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Never Ending Doorstepping

Christine Green

Putting your name forward to serve on your local council is only the first part of getting elected. The hard work is getting known to the people who will be voting for you and taking the time to get to talk with them about their concerns and their problems.
This is Christine's account of her doorstepping activities in St Neots.

Dear All

Having followed the discussions of late regarding doorstep activity I thought I'd update you on St Neots visits I've been making over the summer - which are continuing until I've walked every street of Priory Town Council Ward! I'm hoping this will be no later than end of November.

I marked a map of the ward into sections. Each outing has taken about 2 hours, depending on length of conversations etc., covering a group of streets. I knock on doors at random, introduce myself as a new, co-opted town councillor for their ward, give my card, say to contact me with any issue or query and I'll be pleased to help. I make good eye contact, and smile. I ask, "as I'm here" is there anything I could help them with at present, or take note of?
The expressions I see are almost always a very surprised face - a smile and comment along the lines of "that's really nice, good of you to call, never happened before, thank you so much, I will definitely contact you, what dedication, really appreciate it” etc. etc. I have not had one negative response or indifferent response.

I have had many short and long discussions about all manner of issues (which are in the notebook I carry) I have been given several problems to sort out for people, interestingly, often trees in the wrong place! These have at times been time consuming and given me a taste of what it means to do a town councillor's job really well. The meetings are only part of it!

Several people have remarked how refreshing it is for a councillor to do this, and that it has never happened before. A minority ask if I stand for a particular party, I say “no, not at present, but I will be standing as a Labour candidate next year”.

I sense that my turning up on their doorsteps and asking nothing of them (not even who they vote for), but only offering them something, has made a good impact on all of them.

It is very time consuming because some of these chats can last 20 minutes! But the longer I do it the more worthwhile I feel it is. What I think is important is that people are meeting me as 'me' not with a party label. The first thing they see is a person taking the trouble to LISTEN to them not talk at them. I like to think they can tell I am showing a genuine interest in them.

I don't intend doing this all the time, it's too much work and takes much time. But as a new councillor on the scene I wanted to reach people and 'get known' and what better way than on their doorsteps, on their patch. The conversations I've had so far have given me a valuable 'feel' for different neighbourhoods and insight into the range of views about town issues.

Yesterday early evening, a young man answered the door at the final house on my 'rounds' in East Street and Avenue Road. He showed genuine surprise and delight that I was calling round like this to ask what I could do for people, and lo and behold later in the evening he decided to post his thoughts on the St Neots FB page! Result! Loads of likes and comments went up. Excellent publicity. His words were very supportive of what I did and hopefully will resound when my leaflets drop through peoples' doors next year.

No, the Labour flag isn't flying in this context, or overtly present when I go visiting, but I think that will pay off in the long term. Getting known (for the right reasons) FIRST will, I believe, make a difference.

I think at town or parish council level, personalities count more than parties for many people. If all they see is a party on the ballot, with no knowledge of the person, they'll vote for the party. If they know the person - and are pleased with that person's performance for whatever reason - they may be likely to choose on that basis, regardless of the party. I've known it happen. I will do my best to make it happen in Priory Ward! I'm thinking, of course, of all those Blue people who may well have met a Red person they wouldn't mind as their councillor next year...

I'm telling you all this as it may be useful for you to know how I'm tackling things at present in relation to my candidacy in next year's election. It's just the way I feel is right for me, I realise it's not for everyone. It's also the reason I've not got the time or energy to devote to other doorstepping activities we're involved in right now.

Finally, I began this exercise partly after listening to many of you in our meetings this year, taking on board the importance of 'getting known' locally.

Thanks for reading all this, and for the work you are all doing in your own spheres of activity.


© Christine Green 2017

Promoted by Mick White, of 11 Parkside, St Ives, PE27 5QJ, on behalf of the St Ives Labour Party, of the same address.