Maybe I'm seem kind of a masochist but I actually quite enjoy canvassing in elections. I know some people refer to canvassers as 'human spam' but in this election-by-xfactor era, a bit of 'contact time' on the doorstep can redress the much-derided spin and keeps politics real.
I divided my time this weekend: In my own constituency TUSC are standing an SWP-endorsed candidate, as the only SP member in the village, I'm in the position of an amicable minority in the local campaign there. I'm also venturing across the river to help out in the SP-led TUSC campaign where we also have two sitting SP councillors up for re-election on May 6th.
There are differences in the campaigns but not necessarily the ones you'd first imagine:
Here in Tottenham the emphasis is on mobilising a protest vote against a prominent and up-coming Labour MP who arrogantly assumes that local demographics guarantee him an automatic shoe-in, whilst happily voting solidly for all those measures that fuck-over an area like this. In response the most common attitude is an embittered abstention-ism but there are also signs of support from a significant minority.
Down in Lewisham, with the added dimension of having well-respected Left councillors in office for some years it is not quite so much of a vacuum. At a national level it may be the same rather abstract task of capturing a mood of protest and making a small beginning. But at local level we can point to the clear example of ourselves as a party, in fact the only party, who consistently vote against local cuts. And this has an effect - for what it's worth the only 'definites' that I encountered on the doorstep were SP/TUSC ones - with a few Greens in the more middle class streets.
But what is most telling is the similarity between the two campaigns - and a feel good factor about being able to put TUSC forward as a national alternative. Of course there are differences; if I was to be picky I would say that the comrades from the SWP seem unsurprisingly to be less experienced in elections - and when campaigning they can come across a bit 'shrill and shouty'. And I don't know if it is collective amnesia, or a conscious decision to ignore the elephant in the corner, but there seems to be consensus not to mention the whole Socialist Alliance / Respect thing. But they do have some good local activists and have drawn others around them, and whatever the ideological and strategic divisions at national level, locally for too long we have existed in mutually enforced parallel worlds.
It has been predicted that after the election TUSC will fracture along the fault lines of its constituent parts. Past experience would suggest that this is quite possible but personally I hope that unity, albeit fragile, can be maintained.