You shouldn’t laugh at a Conservative MP canvassing in the wrong constituency

Well ok, you can laugh a little at David Burrowes going door knocking on the wrong side of his constituency boundary with his team, resulting in the wife of the neighbouring Labour MP getting wrongly called on as a result.

Once you’ve got that out of the way, the more serious point to ponder is ‘how did this happen?’ Not the details of whether Burrowes’s claim to have taken a wrong turn in a maze of flats but simply this. You can only knock on completely the wrong doors if you don’t have any canvass cards with you. Nothing on paper, nor anything more modern on smartphone. Instead, Burrowes and his team can only have been out campaigning blind, in the dark with no lists of names and addresses with them.

For all the talk of big data, clever targeting and smart technology, the reality on the ground is often of campaigns whose organisational approach and valuing of data would have been antiquated in the 19th century let alone the 21 century.

This gap between the theoretical cutting edge, carefully organised and calibrated campaign plans, and the actual messy reality on the ground was well captured in Ground Wars and is an implicit theme running through 101 Ways To Win An Election, which has plenty of advice on how to turn an aspiration to run a cutting edge campaign into actually having one.

P.S. A chance to laugh again: the Ukip candidate who organised a public meeting in the wrong constituency.

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