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Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Wednesday, 14 April 2010 13:00 UK

On the Road: Daily Politics Election Special and UK voters

Giles Dilnot
Giles will spend a month visiting voters nears you

Giles Dilnot has visited all corners of the UK as we talked to voters (and non-voters) ahead of the general election.

The first week saw him in Belfast and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, before he moved up to Ayr and Glasgow and then south into Wales and across the map of England.

Each day, he presented a short film on the area, before talking to voters on the issues that matter to them.

Thanks to all of you who have followed our tour on the Daily Politics Election Special.

You have heard a range of views now it's up to you to decide!


ON THE ROAD: fishermen in Hastings

It is something of an 11th hour surprise when you come down to a beach to talk to fishermen about politics and they aren't there! Of course we had arranged to meet them, and of course they didn't deliberately abandon us but this was economics at the sharp end.

The cuttlefish fish are out there - an unquoataed catch which our planned guests simply could not afford to miss. That's how precarious the offshore-fishing industry has become. All of which John, the one working fisherman on land explained. He also added that had they been there they would have explained, just like him, they are still undecided.

The dilemma here is a local one - most of the fishermen are angry with Labour for how they have handled the industry, but accept there are some in their ranks who have been enormously supportive of them.

George is a lifelong Tory and yet as so often in this tour we have found he still has some doubts. He will probably be another 'in booth decided'.

Lawrence won't. A retired fisherman, he finds it crazy that without proportional representation the Lib Dems will not convert share of the vote success into Parliamentary seats. It is that, and not expenses, that has turned him off politics.

Guests: John Griffin (fisherman), George Greaves (fishing fleet photographer) and Lawrence Vail (retired)


ON THE ROAD: Rail enthusiasts in Norfolk

Visiting North Norfolk Railway you got the feeling you might have been covering a pre-war election if it wasn't for the fact that the area was making big news in the election of 2010 today.

Our guests told me beforehand that they were a little war weary with the campaign, but despite not being fans of Gordon Brown had little sympathy for Labour's North West Norfolk candidate who had come out and said Mr Brown was the worst Prime Minister ever. Nor were they wooed by Ed Balls' suggestion that because Labour could not win in North Norfolk then Labour voters should vote Lib Dem to keep the Tories out.

Chrissie thought the Lib Dems probably would not need the help to hang on here.

Trevor has a mother who needs care. He has been looking for policies that might address the situation of elderly people and while he has heard no one party come up with a solution, he is simply glad politicians are talking about it.

Robert felt strongly that support for the family and marriage should be at the heart of a political solution to society's problems. He particularly decried the amount of money and help given to single and teenage mothers.

David, who lives in a village removed from the hub of the action, worried about local isolationism, holiday homes and the lack of public transport. Chrissie agreed. Part-time residents took housing stock away from youngsters and raised house prices beyond their means.

They all felt that the difficulty in making a choice in who to vote for this time was down to the fact that more than ever you had to look beyond the parties' public relations messages to fathom out what they really intend to do.

Today's guests: Robert Wright (booking clerk); Chrissie Rayment (business development manger); David Dawson (assistant station master) and Trevor Eady (general manager)


ON THE ROAD: Cambridgeshire vikings

The Regia Living History camp in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, is really like stepping back 1,000 years.

The people who do this are genuinely committed to living the life of Vikings, Normans or Anglo-Saxons as much as they can. That includes braving rain, cooking in caldrons over wood fires and learning combat with sword and shield.

But of course this isn't 900 AD and they are not fantasists. Our guests are engineers, an historian, a teacher and a civil servant, people with real modern day concerns. Interestingly, despite a range of political views, none of them is scared off by the prospect of a hung parliament and would favour a change to proportional representation, after all, it has served the governing of their society well for 25 years.

Kim accepts hung parliaments are often short-lived and elections are expensive, but then that is democracy in action. Kevin thought it would force politicians to work more closely together and negotiate harder, which Liz agreed would remind them what they are there for.

The other Kevin wanted more honesty from the politicians over tax, and said all the different taxes should be consolidated into one so you know what contribution you are making, and politicians cannot argue that one pays for one thing and another, another.

After the broadcast they also agreed, interestingly for those with an interest in the military aspects of history, that Trident might be a waste of our money. But Kim and Liz put in a defence that you just didn't know what's coming in the future and why you might need it. Perhaps that is why they feel most comfortable and at home living in the world of the past.

Today's guests: Kim Siddorn (engineer and historian); Liz Da'Born (art teacher); Kevin Cowley (software engineer); Alan Tidy (civil servant) and Kevin Lawless (carbon consultant)


ON THE ROAD: glassworkers

Blue, red and yellow are colours that our guests in Bromsgrove work with all the time but to be fair, they don't necessarily have the same political associations for them as well as us. When it comes to stained glass, our four speakers were a mixture of craftsmen, artists and designers, either building their own pieces or restoring damaged Victorian originals.

Steven Cartwright, whose workshop we were in, watched the leaders' debate with interest. As a traditional Labour voter, Gordon Brown failed to deliver for him and like many out there, he's been increasingly looking at Nick Clegg but his vote is not secure for the Lib Dems.

Tim is another person deeply frustrated by the state of our politics and calibre of our politicians. He does however, think it is important to vote. Where he puts his cross is again still up for debate. He felt the leaders debates were a bit too gameshow to help him decide.

Aidan doesn't think he will come to a conclusion until the night before. There's not enough difference for him and he doesn't see anyone offering a pleasant or easy future. He is just trying to decide which party's victory would hurt him least.

