In Edinburgh we’ve been running street stalls for months now but last Sunday we had our first non-rugby adventure away from Princes Street. We set off to Leith to spread the good word about adopting the alternative vote voting system in the referendum on 5th May outside Leith Waterworld. Under the auspices of the Proclaimers we enjoyed the Sunshine on Leith.
It was a gentle day of campaigning. The sun shone, gently, the rain fell, gently, the wind blew, gently.
We arrived and set up our stall. I had the exciting opportunity to buy a new multi-tool from Tesco’s in order to secure our table legs. I also got to meet a long time supporter and first time activist who I’ve corresponding with through social media. It’s always a pleasure to put a face to a name, especially when they turn out to be a natural at leafleting. The stall looked very purple. Lots of purple cloth, Yes banners, Yes speech bubbles, Yes posters. Yes balloons. Lots of balloons.
More and more activists drifted in and then we were ready to go. Armed with a host of new leaflets, exhorting our MP’s to work harder and explaining why we were voting Yes we set about engaging with the voters of Leith.
There was definitely a gentler pace to the street stall. Compared to being on Princes Street we had many fewer people walk past, but a greater proportion of them took leaflets and many more people stopped to ask us what we doing and to engage us in conversation.
What’s changed since the last time we did a street stall? Well, voters seem much more aware of the referendum. People said they had heard of the Alternative Vote referendum in a way they hadn’t heard about it before Christmas. We had lots of people nodding their heads when we told them what were campaign for. Lots of people said they were going to vote Yes. We had people who have received phone calls from our phone bank. People who had seen us on Princes Street or at Murrayfield. People who had seen campaign video on YouTube. One or two told us to hold on to our leaflets as they were already voting Yes.
We’ve changed out tactics slightly too. Early one we would group ourselves round the stall. This time round we split up and had small groups flyering on junctions nearby. Time and again we’d have someone walk past the stall who had already heard of the Yes campaign and was ready to vote Yes for a change in British politics.
Also, we’ve started handing out Yes to Fairer Votes balloons. Kids, tell your parents, what you want for your birthday is Fairer Votes for All.
One of the best things about doing a street stall is talking to people about British politics. People really want change and they genuinely care and really understand how a change in the voting system will mean a change in the way politicians and voters and Political Parties behave towards each other. Sometimes I am in awe at the abilty of the Edinburgh team to talk to people, honestly and openly about the change we want to see happen, but then the Alternative Vote is not complicated.
We had some people say they never voted. I can never understand why people would never vote. We had one person say she was going to vote No because she really wanted STV. “It’s not on the ballot,” we said. “But I want STV,” she replied. “It’s still not on the ballot. We’d like a million pounds, that’s not on the ballot either.”
My favourite interaction of the day was one lady who came over to tell us that all politicians were the same, in it for themselves. We agreed. We’re not politicians. We’re campaigning to make sure politicians work you, that they remember who their boss is. I think this nonplussed her and I hope she’ll think about how the Alternative Vote is a small change that will make a big difference to the way politicians view their constituents.
All in all a grand day out for the campaign and I’m pleased and proud to have the opportunity to talk to all the citizens of my home town about how they would like to elect their representatives.
We like campaigning. It’s good for people to ask the voters what they want.
Next week we’ll be at the other end of Leith Walk and the week after in Bruntsfield. Over the next two months we’ll be working hard all over Edinburgh to spread the word about the benefits of the Alternative Voting System.