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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AGM THIS Saturday 7th September 2013

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Once a year, the London Young Greens meets to review our constitution, debate our agenda for the forthcoming year and elect a new committee. It is where we make some of the most important decisions.

The time has come. We will spend most of the day talking about these issues, but there will be other things to do too. For example, we will be having speakers telling us about campaigns and how to get elected as a Green. Watch this space for names.

All positions on the committee are up for election. There are seven posts: female co-chair; open (any gender identity) co-chair; secretary; campaigns officer; social officer; social media officer; treasurer. Please see below for detailed role descriptions.

Nominations are open to become a committee member. Please provide your name and a 200 word statement to londonyounggreens@gmail.com and cc the email to the co-chairs at charlene@younggreens.org.uk and paulscottcohen@aol.com . The close of nominations will be at the opening of the meeting.

Motions for debate and amendments to the constitution can also be sent to the above email addresses.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

Paul Cohen 
Co-chair of the London Young Greens

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Co-chairs: co-chairs are expect to share the responsibilities for organising meetings, chairing meetings and co-ordinating the committee. They are responsible for enacting the will of the membership. These two positions are demanding, but also highly rewarding.

Secretary: the secretary is responsible for taking minutes of meetings, distributing these, and performing some other admin roles.

Campaigns officer: the campaigns officer organises events in conjunction with the co-chairs in order to forward the campaign focuses chosen at the AGM. This role is time intensive, as it involves contacting concerned groups etc. in order to make an event successful.

Social officer: the social officer is responsible for organising and running internal social events.

Social media officer: the social media officer is responsible for the update and maintenance of our blog, facebook and twitter feed.

Treasurer: the treasurer is responsible for obtaining money through fundraising etc. and for distributing it when required.

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Find out more at the event here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/201669733327565/?ref=2

Where: 

 
35 York Rise, NW5 1SP
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Why Greens should fight the Arms Fair this September

By Joe Lo

For us, the Green Party has 4 key principles: peace, democracy, environmental survival and social justice. The arms trade represents the ultimate affront to all four and, in September, the arms trade, in all it’s blood-drenched finery, will come to London for the DSEI arms fair, one of the biggest in the world. The Green Party has led the fight in parliament against the arms trade and, in September, we should be on the streets of East London, with the Stop the Arms Fair Coalition, to meet it.

So why does the arms trade violate these principles? Well, with peace, it’s obvious. Some would argue that “guns don’t kill people, humans do”. Welsh comedy rappers, Goldie Looking Chain, would be more specific in arguing that “guns don’t kill people, rappers do”. While there’s an element of truth in this, there’s also significant evidence that the availability of weapons is likely to intensify, deepen and prolong conflict. Particularly in the era of modern wars that are increasingly fought by multiple, non -state actors who often have more to gain from conflict and the economic opportunities it presents than from peace. The availability of arms in Libya was a significant factor in causing the recent conflict in neighboring Mali. Syria could be the same. In 2011, 8 out of the 55 countries represented at DSEI were involved in major conflicts. Some of them, like India and Pakistan, are in conflict with each other. More simply though, there is a powerful truth in the argument that every bullet that kills a human being, is produced and sold somewhere, and, wherever that is, it can be resisted.

Secondly, democracy. As the Arab Spring showed, humans have a universal urge to control their own lives, to live in democracies. It is only the entrenched power of ruling elites that can prevent them. Power comes from arms and many of those arms are sold at DSEI. As I write this, Turkish citizens are being killed by security forces. Turkey is regarded as a “priority market” for weapons sales by the British government and came to the 2011 DSEI fair. Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia also attended that fair and subsequently used weapons against their own citizens to suppress democracy.

Thirdly, the environment. This argument is less obvious. Like many big businesses with image problems, the arms trade goes to great lengths to appear environmentally-friendly. The appearance of “carbon-neutral” bullets in 1999 grew widespread mockery. In fact, the environment may have the most to gain if the arms trade were to wither away. The millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money that is used to subsidise the arms trade could be pumped into a Green New Deal instead. Jobs may be lost in the arms trade but many more would be gained as renewable energy is a more labour-intensive industry. Supporters of the arms trade often argue that it helps protect our nation from it’s enemies. Firstly, it doesn’t. In some cases it literally provides ammunition for our enemies, (for example when a company part-owned by Britain’s BAE Systems sold missiles to General Gadaffi). Secondly, climate change is far more of a threat to our security than any enemy that could be defeated with conventional weapons. Despite this, successive British governments have pumped money into arms whilst only paying lip service at best to renewables. In 2011, the government spent 30 times more on research and development into arms than into renewables.

Finally, social justice. Both at home and abroad, the arms trade tramples over fairness. As mentioned above, it soaks up public money that could be used to raise the minimum wage or build houses for the homeless. It maintains these subsidies through lobbying. The former Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said “In my time I came to learn that the Chairman of British Aerospace appeared to have the key to the garden door to Number 10. Certainly I never once knew Number 10 to come up with any decision that would be incommoding to British Aerospace“. Overseas, British arms companies are less subtle, often simply bribing corrupt public officials for contracts. In 2011, BAE Systems allegedly bribed the Attorney General of Tanzania to persuade him to buy an Air Traffic Control System. The system was sold at ten times the cost it should have been and, more importantly, Tanzania doesn’t have an air force so has no need for a military air traffic control system.

All this means that the DSEI arms fair simply must be stopped. What’s more it can be stopped. A similar fair in Australia was prevented from going ahead in 2008 by direct action, lobbying and mass protests. The Stop the Arms Fair Coalition is a broad, energetic and radical non-violent campaign group that is making huge strides towards making the Arms Fair impossible to run, or at least to renew. Green Party members should be at the forefront of the campaign, fighting for justice as strongly as we always have done. If the arms trade is stopped, it will be a huge step towards creating the kind of society we want to see.

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