Inspired by Jeremy Corbyn's belief that individual people's experiences matter and that persuading people to rethink politics starts with a conversation. I went out canvassing on 25th November with leaflets and with a local issues survey asking people what their current concerns are.
My homemade 'survey' was made up of topics that are important to me too:
Social Care Services
Traffic/road safety issues
I had my 'survey' on a clipboard and just said: 'Hi, your local Labour Party is out today and I'd like to ask you what you feel are the important local issues for St Ives.' This strategy worked well and I had some quite lengthy conversations with a good range of age groups. One couple took the time to come back and tell me about another issue they were worried about.
Eleven people were very vexed by traffic in town, some felt no-one seemed to be taking responsibility for illegal parking and most people stated that they were adversely affected by the impact on local roads caused by increased traffic from the new housing developments, and mentioned the likely additional problems when the new Morrison's supermarket opens.
Some people felt the out of town site would 'kill off' the town centre.
People from Needingworth were the most unhappy group.
Most people who talked about the congestion in and out of town talked about the general lack of infrastructure to support the growth in population and cars because of the new housing.
Two people complained that the new housing developments had not represented an increase in affordable housing.
Two people identified concerns about Health Services, but didn't want to elaborate.
Two people spoke about Education funding.
One individual had considerable professional knowledge about education resourcing:
the Tories have cut Careers Advisers and Schools are paying for this valuable service themselves. There are too few apprenticeship schemes locally due to the Tories lack of incentive to employers; this means that College places are being cut for vocational training and some young people are leaving school with no forward plan. When students leave school and it cannot be identified what they are moving on to (because there is no apprenticeship scheme or vocational course to move on to), the Tories then claw back some of the funding from the school. The school is financially penalised by central Government's failure to support Youth Employment schemes!!
Two people mentioned concerns about increasing crime in our area. Needingworth was identified as having had a spate of break-ins. It was also mentioned that the police are no longer a visible presence in St Ives and that responses to issues like illegal parking and speeding cyclists using pavements are treated as unimportant.
he results I got do seem to reflect some of the issues that Jeremy Corbyn spoke about at the Eastern region conference, so I'm sure the issues identified from the survey will be taken up by our local candidates in an appeal directly to voters on what matters to them, but I found it really helpful to get a connection going by asking people what mattered to them. I will feel more confident in future canvassing, (especially if we get the General Election we want) by having a better awareness of local issues and being able to link them to the Labour Party's national agenda. It will, hopefully, give my 'knocking on doors' more impact.