Thursday, April 14, 2005

At the sharp end of the campaign

A cool spring evening with a late burst of blue sky keeping the rain away for a while and I'm not sat in a comfy chair with a cold beer in one hand and my new Wisden in the other.

Nope, I'm out wandering up and down streets in a Birmingham constituency tracking down Labour voters and reminding them that the country needs their votes on May 5th. I'm pleasantly surprised by the reception I get. Sure, there are the houses where the householder sneers as they open the door and sees the rosette 'I'm not voting for you lot' or, more simply, '**** off.' I just put them down as 'don't knows.' There are the houses where I suspect that they are hiding behind the sofa, so I just drop a leaflet through the door and head on to the next. Incidentally, when I get to run the country, the first law will require a standardised letterbox design and will prohibit those vicious doors that snap down on your fingers. And don't get me started on those stealthy, ill-fed dogs that lurk behind the door and are so close to starvation that they seek to drag your body through the letter flap and hide your remains behind the pot plants.

Apart from those problems, there are still those houses where the resident is pleased to see you and happy to confess that they will vote Labour and are pleased at what we've done over the past few years. Even better are the ones who aren't quite sure about voting Labour this time, but who are impressed enough by the litany of progress to put a poster in their window. Campaigning works best when you can show them that their votes last time have had visible effects - a school transformed or a new project for young people on the way.

This is a campaign that will stand or fall on turnout on May 5th. In many seats, it will be a battle for the hearts, minds and votes of each elector. For all the high-level, high-octane briefings, broadcasts and photo-opportunities, the parties still rely on us foot-soldiers to get out and get our voters out. Democracy at the sharp end.

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