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.