When I was campaigning, I took the view that door-knocking in Guernsey was likely to be pretty low risk, but not “no risk”. So I took a few sensible precautions to try and stay as safe as possible.
One of those was avoiding houses that felt unsafe. I only came across a couple of those – places with fierce dogs, or places up little alleys, invisible from the road where you had to make your way through an overgrown garden filled with rusted cars before you reached the front door. Places that set off a little alarm bell in your head, for one reason or another.
I know that I might have completely misjudged, and those places may have been perfectly safe. But you have to decide for yourself what level of risk feels tolerable, when you are out campaigning by yourself, and I chose not to risk it.
The same goes for actually going into other people’s homes. My starting position is “don’t do it” – at least if you are talking to someone on their doorstep, and you start to feel unsafe, you can walk away if you need to. (And you can be seen by passers-by, which probably helps to keep things civil in the first place.)
Having said that, I broke that rule several times myself, and had some lovely chats with people in their front rooms, over generous (and much-needed) cups of tea. It’s always a bit of a gamble – some people who seem lovely can turn out to be completely different. But certainly don’t go inside if your inner alarm is already going off. Politely but firmly insist on continuing the conversation on the doorstep – or if it’s obvious the other person needs to sit down, offer to take a phone number, so you can call and speak to them when they’re more comfortable.
A lot of the risk of canvassing comes from visiting strangers’ houses, alone. I mitigated this by not being entirely alone. I arranged to have someone who knew where I was, and I would text them every half hour or so to confirm everything was OK. (If they didn’t hear from me, they would call me.)
I know some other candidates were even less alone – they’d have a friend or family member walking the route with them, and the other person would wait at the top of the road during door-knocking, to give the candidate and the voter a bit of space. This is a lovely solution if you have people with the time and patience to do this with you.
Alternatively, you might want to look into downloading an app like HollieGuard, which allows you to share your location and call for help if you’re in danger.
Finally, don’t forget that you are canvassing in the middle of a pandemic, even if we have been exceptionally fortunate here in Guernsey. Use hand sanitiser, minimise physical contact with other people, and respect people who are shielding. For public health advice on staying safe and healthy while canvassing, you might want to refer to the official Candidate Briefing (slides 18 onwards).
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