The view from the doorsteps

It was good over the last couple of days to be back on the doorsteps. There is more commonsense. More interesting issues emerge than in the musings and rantings of the “air war” on the media.

So what are people talking about? A large number raise the issue of immigration. They do so in a non racist way. They just think we have invited in far too many people in recent years. They see the strains this places on housing and public services. They expect the next government to control the numbers and are grateful to learn of plans to do so. They also want our borders beter policed against the handful of criminals who come here with criminal intent.

They are talking about the economy – about the shortage of jobs especially for young people, about the poor returns on savings, about inflation and the price of petrol. There is understandable resentment about the huge salaries of some public officials and about the crazy bonuses of the state subsidised bankers. Many of them want change, as they have suffered from the recession. Many fear that things will get worse after the election when the true state of the books will have to be revealed and tackled.

They are talking about the state and cost of public services. Individual households have understandable worries about school places or facilities for the disabled or treatments in the NHS depending on their personal circumstances. Overall there is a feeling that local service providers are not empowered enough, and above their heads there is an expensive and unhelpful bureaucracy. One local civil servant was particularly keen that a Conservative government should be elected, as she is fed up with expensive consultants coming in, asking how she does her job, and then claiming large sums for telling her how to do it. They think Council Tax is too high.

More people are engaged with this election than were engaged in 2005 at a similar time of the campaign. The Conservatives are more confident in their view, keen to tell us they are Conservative, and often keen we should move on to talk to others who might not yet be of the same mind. Those in the Wokingham constituency who have decided to vote for other candidiates, especially those voting Labour and Green, tell us so, but sometimes kindly sugar the pill with a comment that their opposition is not personal, or even with a comment that they have no criticism of the way I did handle being their MP when I was in that job. As I often explain, I think it most important that any MP takes seriously the duty to represent all constituents, and to represent views to the government of the day with which he himself does not agree where needed. A good elected official needs to be fair and fair minded, and to understand there is a range of legitimate views.

There is a third group who say they have not made up their minds. They are often unwilling to discuss the election or the main issues, leaving the canvasser wondering whether they do not intend to vote,or whether they have made up their minds and disagree with us. The 2005 election and the recent by elecitons and Council elections I have canvassed have also had more people saying they don’t know and then declining further conversation. In those cases the numbers of non voters was very high and accounts for the scale of “Don’t knows” in the canvass. It is their democracy too. We, in the political parties, would like to draw them into conversation. That is the way we can either explain that they have misunderstood what we are trying to do,or can understand what they think is wrong with our approach. Political parties cannot learn to serve you better if you will not tell them what you think. Saying “Don’t know” is also the way to invite more literature and visits – it is not the way to deter a motivated party, who will concentrate on the “Don’t knows” rather than on those who have decided they like some other party better.

Everyone knocking on doors – including the candidates – is a volunteer. We do it because we think democracy matters. We do it as a public service. We do it because we do want to know what you all think. Sensible candidates and canvassers do it in the spirit that there can be wisdom on the doorsteps, and we don’t know all the answers. They also do it knowing no party will please all the people all the time.

Promoted by Christine Hill on behalf of John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham Berks RG40 1XU

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17 Comments

  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    This is seriously encouraging. Yes, I for one can say that that is exactly what I am thinking myself and also what most people I have met on the cruise to Norway and at the gym think too.
    There are a lot of duvet merchants in this election – those living off the back of the rest of us, idle, resigned, hungover,unwanted taking what they can and giving as little as possible.
    I wonder if they will be under their duvets all day on May 6th?
    If so, let's hope they wake up to find their benefits slashed and the lady bountifuls who provide their cushioned lifestyle joining them in looking for a proper job.

  2. Mick Anderson
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I was unimpressed when the encumbent Tory MP can canvassing on Friday. Although I wanted to like him, there was a feeling that he was there out of a sense of duty, rather than trying to interact with people.

    He was well up on the standard sound-bites, but was not terribly impressive. When I asked about several issues I was told "That's the way it is". Basically, tough luck. It's been set in concrete by Labour, and that's the way it's going to stay.

    He didn't stay for terribly long. I can appreciate that there are lots of other doors to be knocked on, but I certainly didn't believe that he was trying to take what I said on board. Once he understood that he was going to have to raise his game to garner my vote, I wasn't interesting anymore.

    The parting suggestion was that I send him an e-mail, which I have done. I wonder if it will be read….

  3. Mike Fowle
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    That is well said, Mr Redwood, and actually quite inspiring.

  4. alan jutson
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Your door knocking experience, and the concerns shown by those to whom you have spoken, seems to reflect many of the views of your bloggers on your site over the past many months (other than some of the do not want to talk about it or discuss it constituants)

    Due to your Blog site and its comments, along with your local constituancy work, you are John, probably more prepared and informed of the general publics opinion, than many candidates who still live in the bubble of self importance and Party rules.

    Keep on knocking, its good for the soul, the mind and it shows you are at least taking the time and trouble to interact with your constituants and listen to their views. Never a bad thing.

  5. Derek Buxton
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Very good to know that you are adopting that attitude and good luck to you. I do wonder though if you are in a minority, not only in your party but amongst the others also. We have not seen our PPC yet although I understand he has a double deck bus somewhere in Hazel Grove.

