Baby’s First Canvass (or: how I learned to stop worrying and love doorknocking)

2016-01-31 2016 London Elections

Hello. I’m Sara. I’ve been a Green Party member since just after the 2015 General Election and a LYG Committee member since October’s AGM.

 

With the London elections coming up on May 5th 2016, we’re all thinking about how to get the Green vote out. Speaking to people face to face is widely regarded as the most effective way to engage people, and so it’s a vital part of campaigning.

As a relatively new (but actually Quite Old) Young Green, I’d surprisingly never been canvassing before. Until Saturday, that was. The Hackney Greens, my local group, are spending time every weekend from now until polling day canvassing and so I went along to their door-knocking at the weekend.

I’d had some concerns that, in the interest of full disclosure, had stopped me getting involved before: will people be interested? Will they be super-interested and want to grill me on the minutiae of policy I don’t know all about? Or even (definitely overly cynically!) will I get shouted at, or have doors slammed in my face?

I wasn’t feeling massively confident, but the knowledge that it really is the best way to encourage people to vote – and vote Green – the wedge of leaflets in my Green-issued tote, plus the seasoned campaigner by my side (HI SAMIR, Northeast Assembly Candidate!) calmed any fears I had.

Helpfully I’d also been to a great training event a few weeks ago run by Samir and the Hackney Greens, around how to have meaningful conversations with voters and turn people into supporters. We’re running similar training this week, on Thursday 17th March at 7:30pm – do come along!

After a quick briefing and recap of the training, we set off around a few streets in London Fields, knocking on doors and speaking to people there for an hour and a half (any longer and I was assured I’d be knackered). Samir took the first few houses so I could learn the ropes, and once I felt ready, I started out. While the first couple were daunting, I soon got into the swing of it and started to enjoy myself (the gorgeous sunny weather definitely helped!).

My verdict? Honestly, it was one of the best things I’ve done so far as part of the Green Party. People were overwhelmingly friendly and happy to see us, which I didn’t expect! While a few people were busy, or not interested, not one person was rude, and on the whole we had some really good, positive conversations with people. I think just showing the Green Party is bothered is a really strong message – a few people told us they’d never been canvassed before and that as a result they would look into our policy positions. I found people were very much open to voting Green: even staunch Labour supporters or those buoyed by Corbyn offered their second preferences to us on the doorstep (hurrah – no ‘wasted votes’ this time!).

I’d definitely encourage all Young Greens to get involved in campaigning in their local areas, or at one of our Action Days coming up (the first is in London Fields again on 26th March, info here).

Some tips/observations from me:

Relax. New canvassers will be given training and will never be sent out on their own, and if at any point you feel out of your depth, you can always ask for help. Everyone is just really happy you’re there and grateful for your time!

Most people, realistically, will be out or won’t answer the door (over half). We have leaflets to drop through letterboxes for this precise reason, as it’s still worth letting them know the Greens called round and are present and active in the area.

Listen to people’s concerns. Often I found people really wanted to raise issues they had in their local area to a friendly ear. Active listening (nodding, “hmmm”ing etc) and expanding on their experience with your own (“oh yeah, I know what you mean about housing! I have a friend who’s in a similar situation…”) is a great way to engage with someone and start building that meaningful conversation.

If you’re stumped by a voter’s question, be honest and say so. We had leaflets to give to people and put through letterboxes with the website, some brief info about policy and contact details for people to get more information.

Be calm, friendly and smile! People are actually OK, honest!

Come to the training event on the 17th! *

 

By Sara (who is totally going doorknocking again) – @Sara_LYG

Sara LYGs

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How Queen Mary Became Green Mary

It’s that time of year again when Students’ Unions across the country are holding their elections. This is a great way to exercise democracy but the engagement in universities is not as high as the unions would often like. Normally, there is only a turnout of around 20%. And this kind of student politics can be very distant from the kind of politics The Green Party is involved in. However, it doesn’t have to be.

I am part of the Young Greens society at Queen Mary in Tower Hamlets, one of the most active in the country. A group of members chose to run in our student elections as a slate, and we decided to take a risk and brand ourselves with the name Team Green. Five of us ran for roles: Robert Hunter for RAG Officer, Jo Whitehouse for Women’s Rep, Lewis Williams for Science and Engineering Rep, Laura Potter for Welfare Rep, and I ran to be one of our Union’s NUS Delegates. Initially, Team Green was told we were unlikely to win because we so explicitly campaigned under the banner of our party. But we didn’t mind in the beginning. Of course we wanted to win, but we also wanted to raise the visibility of Green politics on our campus.

team green flyerr

Where slates can sometimes create hostile campaign environments, we chose to run together because we all have the same political beliefs and vision for the union and, ultimately, we were all close friends from the beginning. Working together was necessary since none of us ran for high profile positions or exec roles, and we were determined to run a purely positive campaign. Our society was very supportive, and although we couldn’t use society resources to campaign for us, Team Green was very happy to be endorsed by Queen Mary Young Greens, who also endorsed several other candidates in the elections.

Results came, and they were better than we ever expected! Every single member of Team Green was elected. Every single candidate endorsed by Queen Mary Young Greens was elected. And even the elected president is a Green Party supporter too. Despite worries early on in the campaign that our label as Team Green would be detrimental to our chances of winning, we now have elected Green Party members on our student council who ran on a platform of social and environmental justice!

