Canvassing with Andrew Gilligan

Action day in Bounds Green ward (and a bit of Alexandra) dawns and I’m off to Susie Oatway’s house where I have emailed people to come to help canvass. Bounds Green is one of the only four wards (out of ten) in the constituency that doesn’t have any Lib Dem councillors. We’ve been campaigning there for several years – and the volume of casework I’m doing for residents keeps on growing – but it’s still fairly new territory for canvassing.

Andrew Gilligan (yes that one!) telephoned me last week to say that he (and the Evening Standard) wanted to follow Hornsey & Wood Green constituency during the election. He wants to interview me and follow me while canvassing. He also asked to talk to the group of disaffected Labour members and supporters who grilled me in Stroud Green a couple of weeks ago.

I am both pleased that there is key media interest and nervous – but decide that it must be a good thing. We will go to a part of Alexandra ward, which was Labour and went Lib Dem locally in 2002 – to see how the swing is going. I particularly want to test a ward that has already gone Lib Dem to see how much further it can go.

With that in mind – my briefing to the activists who came to help was not to just come back with lots of Lib Dems identified – but to find out what people voted last time. We are looking to see what is happening to both the Labour and other votes to see how soft it is.

I had put out an email to a list of people who say they want to come out helping – and it goes out on other party lists too – but much to my amazement nearly 40 people turn out. That is really good news because if activists will come out for us – we will be able to deliver the campaign as we have planned both in terms of leaflets and in terms of a high contact rate with constituents in person.

A photographer arrives – but no Andrew. Susie and I are busy getting people in, giving them their kit, briefing them and getting them out the door – quite a major operation. Susie (and Mike’s) baby son (aged about 8 months) watches proceedings happily. Whilst delighted my children are way past that stage – have to say no bad thing having a baby around to make us all go googly.

Activists all active – Susie and I and the photographer head off to knock on doors. Andrew will join us later – he has been held up. The first door a chap opens it and says he will vote Lib Dem. He was Labour but now it’s us. His partner joins him – she is still deliberating between Lib Dems and Labour. I ask if they mind having a photograph (the photographer has asked that I do this). They agree. So where is Andrew to witness this early sign of swing? We canvass until one o’clock with a variety of responses but mostly us or soft Labour – and go back for lunch.

It’s beautiful weather – absolutely gorgeous. Mike has provided a cold lunch for everyone – and I sit out in their garden chatting. Then Andrew Gilligan arrives and we go into the garden for an interview. I won’t cover the same ground here – let’s see what comes out in the Standard later this week.

Then off we go with Peter the photographer to canvass once more. Same story as the morning really. A good number of Lib Dems and the Labour vote very soft. Very few Tories at all of any description, even in the patch which (many years ago now!) used to vote Tory in local elections.

Then Andrew decides he wants to take me to where I was first elected a councillor – Muswell Hill – to walk around introducing myself to people. It’s not my normal approach – I am usually either petitioning, canvassing, campaigning or handing out leaflets. I have had to do so many different and new things since I went into politics – that whilst this wouldn’t be my chosen approach – I am happy to give it a go.

We head into Crocodile (a local eatery with an outside cafe) and get a drink. Andrew points at a couple and says ‘them’. I introduce myself and ask how they might vote when the General Election is called. Both Lib Dem – and both swinging from Labour – albeit Ben voted Lib Dem last time – so he swung even before the war. They agree to a photograph at Andrew’s request.

And so we go on. We meet one aspiring writer still going to vote Labour – well 80% sure he will still vote Labour. Many of the people we spoke to were not local residents at all – just shows how popular Muswell Hill is and why (as I keep pressing the point) public transport links are so important. Full service for the 603 I say!

We go back to base and say our goodbyes. Andrew is heading off to interview a representative from the Stroud Green Labour people who grilled me to presumably see why they are going to actively support the Lib Dems and I go off to the pub for one drink (yes only one) before heading home.