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24 April 2015

Naked men, diminutive voters, existential questions: what really happens “on the doorstep“

Good response on the #labourdoorstep? Here's what really happened on the doors this week.

By Stephen Bush

Political activists of all stripes unite on one thing: incomprehension at the number of people who answer the doors while partially – and on occasion wholly – undressed. A good variant on that this week. One Conservative canvasser in a Northern marginal was greeted by a voter “naked as the day he was born”.  Spotting the blue rosette on the activist’s lapel, the naked man shouted “Come off it, mate, do you think Tories come to the door like this?” 

Hostility among the English to Scotland is indeed growing, most strongly among those Labour organisers who have been relocated from  Conservative-held marginals to Labour fortresses north of the border. One remarks: “there are political parties who have never contested an election with a better idea where their voters are”.  

Another hardy perennial: the voters who always vote for the governing party, presumably on the grounds that they haven’t killed them yet. A Liberal candidate north of the border met one of that slightly strange clan, only to be told they were voting Conservative. “But we’re in government too!” they protested. To which the reply came: “Are you really?” 

A Labour activist in a London marginal canvassed a family that had previously voted Labour but were unsure about who they were supporting this time. Instead of the expected doubts about Ed Miliband or the mansion tax, they found an unusual domestic arrangement: the family of five will have an internal ballot to decide the votes of the two adults. 

The most difficult challenge for doorstep activists is what one Tory dubs the “child or dwarf?” problem: whether to ask a freshfaced person on the doorstep if their mother or father is in. “Once you have asked a fortysomething if their parents are in,” they explain, “There is no way back for you.” A Labour MP’s solution to the problem is to ask everyone, regardless of their apparent age, the same questions. They say the approach is better than regular VoterID, as “children are more honest”.

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Lastly, I can report that the Conservative attack on a Labour-SNP deal has indeed begun to “cut through” into the real world, although not always in the way the Tories might wish. “Yeah, I’m voting for you,” a Labour candidate in the Midlands was recently told, “But only because Nicola Sturgeon will be there to hold your balls to the fire!”

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