Mark Pack writes…Parrots, canvassing and factsheets

Parrots feature more often in canvassing that you might expect. 

A few years back, Kelly-Marie Blundell revealed her canvassing experience one day in Guildford:

“Canvassing flats, often elderly people will call out through the door before opening as a measure of precaution. When I was canvassing some flats in Guildford, I knocked on one such door, or so I thought.

“‘Excuse me, can I help you?’ came the thin, elderly lady’s voice. I replied, ‘Yes, my name is Kelly-Marie Blundell and I am your…’

“But then she repeated it, speaking over me. So I spoke a little louder and clearer, presuming she was hard of hearing. ‘Yes, my name is Kelly-Marie…’ Then I heard it again, ‘Excuse me can I help you?’

“Rather baffled, I started again. ‘My name is Kelly-Marie…’

“And then I heard a squawk. That’s right. The repeated phrase was clearly coming from a parrot!”

I have, however, been taking a gamble and omitting references to parrots in many of the training sessions for new canvassers I’ve been helping with around the country in the last few weeks. What has been clear through all the sessions is just how many of our newer and not-so-new members are keen to get active and canvassing for the first time for this general election.

What has also been clear is how effective the central party’s pilot grassroots mobilisation project can be at getting those who sign up to our national petitions coming to such canvassing training and campaign briefing sessions. That is a huge potential resource of extra help to be tapped – and one to be trained up.

Which is why in addition to those parrot-free training sessions, I’ve also put together two concise factsheets – one on canvassing and one on delivering – to easily and quickly take new helpers through the basics.

Whether you are a new helper or a veteran hand, I hope you find them useful both for yourself and for your colleagues. And watch out for the parrots.

* Mark Pack is Party President and Co-leader of the party. He is editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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  • 1) If there is an unlocked porch and a working letter box in the front door, do you recommend leaving the leaflet in the porch without stepping inside, or putting it through the letter box?

    2) When canvassing is it good practice to ask about the voting intentions of other household members?

  • Peter Martin 8th Nov '19 - 1:55pm

    I hope your information on voting intentions is better than the Labour Party’s. Especially when it comes to giving lifts to voters on polling day. I remember the following conversation from a few years ago:

    Me: Thanks for turning out to vote Labour.

    Elderly gentleman: Yes I always like to vote for Mr Winterton.

    Me: But he’s the Conservative candidate!

    Elderly gentleman: Is he really?

    Me: I have two Labour posters stuck on the side on my car.

    Elderly gentleman: Would you like me to get out?

    Me: No never mind! I don’t think it will make any difference anyway!

  • Mark Smulian 8th Nov '19 - 2:29pm

    I canvassed a parrot in North Devon in 2015, when I eventually realised that the voice repeatedly shouting “hello” at me was an avian non-voter.
    A few houses further on I was talking to a voter when the lady of the house appeared affectionately cradling in her arms a large snake. I said we’d call back at a more convenient time.

  • Re (1) if the outer door/porch is open and doesn’t have a letterbox – yes, put it through the letterbox on the inner door.
    Re (2) yes asking to speak to others is a good move – and in fact people tend to like it in my experience as it shows respect for the fact that just because people live together they don’t necessarily have the same views.

  • Charles Pragnell 8th Nov '19 - 4:54pm

    When out canvassing or putting leaflets through letter boxes, use a ruler to push them through the letter box, especially if there is an angry dog the other side of the door. It saves a trip to A and E.

  • Richard Underhill. 8th Nov '19 - 6:10pm

    Gary J 8th Nov ’19 – 1:23pm
    2) It is a secret ballot and a winter election.
    A colleague may go to the same house to remind people that it is polling day.
    Accurate perceptions save legwork.

  • Yeovil Yokel 8th Nov '19 - 10:05pm

    Me: “Darling, I’m home!”
    Wife: “Why has my fish slice got teeth marks on it?”
    Me: “I’ve just been delivering leaflets for the Lib Dems.”
    Wife: (Puzzled silence).

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