Friday, April 01, 2005

Life under Canvass

BBM and I went out canvassing together. Well, that means we went in the same car and did the same street, but the minute we got there BBM leaped out of the car and announced that we would take one side each. This meant that for four long hours (it was a bloody long street) I got glimpses of him in the distance being harangued by local residents. I was left totally on my own, and mine was the longest side by far because it had lots of culdesacs and crescents. I think he must have done the street before and known which was his best side. On my side the only people who were at home were over fifties couples who were both sound alseep in front of Countdown or children's cartoons. The houses were small and terraced with little front gardens so I had to walk past the sitting room window to get to the front door. A hard decision whether to knock or leave them in peace. Soon discovered "leave them in peace" was the only correct solution after two old fellas stumbled to their front doors to tell me that they wouldn't vote for that loser BBM if he was the last candidate on earth. Took time to tell me they always have voted Labour in the past of course but BBM had been such a bad MP that they'd changed their minds for ever.

Decided the only way to cope was to avert my eyes as I passed the sitting room window, and give a short ring on the bell. The first rule of canvassing is that doorbells, well ones in our area anyway, never never work, so even if there is someone at home, you are quite safe. All the doors are exactly the same, replacement plastic painted mini georgian jobs from B and Q. They always end about four inches from the ground so there is a difficult threshold to cross if you are invited inside. (Not much chance of that)

They all have the same letter boxes. Golden coloured metal with two brush edges just inside the flap. You put your hand in with the leaflet, and the brushes have to be forced apart. You finally get the leaflet through and the brushes seem to close like a crocodile's jaw and hold your glove firmly in their grip. Out comes your hand and your glove stays right there in the door. Remove glove, but it's a freezing afternoon and my canvassing hand is purple and white within minutes.
Walk miserably from empty house to empty house. Every front garden is a scrap yard for broken gnomes, dewheeled push chairs and old plastic paddling pools. When I take a sly peep through the windows the view is always the same dusty vases of plastic flowers, a couple of holiday souvenirs and yesterday's local paper open at the telly page. The tellies are all the same. Huge silvered plastic boxes which bring the whole world to the constituency on cable.

This is the kind of street where "Our People " live. For a quarter of a century the party has told me this is where we must go to "get the vote out". These are supposed to be the people who will vote Labour whatever happens, but I don't think it's true anymore. These people are quite frankly fed up. The tellies bring the world of Westminster to them every night and they hate the sight of all those politicians promising the good life. Nothing ever changes round here. All these people are struggling through on two or three hundred pounds a week. Scrimping and saving to make ends meet. The promises of middle class lifestyles seem as far away as ever eight years after that lanslide in May 1997. Can't help feeling that this will be the year when they will stay at home on polling day to try to teach us a lesson.

So here I am maundering along thinking maudlin thoughts about how badly we are going to do and I get the fright of my life. I push the leaflet through a quite front door and suddenly there is chaos. There is a rumble and a crash and the leaflet is snatched from my fingers by a huge dog. I just get my fingers out in time but he continues to terrify me by throwing himself at the front door with such force I think it might break. Then he rushes into the sitting room and throws his whole body against the window and snarls at me. I belt across the garden and leap the fence to safety in the neighbours patch.

A man delivering the local freesheet newspaper arrives. He's travelling the other way down the street. We are like ships passing in the channel. "Are there any more doge like that one?" I ask nervously. He tells me that one paper deliverer was so badly bitten by the dog at 113 just by the school gates, that he had to get his fingers stitched at the hospital. "Dog's dead now though!" he said cheerfullybut without explanation.

The other change from last election is the number of people who have put up signs telling you to go away. "No hawkers, no canvassers, no door to door salesman for insurance. No money lenders. We have got everything we need, so don't even think of knocking!" proclaims a large sign in one of the poorest looking houses.

Every now and then I come across a small group of young women having a fag by their front gates and watching their kids play in the culdesacs. I try really hard to be charming and fail miserably. I chat on about the election and the fact that I'm married to BBM ("poor you") and what a good job Labour has been doing. I mention in my stupid middleclass London voice the Surestarts, the way Labour has done so much for young mums, etc etc. Every single woman looks bored rigideven embarassed by this speech from an old woman in a woolly hat, anorak and jeans. ("How the hell do we get rid of this nutcase?") They either hand the leaflet back or stick it in the pocket of their jeans. "I'm afraid I'm not really interested in politics" they sa, and turn back to each other.

I hope Michael Howard's not thinking what I'm thinking.


Blogger Apollo Project said...

Ms Wife - you should collect these jottings together and get them published. I'm also a blogger but I bow respectfully to your superior content.

9:45 AM  
Blogger bas said...

"The first rule of canvassing is that doorbells, well ones in our area anyway, never never work, so even if there is someone at home, you are quite safe."
YES! We've all rung the bell very quickly or knocked quietly in the hope that no one inside will hear! Hey, they probably wouldn't be voting anyway!
YES! Those vicious letter boxes! Or worse, the ones that turn you into a criminal: a week ago, as I was fighting with a particularly stubborn letter box, its flap pinged and tumbled to the floor. Guilty as sin, I picked it up as the owner - all hair and string-vested chest - opened the door. He said that, as a result, he will be voting Labour. Hmmm.

4:11 AM  
Blogger Rich said...

I liked the dog story. I am 14, live in canada and work for my MP. I was canvassing and nearly was killed by a dog. Well it was actully a poddle...

7:22 PM  

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