Don’t knock doors

by | 27 Apr 2023

When there is no immediate decision-point ahead, knocking people's doors and disturbing them during their busy lives is not only ineffective, it's counterproductive.

Humza has announced a day of SNP action for the weekend. We’re not taking this seriously are we? Are we? If this was serious you’d have given people some notice, no? I mean, since my kids got to school and waded into activities I need to check diaries a week in advance before I decide to scratch my nose on a Saturday. Is this unique to my family?

And if this was serious would people not be getting some support with it, a bit more support than ‘knock doors and talk about independence’? Are people being prepped with credible responses to the inevitable camper van/auditors/incident tent questions, or are they just supposed to shout ‘how dare you, how dare you’ like an SNP politician does?

Don’t knock doors. I’m urging you all, please don’t knock doors. There are two very simple reasons for this, but they are important reasons.

Reason one is easy. When you have put the effort in to holding and running a serious democratic event like an election or a referendum, the public is incredibly civic minded. During election and referendum campaigns the public is being asked to make a decision and all the evidence is that they take that responsibility seriously.

(For what it’s worth, if you’re saying to yourself ‘not all those ones who don’t vote they aren’t’ then I’d urge you to recognise that non-voters often believe this is the sane and rational thing to do if no-one represents them, which is what the poor feel. It is also very hard to argue that anyone in Scottish politics does represent the poor.)

Anyway, when voters are aware they have civic duty to perform they are pretty generous with their time. They really will stand at their door and take the time to discus important issues with you. After all, you are helping them to make their decision.

But, if you haven’t put the effort in to creating a meaningful democratic event, why should they take the time to have an abstract discussion with you in the middle of their busy lives? Do you enjoy being interrupted on your day off to discuss an issue which has no immediate relevance to you? Did you ever find god because an evangelist disturbed you in the middle of Off the Ball?

Nope, when you knock a door and a decision is approaching, you are helping them. If you knock a door for your own ends you are simply wasting their time. Hell, you don’t even have any new information or perspective to share with people because you have done literally nothing to advance the cause of independence since the last time you knocked their door.

(“Hi, it’s me again, do you support independence yet? No. That’s fine. See you again soon.”)

People don’t change their minds on big issues because you knock their door. Nor because you are stuffing one of your leaflets through their door or any other activity divorced from a coherent campaign with a coherent strategy. If you do not create a political context which changes the discussion, don’t repeat the discussion, get your act in order.

Don’t knock doors – It’s counterproductive for voters and it’s counterproductive for your wellbeing

That takes me to the second reason why you shouldn’t do it – because you’re not only wasting voters’ time, you’re wasting your own. Absent of any logic behind this silly ‘announcement’ we have to assume that its core purpose is to protect the SNP leadership through one more attempt to pretend things are normal, they’re on top of things, they’re making progress on independence…

Because Yousaf appear to have adopted that epithet for the Bourbons as his mantra; ‘forget nothing, learn nothing’. Sturgeon kicked off this time-wasting approach when she launched the ‘Big Conversation’ where members were asked to knock the doors of a million people and fill out a survey. It is probably telling that I can’t find a mention of it anywhere online when I tried to find a date.

Suffice to say that members did gather a lot of data and sent it back to HQ as requested. Except HQ didn’t bother to open the boxes. The exercise’s purpose wasn’t information-gathering but to persuade the membership that the party wasn’t drifting aimlessly on the issue of independence by, well, elaborately wasting their time.

I suspect that was the last time the SNP really turned out a genuine mass canvass. It was a crucial step on the path towards serious disillusion with the party among many of its activists, and rightly so. Pulling that old trick out of the hat now is once again sacrificing the wellbeing of the activist base for the wellbeing of the party leader.

I care about this. As an activist (though not an SNP activist) I know what it is like to be asked to do thankless, purposeless work out of duty. It is soul-sapping. It makes future activism harder because people become cynical. I care about the independence movement and it’s wellbeing. I want it to be in fit shape to start campaigning at some point in the future when there is an actual campaign.

Wasting its time now is utterly cynical at best. Does the SNP think it is presenting a semblance of normality by doing this? Or is it shooting for euphoria? Whenever things go badly for the SNP leadership either the membership numbers apparently start sky-rocketing or we’re told there is a giant mass canvass as this well-oiled machine hits the ground like an earthquake, all to disprove the naysayers.

Don’t knock doors. It’s counterproductive for voters and it’s counterproductive for your wellbeing. If you’re an activist accept your party is a mess and your leadership isn’t doing anything about it. (God I wish they were cold-calling auditors – they’re firing off generic ‘help!’ emails to the generic email address of auditing firms they found on the internet which is way worse.)

If you have any energy left then don’t spend it interrupting people’s much-needed weekends, spend it badgering your representatives to sort out their mess, or at least try to get them to accept there is a mess.

It is absolutely clear that Yousaf has no idea how to make progress towards independence. Ask a hundred strategist and they would all tell you what I’m telling you here. Half-asking Sunak for a Section 30 Order, appointing a person who is responsible for Independence and asking your membership to go out and knock doors for no reason. This is literally, line for line, a replay of the dying days of Sturgeonism.

The independence movement deserves an awful lot better than this.

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