What was your most bizarre canvassing experience?

Rifling through some old blog posts I came across these two great clips of political canvassing, taken from Dennis Potter’s satire Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton which, like all great satires, comes with a large dollop of truth:

Of course, grim canvassing experiences can be the trigger for fun, even if Liberal Democrat peer Tim Razzall recounts in his memoirs going a little far:

After the first ten houses, all of whom had told me that they were Tory and disliked the Liberal council, I thought I would have some fun. For the next ten houses I said I was conducting a consultation as to whether the name of Fife Road should be changed to Nelson Mandela Street. Margaret Thatcher had recently described Nelson Mandela as a terrorist, so the expressions on the doorstep were stunned.

Not a tactic that figures in my canvassing factsheet.

And then there were the cases of the parrots and the board game.

What’s been your most bizarre canvassing experience?

10 responses to “What was your most bizarre canvassing experience?”

  1. The two videos were blocked, sadly.

    My most bizarre experience was when I knocked on an open door of a small terraced cottage to hear a female voice say, “It’s on the mantelpiece.” I replied and said, “I don’t think I’m who you are expecting.” A door opened to reveal a young lady wearing a towel that was definitely too small for her. She said, “Oh, I thought you were the rent man!” “No, I’m sorry. I’m canvassing for Richard Wainwright, to get him re-elected.” “Liberal?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. “That’s OK then,” she said and I went on my way.

  2. This was one of the funniest stories I ever heard. The late Charles Curran who was Tory MP for Uxbridge was elected in 1970. He recalled on a Question Time (or whatever they called it then) programme chaired by Robin Day that he had canvassed a house in his constituency. An older gentleman answered the door and told him “Look mate, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with this country. There’s too many blacks and too many Jews……and I’m voting Liberal” whereupon he slammed the door in Curran’s face.
    Sometimes it can be very difficult to respect Joe Public!

  3. Back in 1992, I was the Election Agent and was taking our PPC canvassing.

    At one particular door, we were greeted by a gentleman who can best be described as looking like a retired Colonel.

    I introduced my candidate and, ignoring the niceties, the “Colonel” barked at him,

    “Where do you stand on flogging?”

    Recognising that this may not be fertile ground vote-wise, my man replied, “What people do in the privacy of their own home is entirely their own business!”

    We left the “Colonel” doing a fair impression of a goldfish.

  4. The standout moment for me is interrupting a gentleman midway through doing the vacuuming while wearing (what I presumed was) his wife’s underwear. He was enthusiastic and chatty, definitely voting for us – and one of the few people who I’ve retained eye contact with for the entire experience. The other canvassers on my street were a bit nonplussed.

  5. Canvassing in the sixties with a pious and fairly humourless supporter, we knocked. Definitely noises from inside. Eventually, knocked again. Just giving up when a woman opened the door, doing up her dressing gown sash. “Sorry to keep you. I was obliging my husband.”

  6. Inadvertently knocking up a house in the less salubrious part of my ward which transpired to be a brothel and being greeted by a scantily clad lady asking me what services I had come for tonight. She was somewhat perplexed when I replied her vote and the votes of the other members of your household please before beating a hast retreat!

  7. There are so many. But I always revert to February 1974 canvassing in Pudsey when a little old lady said she might vote Liberal but she certainly wouldn’t vote Labour because they were keeping toilet rolls out of the supermarkets.

  8. I won’t call it ‘bizarre’ but just a nice wee moment that I’ve always remembered, from Edinburgh West in 1992. I was an eager 21-year-old. This nice middle-aged man was very pleasant throughout our chat.
    Me: Hello Mr Smith? I’m calling on behalf of Donald Gorrie, your Liberal Democrat candidate for the election.
    Him: Oh yes?
    Me: We’re wondering if he can count on your vote on Thursday?
    Him: Oh, well now, that’s a secret isn’t it?
    Me: Ah yes of course, You don’t have to tell me.
    Him: No. I mean people fought for that, didn’t they? The old secret ballot.
    Me: Absolutely right. I hope you don’t mind me asking.
    Him: Oh no of course not son. You’ve got your job to do. It’s quite nice to be asked!
    Me: Would you be able to tell me how you generally vote? Like, how you voted last time?
    Him: Mmmmmmm, no – sorry. That’s private too.
    Me: Of course. Well I’m sorry to have disturbed you.
    Him: No, not at all.
    Me: I see there’s a Mrs Smith too. Would it be possible for me to spea…
    Him: Aye, she’s voting for Donald as well. [closes door with a broad wink].

  9. In a recent by election in Taunton I was knocking up when a little boy of about 6 came to the door and I asked him “Could I speak to mummy or daddy please?”
    He said I’ll go and get them leaving the door wide open. After a few minutes he returned saying “they’re in the shower at the moment. Too much information !!

  10. As a raw recruit in 1989 before anyone told me not to accept ‘I haven’t decided yet’ without probing further, I canvassed a middle-aged woman who said, I haven’t decided yet. She told me the same thing in 1991. However come the 1993 County elections, she told me that ‘I’ve always voted Conservative, but this time I really don’t know!’
    (I’m still puzzled that we managed to canvass the same road three times in three elections!)

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