  6. Martyn
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    You said “Overall there is a feeling that local service providers are not empowered enough, and above their heads there is an expensive and unhelpful bureaucracy”… I’d say so!
    In dismantling Great Britain and allowing England to be removed from the map of the EU, in the South East (SE) region alone Labour has saddled us with expensive quangos like the SE England Development Agency (SEEDA), Tourism SE (TSE), the SE Economic Delivery Council (SEEDC), the SE England Intelligence Network (SEE-IN), the SE Centre for the Built Environment (SECBE), the Government Office of the SE (GOSE), the Regional Economic Forum (REF), the SE Regional Select Committee (SERSC), the SE Regional Grand Committee (SERGC), the Learning & Skills Council SE (LSCSE), the SE Partnership Board (SEEPB), the SE England Council (SEEC) and the SE Leaders Board (SEELB).
    This terrifying list of quangos is replicated across the other regions, but what do they all do and at what cost to the taxpayer? Since their primary role appears to be very largely the undemocratic implementation of EU diktats with small regard to the wishes of the people they allegedly represent, why do we allow them to remain in being?

  7. Deborah
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Many people are so detached from the political process that they don't seem to understand that canvassers are volunteers.
    Until I pointed out the error of her ways, my mother imagined that the parties had some sort of duty to provide her with visits, leaflets and spoon-feeding; and if her house was missed she would complain as if the canvassers and leafleters hadn't done their job properly. It didn't occur to her that these individuals were doing her a favour by turning out in the wind and rain to perform a public service.

  8. BillyB
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    What do you say to people whose views are not represented by any of the major parties and are thoroughly disillusioned by the abundant evidence of MPs' snouts in the trough?

  9. Andrew Gately
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I do not expect any of the candidates for my constituency to canvas on my doorstep and if they did I would be telling them that they stole my NR shares and they have no chance of receiving my vote.

  10. neil craig
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    I think the fact that the average UK household's annual electirc bill is £1243 & all of the main parties want to uncrease it by 60% to over £2000 when it should be £311 is rather more important to me than all the spending promises you are all going to make. Since having power at 4 times the natural price makes industry uncompetitive it is clearly more important to the country than all the cosmetic changes while you wait for the recession to end.

    Why should I vote for your party, which wants those articicially inflated prices rather than Labour who want them too & the LibDems who drool for even more destrucive prices?

    • BillyB
      Posted April 11, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      ermmm – what are you talking about? VAT, ROCs or what?

      • neil craig
        Posted April 12, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        France's electricity is produced at 1/4 the price ours is because it is 85% nuclear & 15% hydro. Since these were built nearly 2 generations ago I think it likely more modern ones would be substantially more efficient, indeed Westinghouse (formerly part of British nuclear, say thei AP1000 can be built for about £1 billion.

        All our main parties are against quick & substantial nuclear build & in favour of massive subsidies, through the carbon levy & elsewhere, on windmills. Therefore theses politicians 7 they alone, are personally to blame for taking £930 from every household in the country.

        The 60% increase is forecast by Ofgen. Bearing in mind it is a government source this is unlikely to be an overestimate.

        We are also facing blackouts which will be far more destructive to Britain than even the present recession. That such things go unementioned by all out major parties & inded censored by the state & other broadcasters shows what a contemptible alternative to a "democracy" we have.

  11. ManicBeancounter
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, I am glad that you state clearly to non-Conservatives that
    " As I often explain, I think it most important that any MP takes seriously the duty to represent all constituents, and to represent views to the government of the day with which he himself does not agree where needed. A good elected official needs to be fair and fair minded, and to understand there is a range of legitimate views. "

    I live in the Lib-Lab Marginal of Manchester Withington, where the local Labour party feel that the seat was stolen from them in 2005 (on a 17% swing). When the Prime Minister & Foreign Secretary have visited the constituency the Labour PPC was invited but not the sitting MP. This week the local paper published that Labour intend to target the seat, and will get Eddie Izzard to do some door-knocking.

    For me this is a local example of Labour's partisan attitude, that is contrary to traditional British democracy. It is something that you, Mr Redwood, and others have found in the House of Commons.

  12. thespecialone
    Posted April 11, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Doesnt the subject of how much taxpayers' money is being pumped into useless wind turbines or into the whole global warming/climate change scam?

  13. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Campaigning on the doorstep also gives you the opportunity for negative campaigning. Reducing Labour's share of the vote from 31% to 29% may be enough to secure an absolute Conservative majority.

    This can be based on Labour's own financial projections as given in the 2010 budget report, with inflation eliminated. By 2014/15, expect:

    Total government debt to be still rising
    Public expenditure to be flat – debt interest more than doubled, current expenditure flat, capital expenditure down
    Total taxation to have risen by over 4% per annum for 5 straight years

    On immigration, the winning line will be control of our borders plus a quota system to ensure that no one country of origin predominates. Immigrant communities that are already too dominant should expect a low quota.

  14. Amie Louise
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I find it hard to understand how much of this blog is accurate, maybe its because i dont have an extensive background in politics, but how is the following statement true…….

    'Everyone knocking on doors – including the candidates – is a volunteer. We do it because we think democracy matters. We do it as a public service'

    surely your oversized salary counts for something towards a wage following this 'service' you are providing.

    also at the moment alot of press is focusing on encouraging the youth to vote and make sure they dont waste their vote, so facing the upcoming election and researching my local candidates id say the majority of us are looking for someone to represent us in our town, that town being wokingham, .. you say…..

    'As I often explain, I think it most important that any MP takes seriously the duty to represent all constituents'

    surely the MOST IMPORTANT job is to represent the constituency you represent , and of course the rest, but primarily you should make it your duty to actually prioritise the people who are dragging themselves out to vote for you?

    amie louise, 22, wokingham
    Reply: I am no longer an MP. All who help me on the campaign do it as volunteers, as do all the candidates.

  15. cheap ghd
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I do wonder though if you are in a minority, not only in your party but amongst the others also. We have not seen our PPC yet although I understand he has a double deck bus somewhere in Hazel Grove.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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