Chris Penney is a freelance writer covering aviation and military history, and is a member of Taunton Deane Conservatives.
I joined the Party after the 2016 Brexit referendum to elect Boris Johnson leader. That election never happened. I’m an active member of Taunton Deane Conservatives.
“Oh, you’re one of those are you?” That was the reaction of a neighbour after knocking her door. I’d never thought of it like that. Before the X on the ballot paper comes the box to place it in, and clearly I’d been defined by the coloured rosette even before a word had been spoken. Was that the same for all canvassers, I wondered?
As a first-time general election canvasser the campaign was real eye opener. I discovered that dog owners have two letterboxes because some four legged friends show teeth. Elsewhere I was greeted by the pet rabbit, and at one property the sign declared “beware of the geese”. Meanwhile one colleague found out the hard way that being accompanied by your dog can lose you votes from fellow dog owners.
Back in 2017 I only leafleted, and remember receiving a delivery soon after the manifesto launched. The conversation with my fellow member was short and sweet, “I hope she hasn’t just lost us the election!” We all know how that turned out.
In May this year I canvassed for the first time in our local elections. Back then people just weren’t engaging: “you’re brave” was a polite response. They say a week is a long time in politics, and judging by the level of doorstep engagement I experienced over the six weeks of campaigning May seemed like a lifetime ago – in more ways than one.
Having always been interested in politics, I’ve never been an undecided voter. Meeting so many undecideds on the doorstep seemed an unreal situation. If they took a leaflet it felt like you were halfway there. When you saw the opposition’s leaflet already in the recycling pile it gave you hope. After the chaos of the last Parliament, could anyone who had read a paper or listened to the news really have been undecided? It still baffles me.
On the doorstep one word was cropping up time and time again. The ‘D word’ – democracy. As one person put it: “This is their last chance because otherwise I’ll never ever vote again.” Blimey, this was an important election in more ways than one. And yes the B word cropped up frequently too, usually in the same conversation.
Out on the campaign trail I was joined by seasoned hands who’d been canvassing for 50 years as well as other newbies. It was a team effort and we had a fantastic candidate in Rebecca Pow. She’d done wonders for the constituency, raising its profile and bringing central government funding our way as well as saving the local Royal Marines base. We were even joined by friends of hers from Lincolnshire and Yorkshire – that’s real friendship for you.
But listening to some doorstep responses, I realised that Icouldn’t be an MP. They seemed to get blamed for everything and thanked for nothing. At the end of week four, and having been out in all weathers, Rebecca reminded me that I’d had it easy – this was her third general election in four years.After a quick caffeine boost it was on to the next street, estate or village… only two more weeks and then we could collapse in a heap.
As for being labelled “one of those” I’m really proud actually. I wonder if this election will go down in history as the one where, at long last, such stereotyping of Conservatives has been banished for good?