Interview with the ‘knock for choc’ champions!

We all know how important door knocking is to our chances of success in an election. That’s why during Fair Trade Fortnight (26 February – 11 March) we ran a competition called ‘Knock for choc’ where the ward team to make the most contacts during the period won a £40 hamper full of fair trade chocolate.

Mosborough Ward in Sheffield won the competition with 920 voter contacts. What a result!

The competition’s aim was to get local teams going at the pace needed to win in May through a little friendly competition. We recommend you try a little gentle competition in your local area too. It doesn’t work with everyone, but you may find some of your local teams really step up to the mark!

920 voter contacts over a fortnight is exceptional work so we stopped by to speak to local councillor Gail Smith who is the candidate in Mosborough ward to ask for some tips and tricks to replicate this fantastic feat.

Q. 920 contacts in a fortnight is quite the achievement, can you share a few of the secrets of your success?

A. Sheffield City Council wards are large (about 13,500 people in 7,500 homes), so we do need to canvass most weeks to build our voter lists for polling day. Outside of election time I canvass with a residents’ survey, this allows an easy way into conversation. We deliver our surveys with freepost envelopes, so even if residents are out we still pick up local issues and voter intention from those who reply.

Q. How many canvassing sessions do you have a week?

A. I try to get on the doors twice a week, this has been supplemented by a team on the phones. Defending the September 2016 by-election gain in Mosborough is a priority for the local party, so I have been helped by colleagues from across Sheffield.

Q. Liberal Democrats from all over the country are very impressed by your amazing efforts but how do local residents feel about it?

A. We’ll know at the count! I like representing the area I live in and where I’ve brought my two daughters up. I’ve spoken to lots of local residents who say it’s such a change having a councillor who keeps in touch with them all year round.

Q. How do you get people to attend your door knocking and phoning sessions?

A. I’ve always opened my house for action days. Keeping the volunteers fed and watered means they are more likely to come back for more.

Q. What’s your favourite canvassing story? 

A. It’s good when they repeat your Focus story back to you. I knew I was in with a good chance of winning the September 2016 by-election when so many of my conversations with voters in the last few days consisted of them paraphrasing the messages in our leaflets.

Q. What’s the best thing you’ve achieved while you’ve been elected?

A. Getting the council to fix the district heating system on Westfield estate. The two Labour councillors in the ward said it couldn’t be done, but I called a residents’ meeting and after repeated calls from me, the council officers have found a solution.

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