Every party political campaigner has their own preferred way of campaigning. Some people like delivering leaflets – it’s quick, it’s predictable, it’s good exercise, you don’t have to engage in conversation if you’re hungover. Some prefer designing the leaflets. Some just wanna blog or tweet. When it comes to getting concrete Voter ID, most people would agree there’s nothing better than a face-to-face conversation with a voter. But that’s time-consuming, weather-dependent, and can be difficult to organise.
That’s why, in my opinion, you can’t beat ‘phone canvassing. No rain, no snow, no gates, no driveways, no stairs, no letterboxes, no dogs. If there’s no-one in you don’t have to walk down the drive and halfway up the street to the next house on the list: you just hang up and dial again. It’s never quite the same conversation you’d get on the doorstep; but it’s still a chat with voters about how they vote, why they vote, whether they vote; and you can make a lot of contacts in not very much time.
A lot of people find the idea of calling strangers really intimidating; and I was exactly the same for a long time. But then when I was 19, my best friend and I spent our summer holidays campaigning for John Grogan in Selby ahead of the 2005 general election. We were given an enormous pile of Voter ID sheets and a back room in the City of York Labour Party office and left to get on with it.
It was a crash course in talking to voters. We got everything. The uplifting ‘I’ve voted Labour all my life’ voters, the disillusioned ‘I’ve voted Labour all my life…’til now’ voters, the depressing ‘don’t vote, luv’ non-voters, the almost as depressing women who say ‘hang on, I’ll get my husband, he deals with the voting’, the older people who keep you on for half an hour because they haven’t spoken to anyone else all day. The unpronounceable names. The people who insist that asking anyone else how they vote is illegal.
It was brilliant. We sat there for four or five hours a day with the Guardian and £1.50 mini-pizzas from the deli round the corner, and by the end of the summer we’d made thousands of contacts and I could talk to anyone on the ‘phone.
I’m not suggesting you sign yourself up for an intensive month of ‘phone-canvassing – unless you’ve got nothing else to do, COUGH Conor Pope COUGH – but if you’re wondering how to get more involved in campaigning for Labour, you should really think about getting on the ‘phone. The key is to be sociable about it. Manchester Young Labour and LGBT Labour NW run a weekly Phone Bank with pizza: it’s great. You can scoff pizza between calls, share your most encouraging conversations with others, and there are rumours of a prize for the activist who makes the most contacts over the weeks.
But obviously not everyone can get to their local campaign centre of an evening, and that’s where Virtual Phone Bank comes in. I’ll let John Prescott explain –
Basically, wherever you are, you can make calls for Labour in any constituency in the UK! And that’s what #mobmonday is all about. We’re harnessing Virtual Phone Bank to get tweeting Labour activists (twactivists?…No) from up and down the country to canvass key seats on Monday evenings and tweet about it using the #mobmonday hashtag. We’ll be making calls between 6pm and 8pm, but feel free to drop in whenever – you don’t have to do the full 2 hours, making just 20 contacts would be a massive help!