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A moment of clarification is necessary before I get to this week’s blog content. A Facebook canvassing conversation in our Labour group turned to the topic of ‘doing the board’ and I mentioned that being good at the board was really important as ‘Jon Roser proved last night’. An unfortunate autospell error on the part of my phone changed ‘proved’ to ‘probed’. So, in the interests of abating any impending legal action I’d like to state for the record that, to the best of my knowledge, at no time did Jon probe me or anyone else during canvassing. He was just very good on the board.

‘We’ll be doing GOTV next week so we need a good turnout’.

I saw this message on our WhatsApp group last year when we were helping Lee in Mash Barn. It was my first campaign helping in local elections. Being a little naive to the world of political acronyms, this honestly sounded to me like a breakfast television programme. As my mind flashed to scenes of Lee telling Holly Willoughby or Susanna Reid how the moribund Tory council had failed the people of Mash Barn, I remember noting that Lee must really know his stuff if he can get a national TV channel to take an interest in a Lancing by-election.

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With every promise comes the victory dance

I texted my mum ‘We might be on telly next week, keep an eye out’. I turned up on the Monday evening all smart and clean-shaved. Even splashed a bit of Brut on. Strangely, all I saw were people talking about ‘getting out the vote’. Yeah that’s great guys but where is GOTV? Where’s Lorraine Kelly? Seriously, I’ve got my best ‘Blue Steel’ ready. But nothing, not even Piers Morgan.

Then the penny dropped.

So folks, what is ‘Get Out The Vote?’ (see capitals for those a little slow on the uptake like myself). GOTV means using leaflets and visits to remind Labour voters about the upcoming polling day, make sure that they remember on the day itself, help them to be able to get to the polling booths and ensure that they have actually voted.

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Lee's hair is hard to tame in this windy weather

So folks, here are 5 things to consider about getting the vote out-

  1. First thing to note (auto correct gave me ‘thong’ there instead of ‘thing’, really must watch that (sorry again Jon’s solicitor)), it’s even nicer than canvassing. Canvassing is fun but like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. GOTV is like canvassing in a dream, because you go to the door of like-minded people who are happy to see you because you’re Labour too. And unlike with my dreams, it doesn’t suddenly end with two kids jumping on my stomach shouting “wake up Daddy!” (Note - if GOTV does end with kids jumping on you then something has gone badly wrong. Talk to your canvassing coordinator). So, if you’ve been a bit unsure up until now, GOTV is the nicest introduction to canvassing you can get.
  2. Does GOTV matter? Research tends to come from the US and so one must treat the results with caution. The US version of Get Out The Vote tends to be organised by the Russian Secret Service and includes mandatory stops at Drive-Thrus to gorge on super-size meal deals. Put that to one side however, and our results show that a well-organized effort can gain a candidate significant percentage points in campaigns. This certainly was the case with the recent by-election won by Beccy Cooper in Marine recently. In terms of mobilization, another study has found that door-to-door GOTV canvassing increases turnout among the contacted households by approximately 4.3 percentage points. Research in 2015 determined that GOTV efforts averaged one vote every 15 door knocks by volunteers. In close seats like Southlands and Selden (and now possibly others in our area) that translates to a couple of evenings’ work by a decent sized team. In short, it really matters so if you’ve not managed to help out so far, come join us.
  3. Research shows that when you encourage people to think through the logistical details of their plans for voting — such as when they intend to head to the polls, how they will get there — then it means that they are more than twice as likely to actually vote. Last year at Mash Barn I said “Hi, just letting people know that the election is on next week/tomorrow/today and asking if they know where it is they are voting”. That usually does this trick. (BTW that autocorrect just inserted ‘receding people’ instead of ‘letting people’ in that sentence. Autocorrect clearly doesn’t know how hard it is to win an election only targeting people with receding hair).
  4. Also, voters who live alone are less likely to have a plan to get to vote than people who live in groups or families, where discussing the next days' events are a natural part of life. Therefore the intervention has much more impact on those who live alone. Worth noting.
  5. Finally, GOTV happens at the same point at which negativity can creep into campaigns. Those who engage in negative politics do so because they know it reduces turnout in their favour as it confirms the public’s idea that "politics is inherently corrupt". This far we have seen wholly inaccurate claims about Labour. More will undoubtedly follow and they will likely intensify. By polling day I expect we’ll find a leaflet claiming that Labour will hike council tax by 200% to fund a policy of emptying bins on their lawns on a daily basis while bellowing ‘The Red flag’ at them. We need to respond with unfettered positivity. First, because it gets people to vote, second because it engages people in politics and lastly because we have an awful lot to be positive about in what we can offer our communities. Keep smiling folks.

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Youth will not spare you canvassing duties

Admittedly I am one of life’s perennial optimists but nonetheless I really do believe that we are on for some special results across Adur and Worthing this May. Having seen most of our candidates close up and seen how hard they are working and how good they are, it’s clear that Adur and Worthing would be an immeasurably better place with this lot in council. However, it’s going to need us to Get Out The Vote.

