“It’s lovely to see a face on the door step.”
The genial middle-aged woman had invited me out of the bitter cold into her hall after I had explained that I was standing for in the May elections.
“And it’s lovely to see someone under fifty in politics,” she added.
It took me a little time to extract myself from her house, but I walked away with a promise of her vote and completed survey form. I felt distinctly cheerful, which was quite a turnaround as the day had not started well.
After a hectic morning trying to catch up on urgent work, I had popped into the Market Tavern for a quick sandwich and coffee. That was a mistake.
Mad Max, my main rival at the election, was also tucking into a sandwich accompanied by his wife and two staunch Tory supporters.
“Hi Libby,” he said nonchalantly. “It’s a good day for canvassing.”
His companions agreed and his all too smarmy wife said: “How many homes did we do this morning Max? A hundred?”
Max pretended to scold his wife. “Now, now Valerie, we must not give away party secrets.”
I made polite excuses and found a different area of the bar to eat my snack. I was fuming. After a dose of flu and a lack of local support, I had yet to start canvassing. I had more than 1,800 doors to knock and my opponents had polished off a hundred in a morning!
Fortunately, once I got into the swing of things, my mood improved and I began to get results. Of course, some of those that answered the door simply shut it again. But most were polite and prepared to listen. Some were never going to be persuaded to vote anything other than Conservative. That’s hardly a surprise in an area that is Tory with a Lib Dem undercurrent.
Other householders said they were pleased to see a fresh face in politics, though not all would commit to voting for me.
It was slow work though. One man invited into his living room and I spent 15 minutes trying to talk to him while his two young boys begged me to play with them. He told me a lot about his concerns about cuts to local services and how they might affect his children. He complained at length about Libbyshire Council’s privatisation programme. We seemed natural allies but he declined to help me campaign. The boys and work kept him busy all hours, he said. Still, it was another vote, and I made a note to call on him again in the hope he might find some time to support me.
Towards the end of the afternoon, I got a text from Melissa inviting me for a drink. I had only managed 25 houses but I was freezing cold and happy to call it a day. I headed back to the Market Tavern.
There were a lot of lessons from my first canvass. I need more people. My canvass sheets could be better organised. I needed to avoid long conversations, without being impolite. I’d learnt a lot about local issues too and I made a mental note to highlight them in my forthcoming Focus.
As soon as I walked into the Market Tavern, Mad Max came across. My heart sank.
“Saw you out canvassing today, Libby” he beamed. “Get many doors knocked?”
I wasn’t going to answer that question.
“It’s not the doors, Max,” I said quietly. “It’s the votes you get.” Then with a smirk I hoped would disconcert him, I strode across to the bar to order Melissa and myself a Pinot Grigio.
* Libby Local is based on real events. Details have been changed to protect the innocent and disguise the guilty. Libby’s passion and determination, along with her angst and frustration, are set to be a regular feature of Lib Dem Voice as the May 2013 elections approach. You can catch up with all Libby Local's episodes to date by clicking here.