I’ve presented myself, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, at the odd doorstep.
Suffice it to say that I can do the various spiels in my sleep. For example, I take great pride in being able to do the residents survey spiel in record time and without pausing for breath:
“Hello/I’m/ calling/on/ behalf/of/ the/lib/ dems/doing/ a/
survey/of/ local/views/ if/you/ are/able/ to/fill/ it/in/
please/leave/ it/hanging/ out/of/ your/letter/ box/and/
we’ll/pick/ it/up/ in/twenty/ minutes”
(It has to be said like that, without pauses – very fast. Otherwise the person breaks in to say that they haven’t got time to do a survey. But if you get to the end of the sentence they realise you are going to leave them in peace and they are all right about it.)
So, I have been able to witness the reactions of a large cross-section of the Great British public, when they are faced with a representative of a political party on their doorstep.
I am happy to report that, by enlarge, the average great British person fluctuates between friendly and pleasantly semi-comatose in this situation. It is very rare to encounter someone angry or even “shirty”.
But I have been able to compile a graded list (below) of the angry/shirty types, starting with the mildest, with an indication of their prevalence in, say, a smallish town of 30,000 inhabitants, together with my normal reaction.
1. The “That’s none of your business” type
The “That’s none of your business” is normally said in an affronted tone, very much along the lines of “Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells”. They normally stamp their little foot as they say it. I smile sweetly and mark these down as “Conservative”. There are probably about 70 of these in an average 30,000 town.
2. The “Not interested – I am Conservative!” type
Again, that response is said in a most affronted tone. Again I smile sweetly and add the remark “Thank you very much indeed for that most valuable information” before turning and leaving. There are normally about 200/30,000 of these.
3. The “Rant Rant Rant pedestrianisation Rant Rant Rant foreigners Rant” type
There is a special column on our sheet for this type. It’s called the “anti” column. They are against us but it is not clear what they are for. I smile very sweetly and nod very earnestly as they pour out their bile and then thank them very much for their views (on one occasion I did lose my patience and told one of these types that they were talking rubbish). About 8/30,000.
4. The mild swearing type.
A “fork” escapes their mouth. Another sweet smile and mark them down as “anti”. About 15/30,000
5. The off the scale swearer
I have only ever met one of these. The exchange went like this (I have converted his swear words into everyday words):
Me: Good evening, Mr xxxxx? I am calling on behalf of the Liberal Democrats doing a survey of local views….”
Resident: You can forking well fork off, I am forking well eating my supper and I am going to forking well tear that up! (points to survey sheet).
Me: (enthusiastically) Well done! (well, I thought that he deserved congratulations for being able to eat his supper and tear up the paper).
Resident: Fork off! Fork you! You punt!
Me: Well done!
Resident: Pish off! Look after the forking foreigners! You’re a forking winker!
Me: (changing tack on entering this, for me, new area of voter/politico discourse, making up new responses) God Bless you! (I don't know why I said this but it just seemed a good way of trumping his anger)
Resident: Fork off!
Me: (now standing on the public pavement) God Bless you!
Resident: Fork off!
Me: God Bless you!
At this point, the resident had belatedly realised that whatever he said, I would stand on the pavement for the rest of the evening saying “God bless you!”. He therefore retreated into his house. I was, fortunately, younger and fitter than him.
I think the incidence of such militant swearers is probably about one in every 150,000 people in the UK. I marked him down as “the antiest of antis” but that was a somewhat insufficient description of the man. To do his reaction justice, I think that a balloon (rather like those balloons which fly about a forty foot above garages sometimes saying “Sale now on”) should be flown above his house saying “Do not call on this man”.