28 November 2016

So many doors; So little time

| TW Gibbings
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ACT Election Door Knocking

This is an election story about numbers and knocking.

I was an ACT Labor candidate for Brindabella – Tuggeranong, not including Kambah – in the ACT election. I’ve never campaigned before. When I first started door-knocking in March this year, I noticed very soon how often how happy and/or impressed people were that I, would-be politician only, was taking the time and making the effort to personally introduce myself and seek their vote.

‘I’ve lived here 5/10/20/35 years and this was the third house in the street/suburb/Tuggeranong and no politician-’

‘Umm, actually just a wanna-be politician,’

‘-Whatever – has ever knocked on my door! You’re the first and I think it’s great that you’re here and meeting people,’ they’d say (or words to that effect), with surprise, disappointment, bitterness or cynicism.

I’d preen a little, shrug my shoulders and #humblebrag about how I, ‘Couldn’t speak for anyone else but I think meeting people face-to-face is really important. It is disappointing that no one has bothered to make the effort with you yet.’ If one had looked very closely no doubt one might have seen the self-righteous halo faintly gleaming above my head.

But, as the months passed, and it took me weeks and weeks upon weeks to knock my way through 4 pairs of Volley OCs and one Tuggeranong suburb then another and another and another and another and another and another – in fact, not even knocking my way through comprehensively, but spending weekday evenings and all weekends picking off streets here and there – I climbed down off my high horse of self-righteousness.

The following figures could be a little rubbery but bear with me, to wit;

I was a solid door-knocker. I could walk for two hours in the evening 2-4 times during the week easily enough, and back that up with 7 hour sessions on Saturday and Sunday. And I did that every week from March near as dammit.

In two hours I would average visiting about 27 houses, maybe slightly more on a weekend because less people are home. That’s not talking to everyone at every house, but say 17 houses had people at home. At 11 of those houses people were willing to listen to my pitch and at 2 of them people were prepared to invite me in or have a longer chat on the stoop.

So what are the numbers at full speed?

4 x 2 was 8 hours of weekday evening knocking for a total of about 108 houses. 14 hours of knocking on the weekend should mean visiting about 189 houses for a weekly total of about 22 hours for 297 houses.

Mind you, this is all “perfect world” stuff. A lot of weeks had less hours than that due to spending time with the family, work commitments, travel commitments, raining, snowing &c.

The election this year was on the Ides of October and I door-knocked for the 35 weeks leading-up. The vast majority of those weeks I probably knocked for about 18 hours, but for this exercise we’ll go with the perfect world’s 22 hours.

35 x 297 makes 10,395 knocked houses. Now there is no way I got to that many front doors. My campaign was fun but not perfect. I think personally I might have go to 5500, maybe a few hundred more, by October 15.

But think about that perfect world number. 10,395 houses visited over 35 weeks, knocking 2 hours a night, 4 nights a week, and for ¾ of the weekend’s daylight hours – no playing with the kiddies, no helping around the house.

If I could have kept that up for a whole year – and let’s be frank, on election day I was 35 and 2 days old, the Labor Party’s youngest, and probably fittest, candidate in Tuggeranong, and even so my ankle was sore, my knees were sore, my back hurt – but if I could have gone for 52 weeks, I might (if everything went perfectly every week) have knocked on 15,444 doors in Tuggeranong. Of which 13,896 homes would have people home, 6,177 of them would be happy to listen to me, and I might score 1,081 cups of tea.

There are 32,789 houses in Tuggeranong. According to Wikipedia.

That’s well more than 2 years walking, with one day off a week. No time for working in the assembly (if I’d been elected by 32,789 votes), doing the shopping, responding to correspondence, talking to the family.

I guess what I am trying to say is – don’t expect a politician around your house anytime soon. It is really hard, and they are trying really hard, but there are just so many of you and so often none of you are home!

You might have been living there for 35 years and the 5 times in that period some perky political neophyte bruised their knuckles on your door you might have been out, or out the back, or asleep, or cooking dinner, or bathing the kids, or on the toilet or in the shower or doing anything meaning you couldn’t hear the knock or open the door.

So if you’re home in Tuggeranong, Belconnen, Weston Creek, Woden, Gunghalin, north and south Canberra in the next four years, and if a candidate of any stripe knocks on your door, maybe make the most of it? It won’t happen often, because statistically and physically it can’t.

Take two minutes, maybe three, engage in the moment and tell us why you’re thinking this is what your community needs. Take the time to make us better candidates and hopefully representatives. We’d appreciate it.

Now, see you sometime in the next 15 years.

While TW Gibbings wasn’t elected as a representative for Tuggeranong and his knees still hurt, he is on Facebook at taimuswernergibbings.

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Good on you, Taimus. I agree, it’s a fairly inefficient way of getting around. Is it possible to target it a bit better using the party’s electoral database – targeting houses of voters of a specific age range or new to the electorate? I wonder how door knocking compares to setting up a card table at the local shops?

I’m still floored that Joy Burch got back in, given that there were other Labor alternatives. I have lost a little bit of faith in my fellow Tuggeranonians.

Taimus was close but missed out to the incumbents. I noticed that he won many or most of the booths in the areas he door-knocked.

We had a chat and he was quite impressive. Best of luck next time.

We’ve all expressed concerns about the Labor government and its deals with land developers who seem way too friendly with them. We’ve complained about the dodgy MOU with the unions. We’ve complained about about the drip-feeding releases of land in Canberra that keeps the housing market artificially inflated. We’ve complained about the decisions being made regarding road management. The people of Tuggeranong have been asking for better amenities and infrastructure for years.

And yet the Labor government does nothing about these issues. Do you actually intend to use the feedback to make yourself a better representative? Or will you just give lip service to the people opening the door, ignoring their concerns while you toe the party line? Because I have to say, the elected representatives for ACT Labor, and the Chief Minister in particular, have done very little to show they’re interested in the what the residents have to say. They are far more interested in what the Labor party, the unions, and the land developers have to say.

Only one candidate knocked on my door during the campaign – Paul House from the Canberra Liberals who I was going to vote for anyway because I went to school with him and he found me a job during the recession when he worked for DEET. We had a good chat catching up on old times and discussing our history of weight training and fitness. As we all know Labor won the election and a Greens candidate who lost her seat in a previous election won the seat Paul should have won in Murrumbidgee on preferences.

A few days ago he was training in my gym and I couldn’t help thinking that maybe he got the better deal by not winning the seat. If he’d won the seat he would have been stuck behind a desk and making speeches in the Assembly in between long hours sitting down on the government benches. Here he was now in the gym like me keeping fit and living the dream.

Not much is written about what happens to election candidates who fail to win their seats but in this case things seem to have turned out for the better.

After all that door knocking, how many votes did u get ?

I had precisely one candidate knock on my door during the entire campaign. Well I presume he was the only one, because he was the only one to leave a “sorry I missed you” card at my door. He got my #1 vote, also because he was the only candidate I saw at the polling booth (I know they can’t be everywhere) and he had his cute dog with him. And he wasn’t Andrew Barr, and I wanted to vote Labor, but did not want to vote for Mr Barr.

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