I went leafleting last night with my two year old boy. I would get to the gate, hand him a leaflet and walk down the path with him to the door. I would risk my fingers propping open the letterbox and he would slide them in. He loved it. He was Postman Bear and I was proud of how focused he was. There was no wondering off, he make a break for the road only twice, and he was keen to do “one more, one more”. He was enthusiastically pointing and “counting” the houses we’d done. It was a fun game for him and the work was getting done.
I felt bad when we got to my neighbour. She opened the door to say hello to my son. She bent down and accepted the leaflet from him. The leaflet has two arrows pointing toward happy people and sad bullied people. We had been testing this device on my son by asking him which path looked nicest. It worked, Vote Leave looked nicest but he obviously picked up that we were pleased with this. When presenting the leaflet he pointed and said “that way”, as if telling my neighbour how to vote. Gosh I thought. This looks like indoctrination!
We carried on down the street. He ran past a few gates but whatever, as long as he was happy. I was also happy to skip a few doors because I wanted to get to the end of the road. There, there are three houses in a row with signs: a house with “Vote Remain” in Labour colours. A more patriotic house with two or three “Stronger In” signs, and another house with two teeny tiny “Independence Day” themed Vote Leave signs – barely visible by comparison. There was a mini-referendum war happening and I wanted the back of our leaflets – designed to work as a sign – to go to work on the right side. I handed over two copies to the Leaver lady – guessing she’d make use of a spare. The Stronger In folks weren’t around but the leaflet went through anyway. The Labour Vote Remain house were apparently inside at the back. The leaflet went through and I started taking my boy home – it was the last door in the row and he was tired by then. Job done.
What happened next made me feel better about the indoctrination thing.
I heard a noise and turned. The whole Vote Remain family had come out. A young kid, possibly 12, was holding the leaflet. The mum had a face like a turd had just arrived in the mail, rather than an opposing opinion. Dad obviously thought I’d been cheeky putting the leaflet through their red emblazoned door. The boy was confused and shy. They were clearly out looking for the source of the turd and had dismissed the man holding a baby. “That was our leaflet” I volunteered. This all happened very quickly and I don’t remember much in the way of words but it was obvious they wanted the leaflet to come back. The boy came over and held it out. “Er.. you can put it in the bin if you want but I’d be grateful if you read it”, I said. He took it back. Good, nice one. But that was not the end of it. “No no. The leaflet has to go back. We’ve made our decision”, said Stern Dad, pointing to his big red sign. “OK”, I said, taking the leaflet back again.
The kid had taken the leaflet and seemed curious. He’d glanced at it. Shrugged at the idea of reading as if he might just do so, and that is wasn’t a big deal. But Stern Dad had insisted he give it back. It was not good enough for his bin. There was no danger in his Dear Son reading it. Frankly, this seemed like indoctrination – proper indoctrination – where the alternatives are denied.
The controversial leaflet went through a letterbox which we’d skipped. Leaver Lady put both leaflets in her own windows. The war continues.