Let’s get out and do it.

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Is it over yet?

The science of getting the Labour vote out

A moment of clarification is necessary before I get to this week’s blog content. A Facebook canvassing conversation in our Labour group turned to the topic of ‘doing the board’...

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With Carl Walker selfishly taking some time off to 'have a holiday with his family', Pat Schan steps in to give us her news from the north (of East Worthing).

The troops were not in good form for the first day of canvassing due to a combination of old age, dodgy legs, asthma and a cold but being the troopers we are Margaret and I had been to town for the launch with the Worthing West Team – so efficient they kept reminding me of German footballers – and were reporting for duty.

All woes disappeared when members of the dream team were spotted on the corner of Broadwater St East- the triumphs of last summer came flooding back, the laughter and camaraderie you get from spending three solid months in the trenches and more time with them than with your own family.

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You do not mess with the Selden crew

Captain & Mrs Beaumont had us organised spit spot and off we went - soon all the old habits returned – telling Johnnie on the board every conversation in detail - describing pot plants and curtains but forgetting to ask how many voters in the house He’s actually given up telling me their names. I literally put my hand on the gate and instantly forget so revert to my habit of calling them all love or darling. This has not always worked out well and is not to be recommended. Being the peaceful socialist he is though he doesn’t get cross but has this look and occasionally shows a little testiness after a full street of incompetence, but it’s so worth it when you get a promise and he does his victory dance.

So with that we soon fall into our old routines – get in from work, shovel dinner down, grab walking shoes and head for the rendezvous – inevitably just as you get the “I’m running late” text. Before the enlightenment I can’t honestly say I had envisaged a time when I would hang around on street corners wearing a red rosette but this is now so part of my life I barely remember a time before.

I know many members feel anxious about door knocking but given my previously described memory of a gnat, let me assure you that I don’t know the manifesto off by heart or Kier Starmer’s six tests for Brexit (without doubt he uses products in his hair - Carl & I have debated this in the past).

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Oh my word they're everywhere!

I think our aim is to let people see that socialists are nice people and interested in them and their community – I think spending time chatting about everyday life is a good investment - always admire the dog, even if it’s going mental (same rule for kids), the lawn and also go for the sympathy vote. I tell them that I have worked for the NHS for 44 years, that I’m a WASPI woman (important to try and notice when they have glazed over). Humour is also good – I had a very grumpy lady telling me all about how much she disliked and distrusted JC – I told her that I was a little bit in love with him and she roared with laughter and took my leaflet to read. I am also pretty good at bailing out when all is lost and do not enter the ‘flogging a dead horse competition which has been known to be regularly entered by Cathy and Margaret.

Mind you the other day when still under the weather I came upon a very strange man who informed me that he didn’t vote ever, knew Jeremy's brother and went into a long spiel about a Marxist plot. I stood there blankly for a good while – none of my escape tactics were working so I went for “is the porch the original…?”

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David makes a good point

This week we revisited a road which during the GE campaign I disturbed a very cross kipper who was not up for any of my blarney and actually came down the road after us to hurl insults about JC. I was up for round 2 and maybe bit of peace and reconciliation but was outvoted. I just wanted to ring the bell and when he looked in his camera doorbell to see me waving “Hi - I’m back” …

This weekend our merry band set off (33% of us with hideous hangovers (not any of the girls let’s just say – look at the pictures) and we were suddenly confronted by people in other colour rosettes “What madness is this“? we cried.

Our sitting councillor saw us and fled but we were left with a rather stereotypical tory bloke waving his arms about in a military style telling us they “had it all covered – far as the eye can see” (slight exaggeration there) but he did say a 6 street radius. So JB drew himself up to full at least 7ft tall and said “We will do our afternoon boards“ (I’m thinking WHAT AFTERNOON BOARDS ????). So we went round the corner muttering “pants on fire” and just doubled back later. Oh how we laughed and amused ourselves for the rest of the morning imitating the arm waving. Another high spot was realising that pillar boxes are Labour red … It’s heavy political debate in these parts you know.

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But Broadwater's where it's at

We always take lots of selfies, sometimes in the middle of the road and Johnnie always makes a crazy face. Luckily the residents of Broadwater are very used to our antics and have stopped reporting us.

Join Team Broadwater for canvassing – have fun, get a political education and make amazing friends. Always remember the number one aim – Annoy Tim. Tim doesn’t like us and, when he goes on Twitter and Facebook late at night to say rude things about us, we know we are doing ok.

Go on then, sign me up!

So I’ll sign off my musings as the guest blogger and won’t be at all offended by the audible sigh of relief and chorus of “Is Carl back yet?”

