to him. He impressed me, and had I been looking for staff I would have asked him to submit his CV with a letter.

Canvassing for votes works in a similar manner. Much like sales calls, you will get much disappointment before finally getting result. Activity generates business. It also plants a little seed in the brain.

Your voter is undecided. He/she didn't want to speak to the canvasser that called last week, but they remember that no other party sent someone round. Maybe they are worth a try since they at least made the effort. Your voter may also mention this to a relative / colleague and they too may think the party is worth a vote.

I once did canvassing way back in 83 or 84. It's difficult. And as someone else pointed out to me recently, you can get a wide range of excuses and at times sheer hostility. But when it comes to crucial elections - and referendums - every vote can make a difference. For every vote gained by one party, the opponents need to secure two beat it.

Canvassing these days seems restricted to shopping malls and hustings. Party political broadcasts are greeted with cynicism, toilet breaks and the occasional size eight boot or remote control. Oh and don't forget the bloody leaflets.

The main political parties use the following as primary selling tactics:

SNP - Alex Salmond.

Labour - historical voting patterns.

Conservatives - certain residential areas.

Liberal Democrats - supernatural acts.

Canvassing for votes is the same as selling. You need to show the features and benefits of whatever party you are selling, even if it is Mission Impossible (cue music, dah dada dah.......). One person voting in a household may persuade others.

I'm not saying it is easy, but with an electorate that is half-hearted about voting, canvassing is crucial. Not everyone is prepared to go round doorsteps, but you can always find someone who will do it. And political candidates absolutely must be prepared to do so.

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