OK, cards on the table – I’m a terrible campaigner. I lack authority, I can never remember facts and figures and I can’t marshall my arguments in the face of another’s certainty that they are right and I am wrong. This is why I don’t go out on the doorstep campaigning and why I don’t phone people to try to persuade them to vote Labour. I’ve tried it, hated it and was crap at it. I will deliver leaflets and stuff envelopes and I’ll even give the street stall a try… in short, to paraphrase Meat Loaf, I’ll do anything for Labour but I won’t do that.
Why am I so bad at this? I’m not inarticulate; I know what I think and I know why I think it, so why should it be that in the moment when faced with a voter who’s disinclined to accept my arguments, why should I come over so pale and unnecessary? Well, for a start I think it comes down to upbringing. Debate was not encouraged when I was growing up; not at home, not at school and definitely not in church. You could ask questions on the understanding that you’d be told the answers, but you could not debate. My mother’s standard answer to my arguments was ‘don’t contradict’ and this summed up the attitude of all adults to all children in my world. Don’t contradict. The result of such education was that colleges and universities spent years trying to undo this passivity and shake us into some sort of disagreement. Our lecturers would sometimes say the most outrageous things in order to get us to react; even then we’d often sit there like congealed porridge, afraid to commit ourselves.
I got better at debating; in some contexts I’m even quite good at it, but for some reason on the doorstep all my skills desert me and I think on some level I’m back in the kitchen being told ‘Don’t contradict.’ Even when delivering leaflets I’m constantly afraid of being ambushed by irate Tories outraged at having a Labour Party leaflet put through their door. It’s hard to overcome your upbringing or, as a friend of mine used to say, ‘it takes a long time to bring up your parents.’ Then again I could just be opinionated like OH who spends hours on the laptop because ‘someone is wrong on the internet’…
and whose catch-phrase is ‘everyone’s entitled to my opinion.’
* Sigh *