As soon as the election was announced, I joined the Labour party and volunteered to take part in campaigning. I felt the Tory’s 2400 majority was assailable, so I had to campaign tactically: if we had fair voting, I would have stayed Green. I liked the members, but was not impressed.
I started on the tail end of the County Council elections. I leafleted Eagle’s Nest for our candidate, and stood outside the polling station on the day, taking polling numbers and chatting to the Tory teller, David. He is on the parish council with Caroline, and they get on, seeking what is good for the town. We talked of the local churches- he is Anglican- and the waste ground, now with permission for building. First there needed to be a check for anthrax. This shocked me, but as there used to be a shoe factory there, there was a risk of it, and if there had been a tannery it would have been a likelihood. There was often anthrax in the cattle. One voter seemed hostile to him- “I’m voting for [name]!” she said. That was the Independent.
At one time, Conservatives did not stand against Independents, I said. He explained she had been Tory until very recently, then declared herself independent, so they had to stand against her. “That could be good for my lot,” I said. He grunted. Yet the Tory vote was barely dented, and the Independent took half the former Labour vote.
Still. I leafleted Eagle’s Nest for the Parliamentary candidate, and that evening there was to be canvassing. They had planned to go round Pinetrees, but as the candidate was coming Ed decided to go for Eagle’s Nest, as people are friendlier here. When I canvassed for the Tories in the 1990s, I went out by myself, but Ed had a file with the addresses and names, and we went down a street in a gang. He would send each of us to different addresses, and we would report back to him. I only knocked on about five doors, which seemed a waste.
Ed would tell people the candidate is with us, “That young girl over there”. I objected, and so did all women I have told. I approached him circumspectly: “Some feminists might object to you calling her a ‘young girl’.” “It’s an age thing,” he said. He did not like calling her a woman for some reason. Just possibly I can imagine “that woman” might seem disrespectful, and “lady” is clearly out, but “Young girl”? I suggested he just used pronouns. “Our candidate, Beth Miller, is over there.” He assented.
I did not really discuss politics with her. I said I wanted rid of Trident. “I’m Multilateralist,” she said. After, I thought I could have asked her how she imagined that being successful, but I did not, supporting the British Bomb is mainstream Labour and anyone would be better than the Tory. Beth chatted to a few people on the doorstep.
The monstering of Mr Corbyn is taking its toll. I asked a woman if she would vote Labour, and she said she always had, but- I think she saw my face fall, and said she would, probably. On the street, there was a man whose black t-shirt had white capitals reading “Still hate Thatcher”. Even he was unsure about Mr Corbyn. I have my talking points- the strong principles and bravery of the man being arrested at an anti-Apartheid demonstration- but he is unconvinced.
I have done hours of leafleting, and not as much as others, but on Saturday 27th we had a street stall. The best pitch is by the public toilets, between the car park and Tesco Express, but the Jehovah’s Witnesses have bagged that. (The slogan on their poster said “Your family can be happy”, brilliant if you believe it. Two Hovahs hovered nearby, not approaching us as we went to the cars.) We were outside the vet’s. It’s further along, and there is less foot traffic. The man who was MP from 2012 to 2015 turned up. He recognised me, and I told him the Greens’ progressive alliance was a missed opportunity. He said he is completely out of that now.
So many people shake their heads, not even wanting a leaflet. Ed remarks it’s the stupid-looking ones who refuse a leaflet, who don’t know what damage the Tories will do to them. They can point out the benefit claimant up the street who they think is working the system, but if you ask about the bankers they don’t know about banks. I end up talking to David, an ex-teacher who tells me he has a Dementia diagnosis before his friend warns me about it. Apart from the ex-MP, his daughter, and Beth I am the youngest. We end up talking amongst ourselves.
We drove off together to Raunds for campaigning. We walked along the street from the Co-op to the library. I carried an A2 plastic sign saying Beth Miller. We chatted to a few residents, then had chips and went to the coffee shop. Ed took photos. Beth chatted to one or two voters on the streets, and we handed out a few leaflets, but mostly we seemed to be talking to ourselves, rather than engaging with voters. We have photographs, and can say Beth campaigned in Raunds. She told me she was eating a lot of chips as campaign headquarters is next door to a chip shop. I am not photobombing the pictures, exactly. I feel Beth is almost certainly the most glamorous person in them- but I look the most glamorous.