Sore feet, achy limbs, feeling exhausted but running on adrenaline pretty much sums up the last week of an election campaign for a candidate. The time to persuade people to vote for you has passed and now you need to motivate people to vote for you. The last week of a campaign is very much narrowing down on the single key message of your campaign, which for me in 2017 was “only a vote for me will stop IndyRef2”. Funnily enough, that was also my message in the last week of the 2016 Scottish Parliament election campaign and it seems that five years later some things don’t change with Scotland trapped in a constitutional time warp.
Get Out The Vote (GOTV) becomes the focus of your final week of campaigning. Door-to-door canvassing and, for me the dreaded telephone canvassing, is not aimed at convincing people to vote for you but motivating those who have said they might vote for you to turn out and vote. Reminding them of your key campaign message, of the stark choice in the election and how closely fought the race is.
The final weekend of the campaign is a tiring one. Often involving a VIP visit for a rally and in 2017 I had Ruth Davidson come stump for me. My final weekend was a town centre street stall and lots and lots of door-knocking at the same time as delivering letters to your ‘pledges’, those who committed to vote for you.
During this time, you’ll be praying for no gaffes during the national election campaign. Hoping that one of your own side doesn’t stick their big foot in it and cause a controversy that gives you a headache on the doorsteps, such as Theresa May having the brilliant idea to take on both pensioners and foxes in 2017! Then there is the last set of opinion polls which will either give your campaign a boost and some motivation to get over the line or that will just feed the naysayers that you do not stand a chance.
When you finally reach polling day you feel totally and utterly helpless. There is nothing more you can do to persuade and convince voters. You’ve got to hope that all your hard graft over the last 4-6 weeks has paid off. I have always found it the worst day as a candidate. You feel your fate in the hands of others. The day drags painfully. You’ve started at the crack of dawn stuffing leaflets through letterboxes for people to wake up to (whilst trying to avoid setting the dog off) and you’ve been on the phone all day to so called ‘pledges’ who are telling you why they are not voting for you! Throughout the day you have that heavy nervous sick feeling is in the pit of your stomach, growing heavier as the day goes on. Cumulating at 10pm as you wait to hear David Dimbleby announce the fateful exit poll result before you head off to the counting of the votes.
After the votes have been counted, you’ll either be ecstatic or disappointed. Hey that’s democracy. But win or lose what all candidates are in desperate need of is a good sleep and all anyone can think of at 4am is getting to bed!