On Saturday, 60,000 people gathered in Murrayfield to be told about the benefits of changing our electoral system from First Past the Post to the Alternative Vote. I’m told some of them went on later to watch a rugby game.
A dozen Edinburgh Fairer Votes volunteers gathered outside the prominent Edinburgh landmark, Donaldson’s School, with thousands of leaflets and our two enormous banners, on the main route to Murrayfield stadium. We were joined by three new volunteers and it was great to see yet more enthusiastic volunteers become involved with the campaign. They couldn’t have joined us on a better day. This is the first day when the Edinburgh group have been campaigning when it hasn’t been awful weather. We’ve marched in the rain and canvassed in the snow. Today was a chance to leaflet and not have to wear full Arctic weather gear.
I arrived a little ahead of our agreed rendezvous to find that a few of the guys had already arrived, put up one of our banners and started flyering. I helped to attach our new Edinburgh Says Yes banner to the railings of Donaldson’s School. At nearly 9 meters and bright shiny purple it stands out. It prompts people to ask us what’s going on. It also makes me proud. It was made by volunteers in London, carried up to Edinburgh by a volunteer and unfurled by volunteers in it’s new home. I watched it being made live on Twitter. It’s a symbol of how this campaign works.
Yet again I was impressed by the can do attitude of the group. Turn up, get organised, start talking to people. I’m not alone in this and it makes it so much easier to facilitate the campaign and so much fun to be involved in it.
As the crowds streamed out of the pubs of the Edinburgh and down Corstorphine Road we started handing out flyers. “We’re saying Yes! Are you saying Yes? Everyone is saying Yes! The whole of the UK is saying Yes! We’re saying Yes today, Yes to Fairer Votes in May.”The purple Yes! Speech bubbles were practically leaping out of our hands. Lots of passers-by gave us the thumbs up or stopped to tell us they were Yes supporters We even had a one member of the passing crowd stop to help us hand out flyers. He’d been chatting to Alex and been so impressed with his arguments and his passion that he’d stopped to help for a bit. He’d also promised to teach one of our student volunteers how to talk to ladies. He’s a good looking lad apparently and a bit of avuncular advice is all he needs.
The mood of the crowd was positive and receptive. From time to time they started chanting ”Yes” as they walked away from us. The atmosphere was amazing and so good humoured. I think the fact that they had had a few beers before the match helped make them chatty. Yes is a very positive message to be pushing so people seemed pleased to engage. I love the Welsh crowd, it’s my favourite fixture at Murrayfield.
With groups of volunteers staggered along both sides of Corstorphine Road we were able to flyer and to talk to thousands of people. With two at the front handing out leaflets, two in the middle to engage passers-by in conversation and two at the end to catch any missed voters I think we managed to speak to everyone who had a minute to hear about the referendum. I’m sure they all had lots of other things on their mind. The match would have been foremost in their thoughts but as they walked away I heard more than a few conversations along the lines of “What’s all this about a referendum?” As an awareness raising exercise it worked really well. To be honest, unless you’re Welsh, electoral reform would be a more enjoyable topic of conversation in the bar after that mach and the bruising score line.
We did have a couple of negative comments. One passer-by wrongly accused of being Lib Dem traitors. One lady stopped to tell us that she was going to spoil her ballot paper as a protest against the scheduling the referendum on the same date as the Scottish Elections. I’ll address both the cry of Judas and the issue of double booking the Scottish People in separate posts.
It’s fair to say that most people still don’t know about the issues or even that there is a referendum. More than a few times somebody asked “What do you want me to say Yes to?”
It’s great to have the opportunity to tell them about the referendum.
About how the Alternative Vote is a small change that will make a big difference to how they are treated by their MP and by all the political parties. About how the Alternative Vote will transfer power from Parties to them, to the Voters.
It’s clear from the recent polling and from the conversations we’re having in the streets of Edinburgh and on the phone that the largest constituency out there is Don’t Know.
And that’s why getting out on the streets or on the phones and spreading the Yes! Message is so important.