Candidates reveal comedy canvassing capers

Chris Rosling-Josephs
Chris Rosling-Josephs
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Candidates in elections really should be paid danger money. After the initial excitement of being selected has worn off, they face months of street stalls in the rain, leafleting up Sheffield’s endless hills and door knocking complete strangers.

It takes guts and determination to be a local election candidate - especially in bad weather. Mark Seddon was out door knocking when the Beast from the East intervened.

Dianne Hurst

Dianne Hurst

He said: “I was out talking to local residents but unfortunately it was the day the Beast from the East hit us. The snow got progressively worse until we were all covered head to toe. About an hour and a half in, we had to call it a day and went indoors for some shelter and a coffee.”

Snow can be the least of your worries compared to knocking on a stranger’s door.

You never know what you might find inside, whether you will be given a cup of tea or a flea in your ear.

Chris Rosling-Josephs once caused a domestic between one couple. “I was putting a leaflet through a door and a man grabbed it, shoved it back at me and said we don’t vote Labour in this house.

Mark Seddon

Mark Seddon

“A voice came from behind him and said yes we do vote Labour. The man turned round to see his wife stood there. He said, you don’t vote and if you did, you’re not voting Labour. Do as you’re told.

“She stood up to him and said, say that again and you’ll be sleeping in the garage tonight. As I left, he ripped up my leaflet so I gave her another one.”

On another occasion, Chris knocked on a door to be greeted by two women in nighties. “There was a young woman who put her coat on but the old lady grabbed a pair of knickers off the settee and started to put them on in front of us.

“She said I can’t talk without my knickers on, which made me laugh as they had both been happy to open the door in their nightdresses.”

It’s not just voters who need to be careful about their clothes. Dianne Hurst was once criticised for her outfit while out canvassing.

“A woman told me I should be wearing a skirt,” she remembers. “I couldn’t understand why until she said they always had Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on the door and the women always wore trousers - she said I should wear a skirt to show I was a candidate not a Jehovah’s Witness. My colleague Peter Rippon quipped that he would wear high heels if it got us votes!”

When you’re a hardened political campaigner, it can be easy to forget others aren’t used to it as Dianne remembers.

“When I first stood as a candidate I had been doorknocking for donkey’s years. A friend asked if he could help and I asked him to deliver some leaflets for me.

“On the very first morning he rang to say he had been bitten twice by the same dog. The dog bit his fingers as he pushed the leaflet through the letterbox then it ran outside and bit his leg as he ran away down the path.

“My friend was upset and worried about tetanus but as I drove him to hospital, all I could think about was the pile of leaflets that still needed delivering and who was going to do them.”

It’s not just dogs that can snap, members of the public can be a fierce bunch too. Bob Johnson remembers being chased around Barnsley by an irate woman.

“I was once with a friend delivering anti-fascism leaflets. At the time we had really short hair and a woman took one look at the leaflet, saw it mentioned Nazis and thought we were the fascists! She chased us all round the neighbourhood until we could explain we were against the Nazis too.”

It can be a thankless task being a candidate and sometimes all you can do is bite your tongue and see the funny side. Which is what Chris Rosling-Josephs did when he was asked to give an elderly lady a lift.

It’s not unusual for candidates and party workers to give people a lift to the polling station as the night draws to a close and they’re desperate to secure those last few votes.

But it can backfire as Chris remembers: “I was with a former Labour councillor and we went to collect a little old lady from a sheltered housing complex.

“It tooks us 15 minutes to get her to the car, we drove her to the polling station, then it took us another 10 minutes to help her inside.

“No one is allowed near the polling booths so we stepped back to let her vote only to hear her say in a loud voice, which one is the Lib Dem candidate?

“My Labour colleague grimaced and muttered, she can find her own flipping way back home!”