SECONDS OUT…ROUND SEVEN by Ian Hernon

Election door-knocking by sitting MPs is a rough trade given doorstep death threats and the abuse dished out on social media thanks in part to Britain’s Brexit divide..

But while the past was hardly a wholly safe place for politicians, particularly during the Northern Ireland Troubles, it was a whole lot funnier.

Former Lib Dem Leader Vince Cable, standing down, said that the only time he felt hostility during decades canvassing in Twickenham was when he interrupted televised football or Eastenders

My favourite canvassing story was in the 1987 election when the late Liverpool firebrand Eric Heffer was trawling through his constituency.

Outside one terraced house he nervously sidestepped a black Labrador-Alsation cross growling at him on the front garden path. He knocked on the door and the housewife, in typically Scouse fashion, invited him in for a cup of tea during which she assured him that her entire household would, as always, vote for him.

During that chat the dog was, he told me afterwards, “chewing up the furniture and pissing on the sofa – I thought, why can’t they keep it under control?” As he was leaving, the lady of the house again assured him of support, but called after him: “Mr Heffer, aren’t you going to take your dog with you?” 

Another canvassing story from the same era has been claimed by Michael Portillo, the former Cabinet minister turned TV pundit and train enthusiast.

It was not him, but Leeds Labour MP Stan Cohen, who was canvassing a terrace of houses just after an inexperienced Tory worker who had failed to push leaflets fully through the letter boxes. Cohen pocketed each one and delivered the Labour blurbs, until he came to the last in the row and suddenly felt stickiness on his shoes.

He looked behind him and saw a line of his own footprints along the newly-laid concrete path. Thinking quickly, he posted a Conservative leaflet from his pocket, saying afterwards: “I don’t know whether they voted for me, but they sure as hell didn’t vote for the Tories.”

Then, in 2005, Medway Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews made the classic mistake of arguing on the doorstep with a constituent who said he would vote for him if he stopped “all those immigrants” (he actually used the n-word) coming in.

On camera, the incensed MP banned the constituent from voting for him, saying “I don’t want your vote. The householder said that he would vote for him if he wanted. Marshall-Andrews furiously replied: “If you do, I’ll find out …and I know where you live.”

In 2010, Bootle Labour MP Joe Benton pushed a leaflet too far through a letter box and the household dog clamped its jaws on his hand.

The MP jerked free, leaving half a finger behind, fell over and knocked himself out on the garden path. He said when recovering in hospital: “I’m told the dog is in a worse state …food poisoning.”

Both man and dog survived.

Meanwhile, in this election party chiefs are taking on board the advice given by former US President George W. Bush: “You can fool some of the people all the time. And those are the ones you need to concentrate on.”

ROUND 7 score: Tories 5/10

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