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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
West: Swindon's swings
Dave Harvey
Dave Harvey
Politics Show West

County Ground in Swindon
Swindon's election: a game of two halves?

Politics Show West's Dave Harvey continues his tour of the west country's most marginal seats. Week three, it must be Swindon.

"The staff are lovely, they work like angels, they are just run off their skinny little legs!"

"So - do you trust the Tories to do a better job?"

"I don't know, I will vote because Mrs Pankhurst won me the vote, but I am really not sure how yet"

Vox popular

Politics Show is in Swindon's old shopping centre, on Market Street - just outside Greggs the Bakers, in fact.

Liz, a diabetic, knows the NHS well. She tells me it is on its knees - I can hear Michael Howard cheering in my head. But she is far from convinced he is the answer.

I met a lot of people like this. Swindon should be swinging to the Tories, if they have any chance of winning.

The town's two Labour MPs will only be thrown out if one in ten Swindonians come over to the Conservatives.

If that happened nationwide, Michael Howard would be in Downing Street.

William Hague at Arkells Brewery
William Hague also popped into Arkells Brewery

... in a brewery

But today, Michael Howard is in a brewery, a family brewery. Arkells it's called - they own most of the pubs round here. Been at it for 150 years.

Mr Howard signs that famous petition, pledging not to charge patients to use the health service.

Afterwards I am invited onto his battlebus, which turns out to be a National Express Coach, but without the pensioners.

I ask him how he could pay for shiny new hospitals like Swindon's Great Western if he is going to spend NHS money on private operations.

"There is absolutely no problem with investment.

"We have pledged to match Labour's investment in the health service pound for pound, only we will put all the money into the front line".

Upwardly mobile

Justin Tomlinson sits next to his leader, grinning silently as he was instructed.

Helping self-made people with their private health bills goes down well in Swindon.

Honda, Motorola, Nationwide are all here, unemployment is low. There are thousands of new homes, and new Tories too.

Last year the party won control of the council for the first time in 26 years, they have five councillors under 30.

I set up my shop outside the Great Western Outlet Village, a vast discount designer mecca with food court and latte bars.

Health. Pensions. Health again. The usual topics come up.

"Hard working couples, I would say". She is in her 30s I'd say, working hard, paying the bills, and a bit resentful.

"Governments should do more for people like us, instead of all the scroungers".

"You are saying almost exactly what the Conservatives are saying" I suggest, paraphrasing their advert.

"Yeah, but Michael Howard!" she gasps, "I couldn't vote for him!"

Her tone is more harsh, but I hear this thought a lot in Swindon. Yes, people are a bit fed up with Tony Blair.

Howard's way?

Yes, they think schools and hospitals could do with some attention. But Howard's way? They are not queuing up yet.

"I would vote for the Labour party - but not led by Mr Blair". Retired, but still strong and gutsy, this man wants a bit of political pick 'n' mix.

"That's not on the ticket, I'm afraid."

"I know - but I'm gonna put it on!"

Many go further - a plague on all politicians would be fairly welcome round here.

At the crack of dawn, I pop down to the pool. Teenage swimmers - some of them national quality, and some dedicated parents who get up at 5am.

Don't call these people apathetic, but they aren't at all convinced about voting.

"I have the local paper here, with all the politicians talking about schools." This is Steve, a fireman.

"Labour say they are spending more, the conservative says he is spending less. Either the current government representative is lying, or the future government representative is lying.

Who do you believe?"

Politics Show

Politics Show West wants to hear from you.

Watch the programme, and let us know what you think. That is the Politics Show, Sunday 24 April, at 12.00pm.

Join David Garmston on Politics Show West on BBC One at 12.00pm.

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21 Feb 03 |  Politics Show


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