Original article from Kent Live
Coat at the ready, Labour candidate Maureen Cleator was prepared for several hours of canvassing in the cold.
With the local elections looming, this week has been very important for those running in the Maidstone North Ward to get the word out.,
Canvassing alone is difficult enough, but KentLive was keen to find out just how the task had changed following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walking alongside Maureen, whose hands were full to the brim with leaflets, I didn't expect the streets to be so quiet.
I guess trying to sell yourself and your party to residents is when the coronavirus pandemic has left many locked away in the homes for months on end, with a lack of contact with the outside world.
On Tuesday (May 4) KentLive followed Shepway South candidate Maureen and her helpers, cllr Malcolm McKay and Parkwood Labour candidate Dan Wilkinson.
All three were armed with a handful of leaflets to put through the letterboxes of the local area.
Maureen told us: "I know other parties pay for people to leaflet for them, but you don't get that connection, you don't get to meet people.
"At the moment I think we have a very top down approach to things, when actually the solution for making things better, comes from the bottom up approach."
With the pandemic still impacting the day-to-day lives of constituents, Maureen says people are "weary" meaning they're not actually able to knock on doors to speak to the residents about the election.
However, the 63-year-old tries instead to give passersby a cheery "hello".
Despite this, no one seems intrigued enough to want to talk politics, whether that be because they worry about COVID-19 or they generally aren't bothered.
Walking up and down the streets, Maureen makes it clear that one of her main priorities is "making [the area] a cleaner, better place to live".
I wasn't surprised by her answer, looking around the Shepway estate in Maidstone I immediately thought the neighbourhood looked in a state of neglect.
The ups and downs that come with canvassing
Maureen also opened up about how difficult it can be to campaign in an election more generally
Canvassing can bring dangers, which might come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with the activity.
This is the second time Maureen is running in the local elections, during her first she was actually bitten by a dog and had to go to hospital.
Naturally then when she is putting her hands through the letter box, she decides has to err air on the side of caution.
Aside from the dogs, Maureen also has to deal with rude people on occasion.
"It tends to be posh houses,” she explained.
“Wwe had a that bloke up in Senacre who was very, very rude. He told me 'stop putting that effing stuff through my effing door'."
With incidents like these Maureen says it's just best to walk away from the conflict.
But there are some highlights to her day, like when two ladies stopped the candidate in the street. one time.
She added: "I've had a couple of people stop me in the street and say take your leaflet back. She said I've done my postal vote, I've just voted for you. So that's lovely."
Canvassing through COVID-19
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After three hours of walking in the cold blasting wind, I hadn't seen the "volunteer activists" actually speak to any of the local residents.
There was a moment where Maureen kindly helped an older lady post her letters in the post box, but the Labour candidate didn't chat politics.
I asked Maureen why she didn't take the opportunity to sell herself to the lady in need.
She answered saying Apparently, she believes that she believes, withwith the older generation facing so many scams right now and many of them vulnerable tobecoming so weary of the coronavirus, it's best not to approach them.
The whole experience got me thinking, in a world where local elections are already disregarded and ignored by manyconsidered not worth people's time, will the turn out be even worseworst than normal this year?
Coronavirus is still at the forefront of our consciousnessmany people's mind.
So if candidates can't approach anyone, how can issues be talked about? How can people be encouraged to vote? How can healthy debate be fostered?