Daniel Pitt is a PhD Candidate in Human Resource Management and a Seminar Leader based at the University of Bath. He is also the Deputy Chairman for Bath Conservative Association.
I joined the Conservative Party in January this year. Why did I join? I knew that the 2015 General Election would be one of the most important for a generation and incredibly important for the Conservative Party.
The last five and a bit months have been quite extraordinary. I have become the Deputy Chairman of Bath Conservative Association and joined Team2015, the volunteer group of Conservative activists. I have participated in events from Super Saturdays to the run-of-the-mill canvassing in the constituency for my local candidate Ben Howlett.
When the email dropped into my inbox regarding partaking in the Battlebus2015 campaign, founded and directed by Mark Clarke, I jumped at the chance. I booked the week off work and signed up. I was certainly not the only person!
I did this against the perceived notion that people outside the Westminster Bubble were not engaged in the upcoming General Election, and apathy towards politics was rife. I did not find this apathy on the doorstep I assure you.
On the evening of our first day together, us ‘battlebussers’ stood up one by one and said our bit, including our reasons for being there. What flabbergasted me was twofold: first the amount of people who, in previous elections, lent their vote to other parties such as Labour, UKIP, and even the Socialist Workers Party, and were now in the Conservative fold, not just voting for the Party but booking time off work to actively campaign.
Second: the diversity of people in this group. The media stereotypes the party as being white, male, privately educated, middle-class, and married with two children. Of course, it can ring true; however, there was a good mix of men and women, old and young, and a mix of all backgrounds.
Amusingly, there were also two women we thought at the time were a lesbian couple, because they introduced themselves as long-term partners. However, we were all put right the next morning over the bus’s PA system that they were long-term partners ‘in crime’.
An embarrassed oh, was the exclamation, because we had been asking all the couple-y questions. Consequently, the ladies referred to themselves as ‘the couple’ throughout.
We also had Victoria, carrying a brick. Not for personal protection or to throw through someone’s window. It was a ‘Boris Brick’. Inspired by Boris’s conference speech where he waved a brick around for a bit, she asked the travelling, visiting and local politicians to sign it, which then shall be auctioned and the proceeds shall go towards her underfunded constituency in Wales.
After the jollity of the first evening, the Battlebus departed from its base in Glastonbury, which we made our HQ for the six days or so. We travelled across the South West of England from Torbay in the south to Cheltenham in the north of the region, visiting five constituencies along the way.
The days were long: 7.25 start, and arriving back at the hotel past midnight, sleep was short. I even dreamt about doorstep conversations (that’s conversations on the doorstep not with them). The work was tough with a lot of walking, and one had to stay switched on, because we knew how important these conversations were.
Along with other activists I am still recovering, and turned to lozenges to sooth the throat after having numerous conversations a day. The miles of walking with heavy satchels full of leaflets took its toll on our wallets too, because the bill for sticky plasters and remedies for back pain was totting up.
Regardless of the toil, the relationships that were formed during those six days or so between the activists on the battle bus were intense. Spending 18 hours a day with each other for six days and for some 24 hours, because we shared a twin room back at the hotel, we formed strong long lasting friendships.
The camaraderie between the activists was high, and we had friendly competitions between us, such as who could say the sound bite of ‘long-term economic plan’ or ‘hard working families’ the most during the day, or who persuaded the most Ukippers or Lib Dems to vote Conservative.
We even had a prize, which was a bit of teasing: who had the most ‘not ins’, this accolade was once awarded to a fellow activist who did not speak to a single person during one canvassing session, when the other four of us had plenty of people to persuade. You can imagine the ribbing they received!
There were also official prizes handed out at the end of the week from ‘the best latecomer’, through ‘most stylish male and female activist’, to ‘the best selfie with a sign’. The prizes were from a signed volunteers t-shirt by Boris Johnson and Lynton Crosby to key rings. And I am a proud winner of a Boris signed t-shirt!
We are already planning a reunion, perhaps helping out in the underfunded Welsh constituency, to find out where that brick has gone. The Battlebus2015 involved blood, toil, tears and sweat, as Churchill said, but it was fun and worth it!