As often as possible, I – and my fellow St Thomas councillors, and others across Exeter – get out to talk to residents, on what we refer to as #LabourDoorstep.
In the past, this was known as canvassing, and the idea is to identify support for Labour.
But nowadays, its much more than that. We use the interaction on the doorstep to initiate conversations – to find out what residents like – or dislike – about living in Exeter, and to pick up casework that we councillors – or Ben Bradshaw as MP – can try and resolve.
One of the common complaints we hear, is that we only call around at election. But here in Exeter we have a 4-year election cycle that covers 4 years – with 3 Exeter City Council elections and 1 Devon County Council election in that 4 year cycle. And that’s without Parliamentary and EU elections and any referenda that come up. So the truth is every year is election year.
With nearly 7,500 electors in 4,000 households, often it is hard to get around to all those properties – and if we do, often people aren’t at home. We keep records on when we last spoke to residents, and there are are surprising number uncontacted since 2000, and some go back to 1997 or before.
Once we do knock on the doors, some residents point to their No canvassing stickers and signs, There is some discussion about these, and they relate to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, updated in 2010, to regulate business- to-consumer transactions and apply to conduct before, during and after the contract is made.
Cold calling is not illegal, and very few people will actually have a legitimate reason for turning up at your home unannounced and without an appointment. However, I would maintain that politicians – and those representing on political parties – do have a legitimate reason for calling. That said, residents are under no obligation to speak to anyone at the door and I – and I hope canvassers working with me – respect residents’ wishes.
And so to as series of examples of those No canvassing signs: