Here's an interesting difference between the two main parties. If you volunteer to go canvassing for the Tories, you are welcomed with open arms and - frequently with little, or even no 'training' - sent straight out onto the streets with a cheery "have you done this before?" If you're a first-timer, you might be sent out as part of a little team. If you self-identify as "experienced", or are just cocky, they'll happily send you out alone.
So how difficult can it be, to ask "can we count on your support?". Well. For those who don't know, the old business of just sticking people down on the list as "pledge", "doubtful" or "other" are long since over. Since the rise of UKIP, Tory canvassers have supposedly been trying to classify people much more finely, e.g. "Brexit-formerly-Labour". In theory, they'd get a different personalised letter to the person who was "Brexit-formerly-Cons". (Just once in a while, there's a local operation sufficiently competent to make use of such subtleties. In truth, it really only makes sense in official target seats or by-elections of national importance, when central resources are available.)
Oh yes: and we're not to call it "canvassing" any more. It's "listening". Now where did that come from? The answer is - Momentum. And a very stark contrast they present to what us Tories do
As well as having a bit of an inside perspective on Momentum (it's a long story), I first met these chaps in action on the doorstep in 2017. A 20-something rang the doorbell, and he probably guessed he was on a sticky wicket because we had a poster in the window. So that's strange, right from the off: received wisdom is not to waste your time with the other side, there's just too many houses to get round. But evidently it was all in his brief, because he had a string of well-crafted Q&A scripts, designed to actually engage and probe and, yes, maybe even to convince.
But there isn't one person in ten thousand who can take on that challenge without (a) training and (b) motivation. Well, we live in a marginal. But still: that's impressive. BTW, he had clearly been bussed in because his local knowledge was rudimentary - though not zero - and soon gave out. Not so his general intelligence: he was an educated, polite, thoughtful person (and I've encountered more of the same in 2019) and gave no outward signs of rabidity, snowflakery, or cult-grooming. What he had clearly undertaken was extensive political education (might have been self-taught, of course) - and some very purposeful training: which definitely included the importance of "listening".
Two things about this. First, there is no serious Tory equivalent of such training - some half-hearted measures at best (like making people call it "listening"!), which are pretty-much lost on confident middle-aged activists who just hit the streets with "can we count on ..." as they always have. And, frankly, few of our youthful activists (yes, there are quite a lot of them in the Tory ranks these days, itself a big change over the last ten years) could hold a candle to this lot. We have no Doctrine to steep them in! - because "no Doctrine" is half of our raison d'être.
The second thing is this. Since 2011, as regular C@W-ers will know, I have been much taken with the concept of a capable new officer-class emerging within the ranks of politically-active, educated, disillusioned 20-somethings. 2011? The year of the riots, of course, when one of our esteemed BTL-ers ('Anon', if I recall) opined that while the nonsense of that summer was pretty much anarchy, frequently of merely the opportunistic-looting kind (albeit with some Blackberry-based 'organisation'), we ain't seen nothing yet. Just wait until the leftist bedsit officer-class emerges.
Momentum is a pretty fair candidate to be just that. Its senior ranks (I can assure you if you don't already know) include some really intelligent people. They are motivated. They have stamina. They are strongly inclined towards a Doctrine, though I'm not sure it's fully formed. They are utterly hostile to what generally gets called neo-liberalism; though again, that's not a wholly coherent doctrinal stance because by some definitions, I am too. They have a programme of political education and, up to a point, it's pretty practical in its intentions, if not in its outcomes. And some of them - what proportion, I know not - are outright revolutionary marxists who believe their time has come.
In ones nightmares, Momentum could be truly formidable. That's certainly its intention! And it needs to be taken carefully into the reckoning.
More to come