Door knocking and the Labour party go hand in hand as naturally as rain and the British summer.
But what is door knocking, and why is it such a big deal to us?
Simply put, door knocking is when groups of Labour Party supporters (or any party’s supporters) go up and down a targeted road knocking on people’s doors to have a conversation with them about what matters to them, and what their concerns are or might be. Southampton Labour Party are very active door knockers and usually have something happening most weekends.
One of the regular responses we get from residents when we knock on their door is ‘what are you guys doing here? You only come around at elections?’ We find that we often give people a nice surprise when we come around in the winter or early in the spring, as it helps dispel the myth that we only care about reminding people to vote in May.
We come around and talk to people as we want to hear what you have to say! If there are issues with your roads, your bins, or access to your GP, then we may not always be able to help straight away but we want to hear about it so that we can feed it back to the council services. Our session almost always includes local councillors, often for that area, who will then have a direct line to many of the services at the Council. We also do this as we are aware of a lot of the bad press that Politician’s – usually unfairly - get for being ‘out of touch’. We want to dispel this and say ‘hello, this is who I am, I am standing out here in the cold to listen to you’. We won’t deny that door knocking gives us valuable data about voting preferences so that we can target our resources effectively, but the main reason we do this is that we genuinely care what people think.
So what are ‘mass canvasses’?
So once a month, and often more when we get close to local elections, we organise what we call a ‘mass canvas’. We pick an area around Southampton and arrange for everyone we can muster to turn up there. This is attended by councillors, regular members from the party, first time activists, and even Alan Whitehead MP. Everyone is welcome and everyone gets stuck in. We split up into small groups (after the obligatory photo) and set off to tackle roads in the area. This means that if 20-30 of us attend, it really gives us the chance to really get to know an area in a short amount of time and to talk to lots of people. This gives us great information on the local issues that are important to people and we can pass these issues back to our wonderful group of councillors, who can then act on them.
It can be really fun and a good chance to make new friends. We have even made several attempts at ‘synchronised door knocking’ (maybe a new Olympic Sport)? The idea is that everyone lines up along a straight road and then knocks the door at once (with a camera on hand for proof later).
So if you are new to the party, want to make a difference and get to know your local area, or want to make new friends (various trips to coffee houses or local pubs usually happen afterwards) then we would strongly encourage you to come along to a mass canvas. They are advertised months in advance and your local councillors and ward captains will be aware of them. If you are new to door knocking then we can pair you up with more experienced members until you are comfortable with the process.
If you are not initially comfortable talking to strangers on their doorstep then that is ok too. Each team always needs to have someone who ‘runs the board’, which is when someone records all the information that we get from residents. They then tell our door knockers the names of the next residents that they are talking to so we can be more polite when talking to them. ‘Running the board’ is easy to pick up and learn and is considered a general introduction to the process.
If you are a resident in the area which is being mass canvassed, please don’t be alarmed. Our volunteers are very friendly and we just want to get to know you. We split up into much smaller teams so you should never feel overwhelmed by large groups turning up at your door. We want to hear about your issues and problems in the local area so that we can help.
Southampton and Romsey Labour Party: Working hard with the community to listen, and act on issues. All while making friends and keeping fit!