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More despatches from the front May 16, 2007

Posted by canvasser in Irish Election 2007.

Canvassing Manual




If, while canvassing, you come across members of a rival political party canvassing the same street as you, whoever is there second should move on, do somewhere else and come back to it later. No sense getting the punters up again and again.




If, while canvassing, you come across members of a rival political party canvassing the same street as you, if you’re bigger, canvass ahead of their team, forcing them out of the area. Applies especially with a week to go where norms of civility are abandoned.




Drop leaflets through doors.




Drop leaflets through doors and pick up leaflets of opponents if at all possible. Especially tricky when their leaflet is stuck in the letter box. Even more tricky when you’ve to open the porch door to get to it. To avoid same, always ensure your leaflet is fully through the letter box and through the box in the front door, not left on the porch.




Be polite about your opponents on the doorstep when they’re mentioned and look for a number two.




Depending on your opponent’s strength he is always either ‘safe’ or ‘not in with a chance’ so the punter is better off voting for your candidate on the first count. If this fails, revert to basic.




Leave your opponent’s posters alone. It’s not worth degenerating into childish poster wars.




At night, take down your opponents posters whenever and wherever possible and dump them somewhere.




At night, take down your opponent’s posters and store them somewhere until after the election. Then put them back up and complain to the Council that your opponent hasn’t taken down his or her posters and should be fined.




No matter how racist the punter is, politely disagree and try to find common ground.




Stare blankly into space as your candidate spends 15 minutes on the one door trying to convince an out and out racist, who had already said he was voting for us, to change his views and refuses to leave. Loved her for it though.




Laugh at every joke made by every punter, no matter how bad, how out of date, or how many times you’ve seen it.




As above, but be willing to slap your thigh if necessary. If politically incorrect, smile as if you know it’s funny and you’d laugh if you weren’t canvassing. Hard to convey on a doorstep.




Never, ever laugh at a punter who is telling you some bizarre conspiracy theory, generally based around people out to get him or her, no matter how unbelievable it is.




Take copious notes on the conspiracy theory and ensure the punter gets a letter back.




It is always, always, the government’s fault, regardless of what they might have done or whether they had any control over the situation.




It continues to always be the government’s fault, but you also explain why the other parties have shared responsibility, or no interest in sorting it out. Whatever ‘it’ is.


Stupid comments by voters (There are no stupid voters, just stupid comments)


“We never see you except at election time.”


Leaving aside the fact that one of our team calculated that one would need to canvass 200 doors a week for five years to get around our constituency again, the voter has got newsletters, leaflets and notifications of weekly and monthly clinics for five years. Exactly what more does he or she want, a team of personal canvassers camped out in the estate?


“Youse are all the same.”


Really. Michael McDowell and the local SWP candidate share similar political views and policies? There’s no difference at all, even slight, between the main parties?


“Do you have to put up so many posters?”


Typically a middle class question from people annoyed their view of Dalkey Strand will be obscured for three weeks every five years. The answer is yes, we do. It helps people know there’s an election on (Every polling day for 15 years I have come across voters who didn’t know it was polling day), which parties and candidates are running and many posters, especially Fine Gael’s, contain specific policy commitments from them, which inform you. Oh, and we recycle most of them after we take them down.


“We get an awful load of leaflets through the doors. I’m sick of them.”


Yes, you do. There’s an election on. The leaflets contain the policy commitments and proposals from the various candidates to allow you to make an informed choice in how you vote. If you don’t want to read them, throw them away. Your ill-informed and uneducated vote will count just as much as someone who puts thought into it. The glory of democracy. It’s not unusual for this person to be the same one abusing you for not canvassing them in the last two years.


“I’m sick of people knocking at the door canvassing us.”



Again, we do it once every five, maybe three years. It gives you an opportunity, which you don’t have to take, to raise issues of political concern, highlight things that need doing in the area, inform yourself about the various candidate’s proposals and even to engage in a political discussion. God forbid such a thing should happen. Interestingly, your next door neighbour, who had a list if issues she wanted to raise, will get them satisfied by one or more of the candidates who came to the door. She’s also probably smarter than you.


“You couldn’t pay me enough to do your job.”



You couldn’t pay me to do it. Despite the deeply entrenched beliefs of punters, most canvassers are not being paid to knock on your door. They’re volunteers, doing this from political belief or personal support for a candidate. Most leafleters and some poster people are the same. You don’t have to honour them for it, but out and out rudeness is a bit much.


“Oh really, you don’t know your party’s policy on the preservation of igneous rock formations in eastern Clare? You’ve some cheek coming to my door sonny, you don’t even know what your party stands for.”


The rock thing is standing in for a variety of issues. No canvasser or candidate knows every single policy position the party has, once had, may have and has considered. Again, most of them are volunteers and you’ll be lucky if they’ve read their party’s manifesto. The more unusual your area of interest, the less likely they’ll be informed about it. Ask them to get back to you before polling day and in a lot of cases they will. If they don’t, vote for someone else.


Eight more days to go.


If I don’t kill a punter, it will be an out and out miracle.


Sorry about the formatting btw, had to type it up in Word.


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