Spring is in the air (sort of) which for the political activist means that the canvassing season is well under way.
The county council elections are three weeks away and up and down the country, teams of volunteers are knocking on doors or delivering leaflets in an attempt to maximise the support for their candidate.
Given that I try to keep this column as non-partisan as possible, I won’t be abusing this opportunity by setting out why you should vote for my party’s candidates on May 2 – although I really think you should!
But for much of the time in April, I will out and about in South West Hertfordshire doing my bit. Last Friday, for example, I was in Tring.
In some respects, canvassing is a rather old-fashioned form of campaigning. I first started canvassing 20 years ago and the process hasn’t changed much.
The purpose is principally to locate your supporters. You can then make every effort to ensure that, come election day, they take the trouble to vote.
There is a common misconception that the best way of getting rid of a canvasser on your doorstep is to promise them your vote.
This is precisely the wrong thing to do. Once a political party has you down as a pledge, they will be back to make sure you have voted.
A couple of years ago, I spent an evening calling on voters in Tring who had told us that they were going to vote Conservative. In one particular street, I bumped into a Liberal Dem ocrat councillor calling on those who had promised to vote for his party.
It quickly became clear that, in many cases, we were calling on the same people!
That was not good for us, but nor was it ideal for the local resident hoping for a quiet and undisturbed evening.
The second purpose of canvassing is to get a better sense of what people are thinking. What are the local and national issues that matter to them?
Perhaps the most striking aspect to canvassing is how polite most people tend to be.
Representatives of political parties won’t always be welcome but it is relatively unusual to be met by a torrent of abuse or a slammed door.
It is also worth remembering that most canvassers are not professional politicians but volunteers wanting to do their bit for the community.
So apologies if you are disturbed over the next few weeks by campaigners.
And if you are aggrieved about not being disturbed, remember all parties rely on volunteers and we can’t get everywhere. Of course, we would all welcome more volunteers to that we can spread ourselves further.
But whether or not there’s a knock on your door as the canvassers come to call, please make sure that you use your vote on May 2.
David Gauke is the MP for South West Hertfordshire. Contact his office on 01923 771781 or visit www.davidgauke.com