Student Young Green societies are the way forward for engaging younger voters. Students are less likely to be involved with local parties but are happy to be engaged within their own communities. Whether that means attending socials, or running events, or putting themselves forward for Students’ Union elections, political engagement with Green ideas has increased tenfold since our society was established at Queen Mary over a year ago. From being a tiny group of people, we are now looking at being nominated for society of the year in our Union. We can create more Green voters if we unify on student campuses.

If you are in a university Young Greens group, or want to start a society, feel free to email info@londonyounggreens.org.uk and we will be happy to help you in any way we can.

By Aaron Parr – @azapotpot

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London-Paris Exchange

As part of London Young Greens’ campaign for the EU referendum, we are organising an exchange with the Young Greens of Paris, set to coincide with the vote. We’ve got some really exciting plans for this (including a return trip!), but as our budget is so limited we are reaching out to our members to find out if any of you would be willing and able to host a number of guests for a couple of nights.

Even if you just have a sofa that someone could crash on, we’d love to hear from you. More details about what we have planned will be coming soon, but suffice to say this looks set to be a really inspiring and important event. You can let us know that you’re interested using the form at this link – there’s no obligation implied at this stage! The French are currently planned to arrive on the morning of Thursday 23 June.

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London Young Greens go to Strasbourg!

Strasbourg: Source
Strasbourg: Source

In May 2016, 7,000 young people will gather in Strasbourg for the European Youth Event. This is a festival of politics and culture organised by the European Parliament, which this year London Young Greens will be joining. There’s a fantastic programme of events, and we think this will be a great opportunity to learn new skills and meet other young people from across the continent. This year’s Event will also be taking place alongside YO!Fest 2016, hosted by the European Youth Forum.

Young Europeans
The previous EYE: Source

The EU referendum is looming, and we think this will be a great opportunity to prepare for the campaign. The events are free, and individuals need to sign up through a registered organisation – such as London Young Greens – before the end of January. To register your interest, you use this form, and we’ll be in touch after Christmas with information. If there is sufficient interest, we aim to organise group travel and accommodation, in order to keep costs as low as possible.

The EU Parliament
The European Parliament in Strasbourg: Source

The registration form is here. You can contact us if you have any questions at:

info@londonyounggreens.org.uk

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London Young Greens AGM 2015

I’ve been a member for three years and this was only my second London Young Greens AGM. The letters AGM may follow with a bored sigh but actually this AGM was really interesting for a number a reasons. What I was quite impressed was the amount of people whose first ever Green Party meeting it was. I even met someone who joined us in June after the election.

So to explain what these AGMs are about, we get reports from the current members of the Committee. These are the people that help run things for the London YGs. These are the Secretary, the Co-chairs, Treasurer and the five “open” Committee positions, in which people are free to make those positions their own. So for example in this last year we had someone in charge of Equality and Diversity and we had someone in charge of Campaigns. We also review our constitution and vote to amend certain aspects and have hustings where our Committee candidates give statements and are questioned. We then vote and elect the new Committee.

The report back from the everyone in Committee was fairly interesting about how much we’ve changed, how many events we’ve put on, the mobilising of activists for the general election and we heard about our very successful  fundraising Comedy Night which raised a lot of money for us. The amendments to our constitution were quite technical but equally were very important. For the first ever we now have a Young Greens presence in most Boroughs in London with the formation of the “London Young Greens Borough Representatives”. This is quite exciting as it means we as Young Greens can really help energise our local parties. We also continued to lead the way on equality issues within the Green Party by extending the quotas for reserved places on the Committee for women and people of colour. I believe this can really bury the sometimes truthful perception that we are a white middle class party. We also made the LYGs more accessible. We are now going to have electronic voting for committee elections next year for those unable to attend the AGM. And what was really great about the constitution debate was that so many people contributed and strengthened the amendments that were put forward. Instead of taking half an hour as was the allotted time, it took an hour! After quite a heavy discussion we then all went the local pub for lunch.

After lunch we had a small speech and Q and A from Green Party Deputy Leader Amelia Womack, who I first met in 2013. She was an active member of the London Young Greens and only a year later became deputy leader of the party. For me this shows that if you become an active member, you can do really well and get to be in important positions. She is running for Welsh Assembly next year so as Young Greens we are certainly going to mobilise and get people down there to help with that election.

Then of course we had committee hustings and elections. These were for two Co-chair positions, a Treasurer, Secretary and five open spaces. Usually these kind of internal positions within the party are uncontested but we had 9 people going for 5 positions and a lot of newer members getting on the committee. We had a really interesting discussion about the priorities for this year.
We had ideas ranging from us doing more fun activities like going to political art exhibitions, having a mass voter registration drive for young people, leading the way and campaigning on the extortionate rates of rent that students pay and of course making sure we are at the forefront of the London Assembly and Mayor campaign for next year.

With a fresh new team in place on Committee and LYGs having an official presence in most local parties, this could a very exciting year for us. Also as the Committee is made up of volunteers doing this in their spare time, it is really important that they get as much support as possible. So it doesn’t matter if you are not officially on Committee, if you want to help in any way or have any ideas that can really help our movement then please get in touch at info@londonyounggreens.org.uk

Lee Burkwood

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