Friday, May 05, 2006

My First Day Campaigning

Yesterday, I understood for the first time the real excitement of partisan affiliation in politics. Although not a party member, a good friend of mine was running for Oxford City Council, and so I spent much of the afternoon and evening hitting the campaign trail on his behalf. In my first stint, this mostly involved telling - pleasant, if uneventful.

It was in the evening that I was more actively involved, knocking on doors and generally persuading people to go to the polls. This meant, with barely an hour until the close of polls, being driven to the other end of the city in one last push for what was considered one of the closest wards.

Partially, it was the time factor, and the need for swift movement, that contributed to the excitement I got. Time was very much of the essence. But there was also a great feeling of satisfaction from managing to get just two households to vote. It was the second of these that provided the best story:

Me: "Hi. Sorry to bother you, I'm calling on behalf of the Liberal Democrats to remind you that today's the local election, and the polls are open until 10pm"

Old Lady: "My husband's been up since 4.30 this morning - he's been in London all day and he's only just got back in..."

Great. Just what I need - campaigning for a party that I'm not a member of, and I'm about to have a strip torn off me for disturbing people after half past nine in the evening.

"...but if you can get us a lift to the polls, then we'll go."

Will my experiences yesterday encourage me to find a party in which to hang my hat? I doubt it. As exciting as the experience, and as interesting as seeing the process of organising an election was, the crucial thing before pledging support is surely the policies they follow. In a city where one of the two parties I would consider supporting simply doesn't register, helping out one campaign is no problem at all. But would I have felt so easy about my campaigning efforts had I been getting out the vote against those wearing blue rosettes, rather than red or green? Certainly not.

But I can't help but have some regrets about that. I have a real sense of achievement about having given active support to two victorious campaigns, and working on a team with a shared purpose was great fun. Let's just hope by the next time I get involved in campaigning, I'll feel better about supporting any particular party!