Today sees the 20th anniversary since the Conservatives last won a majority in a General Election. This is a stark reminder that even the most successful and longest standing political party in human history cannot rest on its laurels. Commentators will wax lyrical that our Party must revolutionise the way that it engages with voters. What of the vastly neglected activist network?
What are the factors that influence a voter’s decision? Family and friends. Media representation. The bandwagon effect.
In each of these areas our local representatives have a huge role in shaping the decision-making process and influencing the hand that fills in the ballot paper.
Canvassers – our national representation on the front line. This is the sniper approach to political advocacy. One house at a time, one voter at a time. An arduous and thankless task that takes an inordinate amount of time, but what is it for? Influencing a vote or simply gathering inaccurate data for MERLIN?
What if the resident doesn’t like the canvasser? What if the canvasser couldn’t help with their query? What if they were on the way out and said “Oh yes, I’m a Conservative” just to shut them up and move them along?
It begs the question: what support does Conservative Central Headquarters offer to our troops?
If you aren’t a local Councilor then chances are you aren’t as familiar with the nuances of residents’ association issues as they are. How do you cope with the detailed and specific questions? You blag it. Take down their details, pass it on and try not to look like you know absolutely nothing about their questions.
Another resident doesn’t care about local issues. They’re worried about the future of the NHS, education reform and policing levels. They care about defense and drugs. They care about extradition treaties and tax avoidance. Voting behaviour based entirely on their exposure to media hype and imbalanced scrutiny. How does a local canvasser combat that? With the expectation that you are the representative for the Government, canvassers must be able to riposte with voters and defend any Coalition policy at a moments notice.
What support does CCHQ offer to canvassers on national issues?
None. We have our wits and we hope that’s enough.
A strong and unilateral decision must be taken from the upper echelons of our Party to streamline reporting lines across all Constituency Associations. Training must be strongly encouraged to promote best practice on the doorstep and encourage intra-constituency reports on local issues. Weekly summaries of Government policy and media topics complete with clarifying arguments must be sent to all activists to help support their canvassing efforts.
Real people and media hype influence voters. We need to start arming our activists with the weapons they need fight on the front line.
Our canvassers represent the Party on the doorstep. If they appear unprepared or flustered then we lose. If they pass the buck or agree that the Government is weak then we lose.
They must have every resource at their disposal. We can’t afford to take the risk that their raw wits are good enough to win a Conservative majority in 2015.