Thursday, 11 September 2008

You Better Knock, Knock, Knock on Doors

On Monday Ideas of Civilisation posted an interesting piece on his blog called "Should politicians have to contact voters?". It caused a little bit of debate in the comments thread of which I partook. Well yesterday I noticed this challenge issued by Nick Clegg which takes up just that point.

Nick points out as with IoC that most people feel alienated with politicians, I can vouch for that from the contact I have had with people on the doorstep. They rarely see their politician and in some instances have gone many years without any direct contact with a member of any political party coming to them before I turned up. Too often it seems that politicians especially in what are conceived to be safe seats take their electorate for granted and fail to connect.

Nick points out that he also feels the best way to engage with people is to go and talk to them saying:

"I'm passionate about connecting with people. Talking with them, listening to them, and learning from them. That is why since I became Leader I've been holding Town Hall meetings in constituencies across the country. And that is why at our conference in Bournemouth I will be challenging our party to knock on at least a million doors between the end of conference and Polling Day for the Local [in parts of England] and European elections. It is a tough challenge, but one which I am confident that we are more than capable of meeting.

"For Liberal Democrats calling on people to talk to them isn't just about elections and votes. It is about understanding what matters to residents in our communities. Our opponents often deride us for listening to the very real concerns of voters about local issues. But it is something to be proud of that we take seriously such concerns and, more importantly, work to act on them. This is what community politics is all about; and this is what makes us different from the other parties. Community politics rightly lies at the heart of our party and the way in which we do politics."

I totally agree, while you yourself may be somewhat tuned in to the concerns at a certain level you can get caught up too much in the high level, high profile politics. So without direct contact with non-political people you can miss an underlying groundswell of opinion from residents, concerned parents, the elderly or some other group in your society. A number of people have at times said to me that they feel that Lib Dem policies are often common sense, although sometimes followed by the phrase but I can't see myself voting for you. I think the fact that Lib Dem politicians and activists do engage with people is partly why our policies do form common sense, we hear both sides of the argument before going to conference to shape policy and the direction our party will take.

I for one will be out and about on doorsteps but I can't do a million on my own of course.


  1. Interesting post. I'm used to the American discussions on this, and for some reason no on here seems to talk about the one most important thing about door knocking: knocking on doors brings more people out to vote.

    You can find out more about the british research at

    and the american research at

    But in a way, turnout is a different question than reconnecting with politics. That's a qualitative dimension. And if you want politicians to actually do something after listening to people at the doors, doesn't that require a bit more work?

  2. You quite right Super, listening in only part of the story of course, indeed usually only the first part. Hopefully after listening action is taken by your party in that particular area of concern and then you may well be able to express what you party hopes to do, or even better is already doing or has done to answer that concern.