So, today I ventured out on my first-ever political canvassing trip. Armed with a Waitrose carrier bag stuffed with membership renewal letters, a rose-tinted ‘I’m-new-at-this’ enthusiasm and my favourite playlist, off I went into the blue yonder.
All did not go to plan. If you are about to start a political canvassing campaign, here are my top ten tips on how to kick-ass on the doorsteps.
1. Get up early
The early bird catches the worm. I was planning to hit the streets at 7am but languished in bed and didn’t get out until 8am. It was great for the first hour, but by 9am more cars were on the road, more dog walkers were on the path, and more recipients of the letters were stirring, which made the delivery trickier.
You will also feel a fantastic sense of achievement when all you work is done and dusted by 9am, and you can reward yourself with a hearty breakfast (see tip 10). If you leave it later in the day, you may come up with lots of excuses why not to do it. Seize the day!
2. Plan your route
Make sure you go through your deliveries in the comfort of your own living room to ensure you have everything you need, in the right order of proceedings (house numbers, roads, etc). That way, you won’t end up scrabbling around in your bag for the right envelope on the corner of the street, in the guise of a lost postman.
3. Respect your neighbours
Make everyone’s life more harmonious by respecting ‘no soliciting’ or ‘no junk mail’ signs and closing gates behind you. Leave everything as you found the property and be as quick as you can in making the delivery.
All of our letters were addressed to a named recipient so I had no qualms in sticking them through the door. No one likes to be spammed; treat others how you would like to be treated. After all they may be your constituents one day.
4. Take a wooden spoon
A seemingly strange accessory for political campaigning, but nonetheless an essential one. This little gadget will make it easier for you to get documents through stiff letterboxes and will save you re-doing your manicure (for the discerning lady campaigner).
5. Use Google Maps
I live in my ward and thought I knew all the roads, lanes and avenues that crisscrossed the area. How wrong I was! Perhaps it was the result of getting up so unnaturally early on a Sunday but thank god I took my iPhone as I ended up using Google Maps to check where I was going on more than one occasion. Use a map app, or take a printed one, to save time, energy and confusion.
6. Have water on hand
I severely underestimated the time it takes to pound the streets. After an hour, my mouth was drier that Ghandi’s flip flop but I was only half way round the route. I felt a long way from Kansas. There was nothing I could do (as I didn’t take any money out with me, and there were no shops open so early on a Sunday anyway) except feel parched until I got home two hours later. Be prepared or prepare to fail and pack the Evian!
7. Be well equipped
Canvassing is a lot harder than I thought. You need to wear comfortable footwear (I opted for Converse trainers), pack an umbrella, and wear layers so if you get hot or cold you are prepared for the worst. Take money in case you need water from a shop (see tip 6).
You are not popping down to the corner shop for milk, you are going to be trekking around for at least a couple of hours, so equip yourself for the challenges accordingly. I took a fully charged iPhone with me, which supplied me with motivating Jamie Cullum music (no judgement) and the lifesaving Google Maps app.
8. Look approachable (and not like a burglar)
As I was essentially creeping about my neighbourhood at the crack of dawn on a Sunday, I tried to dress smartly (as smart as you can in Converse trainers) to avert looking like I might be out to rob my neighbours.
I started off with sunglasses on and headphones, but after about 20 minutes in I popped them both away as on the odd occasion someone came out of their property or passed me on the street, I felt these were barriers to social interaction.
So ditch the sunnies to look approachable (and less like an undercover agent from MI5).
9. Know what you are delivering
This is common sense, but make sure you know the contents of what you are delivering. Yes, you may trust your fellow party members with what they have eagerly supplied you, however you don’t want to be caught out if people on the doorsteps ask what you are delivering. Ask to see a copy before you begin to ensure you know your onions.
10. Reward yourself
After all that early-rising, spoon-wielding, road hopping, letterbox jamming, dog barking, thirst-inducing work it is time to reward yourself. I chose eggs benedict and the Sunday papers – but do whatever floats your boat. After all, political canvassing is voluntary work. Whatever your political affiliation, you have made an effort to support your beliefs and get out there in your local community. Well done you.