I went canvassing with Leo Littman of the Green Party, in the early part of Friday evening in Preston Ward, as previously promised. I grew up in Preston and attended the local schools, were I trust I am not remembered. Leo and I took on a street near where he lives. We worked our way up the street door by door.
I canvassed for the Labour Party in Preston in the early eighties. Remember that back then, that party still had some spunk. It still seemed to be campaigning for a different vision of society. Today it merely proffers a claim that it has more professional managers for a capitalist economy than the thieving Tory bastards. Whether the local demographics were just completely different in the eighties or whether times have simply moved on I cannot say. Suspect the latter. My experience, as a teenage canvasser for socialism was having doors slammed in my face and abuse shouted at me. The few people who might have talked to me, laughed instead. Needless to say, in those days Preston did not return Labour candidates.
Perhaps Preston is still conservative at heart and that is why it does now return Labour Party councillors. However, the Greens have made some headway, with the election of Amy Kennedy in the last local elections. At the beginning of our chosen street, I braced myself. Despite Amy’s election, I could not but believe that we would meet the same hostility as I had done in the streets of my youth.
The reality on the ground was surprisingly different. Palpable affection for the Green Party poured out of more households than I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. An absolute majority of those we spoke to said they would be or were very tempted to vote Green. Clearly constant appearances on television by Caroline Lucas MP has reset people’s opinion of our radical party. Leo carried a second advantage: he has lived in the ward for 28 years, just a couple of streets away from where we were canvassing. This was the democratic process at its very best: a local fellow asking to help his neighbours. Leo’s gentle manner is the opposite to those who govern us. He did not attend Eton, after all. His approach was to ask whether there was anything that his neighbours would like to raise with their local Green councillor or their local Green MP. Some people did and some didn’t. It was Friday evening after all. It was an uplifting experience and one I’ll be repeating soon.