Tricks of the Trade
29 Apr 2007
I have been on the doorsteps of North West Hampshire, in support of my Party’s candidates. “Evening George. There must be an election on” is the common reaction, when I ring the bell. Courtesy is mixed with healthy scepticism, as they listen to my patter. Folk are usually pleased to have been visited, but not always in the middle of Neighbours/Coronation Street/ Emmerdale/the evening meal/ a row about whose turn it is to bath the children.
I was canvassing in one part of the constituency, where the houses were on three sides of a green. On the fourth side – the road side – a man was repairing his car.
Each time I engaged a voter on the doorstep, with powerful arguments for voting Conservative in the imminent municipal election, the engine would rev noisily, making discourse and persuasion difficult. I worked my way round the green and called on the last house, from which there was no reply. Seeing car components all over his garden, I put two and two together. The gentleman who had been revving his engine while I engaged with voters on the doorstep was on his back underneath a jacked-up car.
For him, there was now no escape. He was underneath a ton of metal performing a delicate operation on the intestines of his car, which was objecting noisily. I knelt on the pavement and addressed some remarks about labour costs in garages to the space behind the front bumper, before soliciting his support. His attention was diverted momentarily from the maintenance manual in his hand. There was a pause and I was invited to move my knee further away from the jack on which his life depended. He would reflect on my proposition, once the gasket had been attended to.
I returned to his house, and pushed some literature through the letter box. (This is what we are trained to do – leave something sticking out, and the opposition may remove it. So stick it right through, without getting bitten by the hungry Pyrenean Mountain dog the other side.)
Let me explain why
In London, canvassing in the dark, a supporter strode up to a front door and rang the bell. His movement triggered the security lighting and, while he waited for an answer, he turned round to admire the garden. He saw that he had walked past a “wet cement” sign, and had left his footprints embedded in a freshly laid path. Fortunately for him, the owners were away. He removed from his pocket a leaflet from a rival party. which he had abstracted from the letterbox next door. He wrote on it “Sorry about the path”.
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