When you go canvassing with the Lib Dems, normally, you’re armed with canvass cards that carry quite detailed information. For any given household, you will know the full names of the people on the electoral register, their dates of birth if they have recently turned 18 or are about to. You will know whether or not they have voted in the past (or at least whether or not they were issued with a ballot paper) – this information is available to political parties who get their act together and collect the info in time. You will also know whether they’ve been canvassed before and how the person doing the canvassing interpreted what was said. (We never know how people vote – we just talk to them, and we get an impression.)
Armfuls of data. But not the really useful stuff.
You don’t know how they are known, you know their full name. If you knock on a door, and ask for Patricia when the woman there is known as Pat, you immediately put hackles up. I’d not be impressed at people addressing me as Alexander, even though that is what will be on the electoral register.
For women, you don’t know what title they use, and you can tread on all sorts of toes by getting Miss, Ms and Mrs wrong.
So there’s a few things to worry about before you even ring the bell.
Once you have pushed the button and not heard a bell, you face your next dilemma. Does the doorbell work, but just ring out of earshot? Or is it one of the thousands of bells which don’t work, and you should knock as well. If you do knock, and the doorbell did work, even though you didn’t hear it, you risk annoying the householder who will come to the door huffing and puffing and saying, “Yes, I heard you the first time,” which doesn’t put them in a good frame of mood to be pestered by a politico.
But if there’s no doorbell, you have to knock anyway. And you have to knock at the right level. Knock too quietly and no-one will come. Knock too loudly and you risk giving the impression you’re a bailiff, and no-one will come. In some of the less well-maintained parts of town, if you’re too rough with a door, or gate, etc, then you will break it if you’re not sufficiently gentle knocking or opening.
But assuming you’ve got through the hurdles of the name and the doorbell (and with all these thoughts going through your head whilst waiting for someone to come to the door you often forget the name of the person whose door you are knocking on, and look a pillock when you have to consult your canvass card again while you desperately try and scan down the page and remember which house number you’re at) you then have to start a conversation with a stranger who doesn’t want to talk to you.
Which is always fun.