Doorstep challenge ’09

A good while back I wrote here about trying to invert the common political process as we know it in Ireland whereby the candidate comes to your home and seeks to impress upon you what it is they are really, really interested in. My idea was along the lines of the public challenging the candidate on the issues that actually concerned the voter, (in particular I was hoping that people might challenge them with some outlandish topics, ’tis the fecking geese have the country ruined minister’) and to record and upload them so we ‘a merry band of polly anoraks’ could get some jollies out of them. It didn’t pan out as planned (I do say planned but that is more than a little overstating it, it was an idea that stayed overly on the vaporware) so we’ve not any content to look back on but the idea itself still has merit.Now with the local and European elections fast approaching I’ve decided to revisit it with some novel changes in particular building on what William Wall had suggested with his citizens Manifesto. Welcome to the Doorstep Challenge 2009: for the moment I’ve just parked the site. The overall idea is somewhat different this time in that I would be inviting organisations, individuals, community groups whatever to send/upload a document/small leaflet that will then be available for any and all members of the public to download, print off and hand to the politician along with their contact details should they so desire. Or we could link to such documents that advocacy organisations already have on their sites. The site should be a sort of one stop shop for the concerns of voters.

The outcome should be that politicians can more easily gauge what it is that is really concerning people in their specific electoral area, and what they need to do in practical terms to get support. Rather than simply relying on the intensity of one or two doorstep experiences they have something measurable to work from. Of course, it would be my personal view that someone standing for election should be resolute enough to stay the course and not be deflected from doing the right thing or arguing for the right thing simply because they encounter some element of organised resistance. That said our system of governance is meant to be a process of constant engagement with lots of back and forth between the led and those purporting to be doing the leading. This initiative is very much about facilitating the public in providing their input to candidates in advance of making their choice about who to vote for.

The paper leaflet of course should be recycled by the candidate, and the content should be designed to be easily printed and, I think at least, be no more than one page of a leaflet (DL sized say) in size. Non-colour images might be best for now. We will perhaps to begin by limiting the file size of the content and we would stress that the content should be issue/topic based, and not about attacking individuals or even particular parties. I would very much prefer that it would be non-partisan to that regard.

As this is a dotcom we will be looking in due course to branch out beyond the local Irish political scene and in time offer different sections that might be used to cater for different countries and their electoral systems and set ups. Not much need for a doorstep challenge for list based electoral systems or might there be even more?

Anyway, it will be a little while before the site goes live but I’d be very interested in hearing comments.

  • dear o dear

    I think it is an extremely boring, dully written, and unimaginative piece I’ve ever read. It’s a blog post on another blog about a blog coming up. If you’d so little to write about, why write at all? Could you find nothing in this huge world to interest you, other than your own scratchings on a liveless domain.

    Perhaps you could get out more?

  • Mark McGregor

    mmm….

    First up, I’ve canvassed a fair few thousands doors over my time, I reckon those days are gone for ever, thank god says my wife.

    The majority of people will not be canvassed by the candidate but a party member or supporter so most of the original idea would have just ended up with footage of people harassing ordinary folks, albeit politically active, and of little genuine interest or broader insight.

    The new idea does to seem to move beyond the juvenile concept of the first run. As I said I’ve knocked manys a door during elections and most of them are ‘talking at’ exercises as opposed to ‘talking with’ or ‘listening to’ and from my experience, admittedly in constituencies where people’s concerns and addressing them mattered as swing and seats were in play, when people did raise issues they were logged and monitored and an official position was then drawn up reflecting them within broader political positions.

    If one person raises an issue it can be dealt with off the cuff, if three in short order raise the issue it gets addressed, a policy/position formulated and that policy then gets presented at future visits in the locality on the assumption it is an issue of general concern.

    Coordinating issue raising could result in creating a theme that becomes a concern and eventually an electoral platform candidates could be forced to stand over.

    However, as someone that has also experienced political lobbying, mass postcard/generic letter campaigns get filed under ‘snow’. It’d be much better to just encourage people to think about issues and instead of giving a card actually raise personally matters that concern them. If enough people engage the doorsteppers on an issue they’ll feedback and those monitoring feedback will start to react and promise.

    I don’t think many people take the opportunity they have when faced with a canvasser. Your view does make a difference, during an election is one of the few times those that take position from votes will actually be listening.

  • PUP

    I think Mark is right. The more personal a way an issue is raised the more politicians and the politically active will take notice.

    I have knocked many a door, in a few different countries. The more personalable and genuine the canvasser, the better they are received. Equally, the more engaging and genuine the person on the door raising the issue- the greater the impact it has on the canvasser.

    Personally on being handed a pre prepared leaflet on a doorstep, I would read it and note it. If someone engaged with me, tried to convince me of the merits of the argument- I would remember and if convinced argue on their behalf for a policy creation or even change.

  • why do rural people answer doors more readily than towns folk?