THERE is something particularly irritating and invasive about telephone canvassing. I’m not sure why, maybe because it lacks the basic effort of trudging down through the streets and across the estates on the knocker. With the phone: You are there sitting down to watch Coronation Street, the phone rings off the hook and there’s somebody telling you to vote for them or one of their mates – and by the time you get back to your sofa, somebody has been poisoned by an off-key hotpot in the Rovers Return.
One of the silliest things the Camden Labour Party did in the last council elections was to send a recorded ‘Hello, this is Raj..’ message to voters in Kentish Town telling them that group leader Raj Chada had come up with a plan to save the Prince of Wales Baths. His swoony Irish tones did little else but generate another reason for the oppo to mickey-take.
Labour still uses the phone as an election tool in Camden, but, I hear, they are going in more for actual conversations than robotic soundbites in this campaign. A team of volunteer telephonists working for the party is apparently set up each night in a secret location in Kentish Town. (Hmmm…. Now who would have a big enough premises in Kentish Town suitable for that? It’d have to be somewhere like a TV shopping channel’s warehouse or something)
The others are at it too. I’ve had an answerphone message from the Lib Dems, and I learned this week that Chris Philp, the Conservative candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn, has enlisted phone helpers . In fact, a trusted Lib Dem councillor in Camden tells me that he received a bizarre call from the Tory team. (And they laughed when Glenda Jackson wrote to them asking for their votes). Needless to say it was a wasted effort.
The Lib Dem tells me, however, that he is signed up to the Protected Telephone Service, a regulatory service I didn’t know about which apparently anybody can sign up to and it filters out wanted hawkers on the phone. He should have been insulated from phoning canvassers. So, how did the Tories get access to his home number?
I smell complaints to the Information Commissioner.