The recent events in London have cast a pall over the city and campaigning was suspended on Sunday as a result of the London Bridge terror attack. Prior to the suspension of the campaign, the Young Liberals learnt new campaign techniques from our Conservative counterparts as well as having the honour of meeting distinguished Australians such as Sir Lynton Crosby and Alexander Downer.
Part of our campaigning in the streets of Twickenham in south-west London included targeted letterboxing (or "delivering" as it is referred to here). Each card carried the message that only Theresa May's Conservatives could be trusted to implement Brexit and was targeted at specific voters and not an entire geographic area. The seat of Twickenham was strongly in favour of Remaining in the EU in the referendum held last year. The local MP, Dr Tania Mathias, who was very kind, compassionate and grateful for our assistance, is not a standard Conservative MP. Dr Mathias studied medicine at Oxford, worked as a doctor for the poor in developing nations and is also a Quaker and a member of Amnesty International. Dr Mathias was a Remainer last year and is very close to the views of her electorate. One of our tasks was to deliver a letter which was printed in a simple and handwritten style from Dr Mathias that set out her views in detail to voters who may be tempted to vote for her main opponent, Sir Vincent Cable of the Liberal Democrats.
Due to the first past the post voting system, most Labour voters in Twickenham have indicated that they will vote tactically and support the Liberal Democrats when we have been doorknocking. Doorknocking (or "canvassing") has been a mostly pleasant experience and I've found most people have been happy to discuss their thoughts on the election. Phone canvassing at Tory HQ in London was very different to Australia as it was a national office and had an easy to use computer system and a large army of volunteers. On our way into HQ we were lucky enough to see Theresa May in person. The Prime Minister had visited Twickenham earlier in the week along with a number of other Ministers. Our group also had the pleasure of meeting the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire before we went out canvassing alongside him and Dr Mathias.
After a number of days of sustained campaigning we met with two distinguished South Australians, Sir Lynton Crosby and Australia's High Commissioner Alexander Downer. Sir Lynton worked right in the middle of the campaign office and had his pulse on how the election was tracking and the overall plan for the campaign. Sir Lynton also noted the differences between Australian and UK electoral laws, the UK has an extremely restrictive approach with no election television commercials, no corflutes on poles and very tight campaign spending caps. Mr Downer emphasised the importance of the UK-Australia relationship.
When campaigning resumes most of the focus will switch to making sure Conservative voters turn out to vote in the voluntary voting system.
Ben Newell is the Policy Vice President of the South Australian Young Liberal Movement