Pat Schan, Socialist, Gooner, Midwife and Led Zeppelin fan

Meanwhile in Broadwater...

With Carl Walker selfishly taking some time off to 'have a holiday with his family', Pat Schan steps in to give us her news from the north (of East Worthing)....

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I was reminded of the Kevin Costner film ‘Field of Dreams’ the other day when we were out canvassing. It’s a film where Ray, an Iowa farmer, hears a mysterious voice one night in his cornfield whisper "If you build it, they will come.” Despite taunts of lunacy, Ray builds a baseball diamond on his land and the ghosts of great past players start emerging from the crops to play baseball.

Our canvassing teams had coalesced at the end of a road, including a group of young lads who’d come all the way from Kemptown to help. We were all scratching our heads searching for a house which had seemingly vanished off the face of the earth. My standard response to housing issues is to complain about whatever economically illiterate Tory housing policy is currently bedevilling the nation. However, to the best of my knowledge, even Tories can’t make houses literally disappear into thin air.

People were looking around for this mystery house much as a group of people might look around for a missing cat. I suspect through fatigue, I found myself searching behind the garden wall as if the house might have been cheekily crouching down until we moved on. No good, it wasn’t there. As I watched our team at the end of a long, tiring day I asked myself the same question that Kevin Costner had. Our canvassing teams are out there most evenings ‘building’ it. The question is, will the voters come?

To answer this question, I need to shoot forward two evenings. We were going door-to-door in one of those streets where there seems to be so many dogs that you suspect that even the dogs have pet dogs. This is relevant because we pop ‘out’ cards through people’s letter boxes if they are not in. Out cards are crucial because they let people who are out know that we stopped in to talk to them, that Labour are active in their area and that voting for Labour matters in that ward. I became worried when I realised I had to pop an out card through the letter box of a door that appeared to contain what sounded like a wolf that had been crossed with a vampire bear*. I used my right hand to push it through. I’m left handed so if I had to sacrifice one to this wolf-bear then it was the smart choice. The wolf-bear bounded to the door and I jumped back, scared.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that on closer inspection it turned out to be a larger than normal Chihuahua with a really big voice (the Tom Jones of the Chihuahua world). I took a quick look around to make sure none of my comrades saw how petrified I’d been of something that would struggle to beat a vole in an arm-wrestle. Luckily nobody had seen. However, at the next house I encountered an issue that would put even a freakishly sonorous Chihuahua into perspective-

“I’d love to vote for Labour, but they don’t have a chance around here, they never have.”

So, is it true? Well let’s look at the numbers. We have canvassing sheets where we note down who the Labour promises are so that we can encourage them to vote on Election Day. I collect the sheets in for our ward and enter them on to a database. These early numbers are telling a story and it’s an exciting one. Good enough that I had to be told off by my own daughter for my excitable language

“Look at all of these bloody Labour voters!”
“Daddy, don’t use rude words!”
“Sorry, Sweetie. We mustn’t swear, swearing is bad.”

I neglected to explain that there is an archaic rule which allows all forms of public swearing if the reason for such swearing is the discovery of Labour doing better than Conservative on a vote count. I triggered this rule last year for about 5 minutes solid at the result of the general election exit poll.

Just as with the recent general election, our early response to canvassing suggests that we are uncovering lots of new Labour promises as well as the many that we already have. We know we are close in a significant number of wards locally, with as little difference as 20 votes in Southlands and 28 in Selden. We know that the general election showed a massive swing in this area and we know that people are increasingly desperate for Labour politicians to make our wards, towns and counties fairer. It’s there at the door and in the numbers.

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Three key issues questions have emerged from the first few weeks of canvassing and the early response is suggesting something very encouraging.

  1. Is our canvassing making a difference?

    In a word yes. People are responding really well to our large number of positive, warm and friendly canvassers. We have to keep this up. It is our secret weapon and one which other parties can’t match.

  2. If this is the case, do we need more people to help out.

    We really do. In a slightly lesser-well known forerunner to his most famous book, Stephen Hawking published ‘A brief History of Canvassing in East Worthing and Adur’ where he proved a statistical relationship between the number of people canvassing and the number of votes won**. If we can increase our canvassing teams as we get closer to the election, then we can increase our chance of winning important council seats.

  3. Why would a Tory council candidate make a talking head video in his car wearing a pink jumper, a paisley shirt and a white hoodie with a fleeced collar?

This is perhaps the most pressing question of all. I have no answer to this.

“I’d love to vote for Labour, but they don’t have a chance around here, they never have.”

Not anymore. The message is clear. We are building it and they are coming. Labour really can win big in Adur and East Worthing.

You can help us win

*vampire bears may not be real
**this may not be completely true

The early numbers prove it – Labour can win around here

I was reminded of the Kevin Costner film ‘Field of Dreams’ the other day when we were out canvassing. It’s a film where Ray, an Iowa farmer, hears a mysterious...

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