The Tory at the Door

The Tory at the door nearly got away with it because he was so young. Not more than 25, I'd guess. And I thought I'd give him a free pass because I felt a bit sorry for him. To be that young and be a Tory seems rather sad.  Young life should have more joy in it than that. So I accepted his leaflet without demur, and when he asked if I had any issues I wanted to discuss I said "No".

And then I saw the smug look on his face, the look that said: "Yes, we Conservatives are great, aren't we? Of course you haven't got any issues." and I couldn't let it lie. I told him that I had loads of issues, actually, but I didn't think it was fair to raise them with him. And he said: "No. Do raise them. We want to listen".

So I did.

By the time he scampered off up the path about 15 minutes later, I'd only done the first two items off my list of grievances. So I didn't get the chance to give him the benefit of my canvassers' advice. Just in case he's passing, I share it here:

1) Read the newspapers before you come out.

Your Government holds parliament in such contempt that it announces new policy via press release all the time. If I know that, so should you. If the Government is about to remove benefits from people who are sick or have a disability (should they have the temerity to appeal a decision) – I'll know because it'll have been communicated to the nation from behind a Murdoch paywall. Do keep up.

2) Know your facts.

When I tell you about the successful benefit appeal rates i'm not making them up. So don't sneer. When I talk about the difference in success rates between appellants who are represented and those who aren't, these are bread-and-butter statistics for my work. I know them inside out. So don't get flabby with "most" or "the majority" – I can tell when you're making it up. If i tell you something wasn't in your manifesto, don't squeak "It was!". Because it wasnt in your manifesto. I read them all before i voted. You should read it yourself some time. You may find you don't like the party you represent.

If I tell you about specific provisions in the Health and Social Care Bill that I object to, it's not because a newspaper has misled me with distortions – it's because I looked up those sections in the Bill (in fact I've now read pretty much all of it, in chunks). I can read and judge for myself. It will help you if you read the Bill too. You are then unlikely to make the assertion that the Bill is necessary for the introduction of an entirely insurance-based model of healthcare. It'll be news to Andrew Lansley that that's how you are presenting his reforms.

3) It isn't about you.

Most of us can tell a story about when we've had less than perfect treatment from the NHS and some of those stories are genuinely appalling. But the NHS isn't your personal fiefdom. You don't get to invoke a massive, top-down re-disorganisation just because one part of the system didn't come up to scratch when you needed it. In the same way, I don't get to reorganise the whole country's road network when I've been stuck in a seven hour traffic jam. I spared you my traffic jam story on the doorstep – I can live without the detail of your family members' ailments. I won't vote for you out of pity.

4) Have some respect.

When I remind you of the numbers of clinicians, of healthcare workers of every kind, of public health experts who oppose the NHS reforms, you have to do better than tell me they're 'vested interests' and that you're always suspicious of the motives of people who work in the current system. When I tell you about the conferences I've attended where the reforms are being discussed and developed and where it's clear that the vested interests are mainly monolithic consultancies and generic 'service companies' who stand to make oodles of money out of fresh bureaucracy in a scorched earth health service, you'd better have a better answer than "it's time to level the playing field". You're devaluing decades of combined, relevant experience. You'll need it if you're ever ill. Don't knock it.

5) See the whole picture.

When I talk about benefits appeals and link that to the reductions in legal aid funding, I'm not being scattergun in my complaints – I am drawing a line for you between different areas of government policy that impact again and again on the same people, intensifying their misery. If you can't see the whole picture you're not ready to be on the doorstep.

5) Bloody well listen.

That "listening exercise" that Lansley did wasn't a good model of listening. Don't emulate it. If you tell me you want to listen, don't spend your fifteen minutes butting in and telling me the many reasons why I'm wrong. The reasons I am angry are not because your party has "failed to communicate" your intentions properly, or because I'm too stupid to understand them. I get it, believe me, I do. I just don't like it! You invited me to tell you why. Have the courtesy to keep your ears open.

6) Master the above.

Or don't come back.

Thank you.

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7 thoughts on “The Tory at the Door

  1. Brilliant, you said it all for me – may I have permission to print this off to hand to the next tory (or in fact lib dem) who comes to my door? I am not well enough to stand talking for 15 minutes, but I would like to be able to make the points anyway!!

  2. Or, "I’m not interested in anything you could possibly say because I have already looked at it thoroughly from every angle that I consider to be relevant and have decided you could only be wrong". Handy for dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses and indeed anyone who isn’t you. Nice to have small victories.

  3. I have been dying to collar a politician (of any colour) on my doorstep for years. I have voted in every election of any kind since I was 18 (now almost 45) and never once has any party seen fit to ask me my opinion directly. Well done, if they cant read their own manifesto they deserve a verbal kicking.

  4. Thanks for this – delightful catharsis and spot on argument. Made me feel a lot better! Only one criticism: that moment of compassion for a benighted 25 year old, even before you saw the smug smile, was a mistake. At 25, they’re already through uni and onto the ghastly creepnet, having failed in that time to twig what should really matter. They need the strongest possible disincentives, so they can stop wanting to be like the crew we see in gov’t at the moment.

  5. Thanks for all the kind comments. And Yes by all means print & use as a handout for foolish canvassers Sam. I’m sorry that you’re not well enough to give them a good talking to – even the 15 minutes ‘hot air’ time I got was more fun than I expected. Take care. x

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