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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Ballot on the beach
Dave Harvey
Dave Harvey
Political Editor
BBC West

Birnbeck Pier
Birnbeck Pier is in a distressed state

Weston super Mare. Just the name conjures up seaside frolics of yesteryear: sticks of rock, a jolly pier, and freezing water if you are lucky - more likely just a mile of mud.

And right now, Weston's beach has become a battleground - a struggle for control of North Somerset Council.

Only contested every four years, the council is hung at the moment, with the Lib Dems and the Tories neck and neck.

And the crunch wards are in Weston itself, so I spent the week here chatting to locals to find out what they care about.

Crumbling lido

Pensions? Yes, over 25% of the residents are OAPs, it is considered a capital of "silver power" (just do not call them grey).

New homes? Sure, the town is seeing massive expansion right now, and many complain there is not enough for kids to do on the new estates.

Derelict Tropicana
Tropicana has been derelict for years

But the word ringing in my ears is this: Tropicana.

A once mighty seafront lido, full of hundreds of frolicking trippers, it has been a crumbling eyesore for the last seven years.

"It is a disaster" says Nick, who I meet in a local pub, "if they can't sort that out, what can they do?"

Monday club

I have wandered into the Captain's Cabin, a proper local up near Anchor Point and the Lifeboat Station. Yep, full of old salts it is, and the Monday Club is in full swing.

"The Monday club? Well, we are a bunch of old boys who have lunch and put the world to rights every Monday!"

It is 4pm, but the snug bar still echoes to lunchtime laughter.

It turns out that several of the guys in here do a two mile swim across the bay every year to raise money for the Lifeboat - £4,000 last time.

"Well, the sea's about the only place you can swim these days" laughs Steve. "Only, it comes in and out twice a day - and when it goes out, it goes far out."

Local scepticism

These are the people I have been looking for. They care deeply about their town, but they are not what the media dubs "campaigners".

Moreover, they raise a sceptical eyebrow when I ask about politicians fixing things.

Birnbeck mono
Birnbeck mono: New plans on the table?

"Well, there's a new plan on the table isn't there - but that's all there ever is - plans. Will this one happen? I'd be surprised."

"Anyway it's far too big and complicated" says Jean, another daily sea-dipper, "all we want is a lovely open air lido to go for a swim in."

Triple-whammy issue

So the Tropicana has become a triple whammy. A growing town needs more than one swimming pool.

A tourist town needs a sparkling seafront attraction in place of a crumbling eyesore. And worst, it has become a symbol of local politician's incompetence.

So we borrowed a seafront café and rounded up leading politicians from the three main parties.

I stepped back, and let Steve and Jean do the work.

Did they get any answers? Do they still care? Will it change their vote? Find out on the Politics Show on Sunday.

Tune into the Politics Show, to find out. And we would like to know what you think - e-mail us here!

The Politics Show on Sunday 29 April 2007 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.

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