In honesty, when I received an email from the Co-op Party inviting me to attend training on social media – I wasn’t really expecting very much. But being in lockdown, it’s not as though I have much else on at the moment so I joined the zoom call – and I couldn’t have been more wrong. The training, which covered social media and how to use surveys and petitions to campaign online, was nothing short of a revelation.

There was a time when you weighed rather than counted to votes in Bolsover. No longer. Labour does hold the 6 Divisions in Bolsover in Derbyshire County Council, and we need to retain all of them in May should be stand a chance of retaking the Council from the Tories. As the Labour & Co-operative Candidate for Bolsover North, replacing a retiring councillor, my aim is to raise my profile and get some name recognition. The plan of course was to knock on doors, but like others nearly all of my efforts are now online for the foreseeable future.

As a cyclist myself, I have always been keen to open new safe routes – so perhaps it was not a surprise that I stumbled across a route in the division which is currently closed but which could be easily opened up, and which would have the benefit of creating a new safe route to a local primary school. So following the training, I went straight to the keyboard and set up a survey on Google Forms on that issue, popped it onto my campaign Facebook account, and sat back and watched the replies roll in. I received 178 responses within 48 hours, and was even contacted by the local cyclist campaign group, Ride Bolsover.

I was really surprised how easy it was to use Google Forms, and whilst I didn’t get everything right first time (I’ll probably have the Co-op Party’s training video open on the desktop next time I do one) the number and quality of responses I got has convinced me that this is the way forward in terms of campaigning for me locally.

If you are sitting on the fence about online campaigning, all I can say as a relative newcomer to online campaigning is to get on the computer and give it a go. I did and I can speak from personal experience when I say not just how easy I found it but also how useful I’ve found it. I wanted to share my journey with fellow Co-op Party candidates and encourage those who aren’t yet using surveys and petitions to do so. I can’t see myself not using them as an important part of my campaigning mix in the months to come.