Marchmont and Market Penetration

This bizarre electoral experience continues…ever heard of ‘redding cards’ (spelling?)? Me neither – until I was called to deliver them on Monday night… Apparently you give them out to your supporters (as determined through canvassing) for them to hand to your representative at the polling station – it serves as a way of checking if all of our supporters have voted, by the time 7pm comes, so we know who we need to chase up in the evening. Slightly bizarre – maybe even antiquated – but I got on with it, getting down to Spottiswoode Street and ignoring the drizzle. I had had an unexpected break during the day anyway, as the rain had made it impractical to set up the stall, so I had got some respite from standing behind the table, which seemed to be affecting my back and legs.

A lot of high buildings in that street – and it seems (from my direct experience) that most Yes voters do indeed live on the 4th floor. [sigh] As one has to hand the addressed card over directly to the individual concerned, there was a lot of opportunity for conversation…even though this was not a canvassing exercise. In one flat, a woman received the card for her husband with a slight smile, quietly declaring herself to be undecided. She commented on how politically informed her 8 year old daughter had become, and we discussed how positive that was for the future – then she confessed that she had actually been thinking about voting ‘Yes’, after the Orange Order march on Saturday, but said we had missed a trick by not clearing up their mess after them. I was slightly stunned – given our apparently highly successful media coup via Twitter – and suggested she look it up. This seemed to make a positive impression (as, indeed, it should have done) – but I still think she was not won over. So apparently it is not just me that does not do Twitter.

Then I met Walter. I guess I could tell the way things were about to go, when he took the card from me, and said ‘Aye, so…’  Receiving the card, for him, was merely a perfunctory introductory formality – a prelude. He needed to talk – and his sister Liz (through to see him from Glasgow for the day) was there too with a west coast perspective on what was happening through there. Without a pause for breath, he launched into an attack on the BBC’s presentation (he may have used the ‘B’ word, it is true…) – his disgust at their coverage was that of someone who wasn’t going back. He asked me how I thought it would be on Thursday – and I gave what has become my usual answer (see previous post) on the result. He asked if that was because of Tommy – I had not realised Sheridan had quoted exactly the same figures when he was taking Andrew Neil apart on the Sunday Politics Show, but I know he has been travelling extensively, and has done more than enough election campaigns, for me to take some confidence from that.

The degree of excitement was palpable – Mark said to me that he would have assumed Marchmont would be SOLID ‘No’, based on the profile of those who live there, and yet looking around the dominance of ‘Yes’ posters in the window (bearing in mind all the caveats that I used in my ‘Badges’ post), it was clear that there had been a massive penetration into the area by the Yes campaign. It was certainly true – there were far more Yes windows in Spottiswoode Street than my pack of card recipients would suggest. It looks like – although I can’t swear to it – a lot of people have committed heavily to Yes even in the month since the last canvassing. I left him, slightly bemused by his informed perspective on his environment, and trying to square that with my experience around The Meadows.

Another recipient of a card – Roy, I think his name was – told me also about how he felt we were making inroads in the area – an 18 month ‘embittered No voter’ had finally told him last week that he was going to vote Yes because of the negativity of the ‘No’ campaign. This made me realise that there had also been a change in character at the stall since I came back a couple of weeks ago. Before, one or two ‘No’s might turn up, with what Kaye referred to as the ‘Borg’ approach – completely scripted, ‘tell me why you are voting Yes’, in an attempt to sideline us from engaging with actual undecideds for hours, if necessary. But the strength of numbers on the stall now, meant that that was an impossible strategy to successfully deliver – there were always plenty of Yes people to deal with ‘passing trade’, and there simply aren’t the committed ‘No’s present to swamp us. Instead, we actually have time to work on ‘No’s…it is not what they are expecting, but you can see sometimes when a point goes home, and their confidence is – ever so slightly – shaken. I won’t deny that it isn’t satisfying. But the thing is that we actually have the resources to indulge in such tactics, and start to undermine the people sent to thwart us. That speaks volumes. And that was why, in the run-up to last weekend, when Blair Jenkins announced there were 35,000 volunteers going out on the streets, I laughed for so long when the BBC reporter said ‘and of course we can be sure that there will be just as many ‘No supporters out there, too…’  Really?  I mean – you can add all the people in the Orange Order march (many from England and Northern Ireland) in, if you want, but even then that is just not a credible statement. Regardless of the result, there is only one side that has had a grass roots campaign, and it isn’t ‘No’.

Anyway, back to those cards: inasmuch as it may be a traditional campaigning technique, I am not convinced that these cards are that useful – or, at least, not so much as where you have a small constituency of party political supporters to ‘get out the vote’. The numbers now for this are huge – and I feel that people will feel less part of a campaign that is offering to help them, than they might feel intruded on…but I know that the people that I met when I was giving those cards out enjoyed the opportunity to excitedly engage with the debate.

And I got a huge amount out of it, too, on the eve of the vote – just another kick and buzz to keep going, and remember who else is out there, willing us on.


“Those who say ‘It can’t be done’ should not interrupt those who are busy doing it.” (Roddy MacDonald)

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