Nick should be delighted with the polls. He's a natural Conservative and yet, as we have seen a number of times on this trip, there s a slight nagging doubt. The frustrating thing for Conservative High Command is that people like Nick can't quite explain what that doubt is. Perhaps it's the general fear that whoever wins, regardless of promises, they suspect taxes will rise and cuts will be deep.


ON THE ROAD: Zookeepers in Colwyn Bay

Looking after caged wild and potentially dangerous beasts can be serious business but that is enough about being Gordon Brown's aides - we have been to the zoo and our zookeepers were people with plenty to say into a microphone not least about Mr Brown's 'outbreak of foot and mouth' as Nick, the zoo director, put it.

Dan, in charge of the Welsh Mountain Zoo's birds, will be voting Plaid Cymru for a voice for Wales at Westminster. And in this area, it is a two-horse race between the nationalists and the Conservatives.

Michelle, deputy head keeper, changed in 24 hours from a 'don't know, don't vote' to someone who had done a bit of research (in the bath) and decided that Labour would get her vote, because of animal welfare legislation they had introduced, and for banning hunting.

Vicki had previously found politics boring, but nerves ahead of being on the show meant she had done some policy research and was going to vote Green.

Nick was lifelong Labour but very disillusioned, with Gordon Brown, politics in general, and all the parties failure to address the 'cuts' in question.

All of them thought Brown's gaffe was a big blow for him. But Dan did say 'these things happen'. 'Not if you want to win the election' might be the reply from a party aide.

Today's guests: Nick Jackson (zoological director); Vicki Venton (zookeeper); Dan Watkins (zookeeper) and Michelle Pywell (asst headkeeper)


ON THE ROAD: Stockport skateboarders

See a crowd of teenagers, with skateboards and BMX bikes, and more often than not you'll make some less than favourable judgement. 'Wasters, drop-outs that pull fancy stunts but contribute what?' Well the teens and 20somethings that use UKSkate-Park in Stockport were anything but.

Drew has studied earth sciences at university, and feels he owes Labour for some of the opportunities he has had to find work experience and eventually work. Leo, a youth mentor and instructor, is voting Tory. He says Labour has crippled small businesses, and his father and brother who both have one have suffered from a mounting tax burden.

Steve, who owns the skate park, has voted for all three major parties at some point. He feels he is a classic floating voter but wants to see which party will best help small companies like his that also provide a community service. In his case, entertaining kids and keeping them off the streets.

Steve Swain is well known to skaters. He has been number two in the world, and pulls the sort of tricks that leave you breathless. But he does not vote because he has lost faith in politicians. He also feels immigration has got out of control, with work going to foreigners, not British citizens. Ash came to our interview fresh from a job seeker interview. He hates being unemployed, wants to work, but was told there was nothing out there.

All of them echoed today's headlines with the refrain we have heard so often this trip: more honesty from candidates and parties.

Today's guests: Steve Bass (owner), Steve Swain (pro rollerblader), Leo Oppenheim (skateboard teacher), Andrew (Drew) Wolosianka (rollerblader), Ash Burgess (skateboarder)


ON THE ROAD: Opera North in Leeds

Opera is all about grand gestures, high drama and passion but our guests at Opera North had not expected the 2010 election to provide much of any of that. As the campaign enters the final act, however, they acknowledge that it has become fascinating as the race has narrowed.

In a bid to focus on whose policies the electorate believe will best tackle our mounting deficit, and which cuts voters are prepared to put up with to achieve that, we asked them first whether they felt the arts would be a political prime target for any new government. They did but it was wider than that.

Dougie expressed the problem of merely getting your head round being billions in debt and that it is very difficult for anyone to envisage how on earth you tackle that. Peter, who might still stick with Labour, was looking for the party to better articulate how recovery could best be achieved. He wants more honesty from all the politicians.

Catherine had a more personal reason to feel disaffected with the current government. Her sister has special needs and she feels that by insisting on greater integration into wider society people like her sister have ended up more isolated. Any cuts to services that helped would really frustrate her.

Natasha is the first of any of our guests to bring up the issue of immigration in this campaign. A fact she admits is odd as her father was an immigrant. Nonetheless, she does feel there are too many people coming into the UK and it should be controlled. Perhaps counter intuitively she saw Liberal Democrat policy best suited her in tackling this issue though many would point out the party's immigration policy is one of the more liberal on offer.

Once again a group of engaged, articulate voters who still have doubts about how best to cast their vote this time around.

Today's guests: Peter Restall (Senior Stage Manager), Catherine Hopper ('kitchen boy'), Natasha Jouhl ('wood nymph'), Dougie Scarfe (Director of the Orchestra & Chorus)


ON THE ROAD: Lincolnshire skydivers

Dropping in on a skydiving centre is something of an adrenalin rush, especially if you are doing it from 15,000 feet. All our guests at Skydive Hibaldstow are thrill junkies who love to spend their time up in the air, head in the clouds absorbing the freedom and rush of freefall. But when it comes to politics and this election they were a well grounded bunch.

With so much focus this time on the leaders and who might be our next Prime Minister we asked their opinions on various possible outcomes if no one party wins a clear majority. Noel who isn't voting Labour, only caught the second debate on radio and interestingly felt that when all you had was the words to listen to, whilst Nick Clegg did well, Gordon Brown sounded the voice of experience and authority.

John, a former major in the army, will be voting Conservative and thinks it is too early to judge Cameron as Prime Minister because he isn't yet in Number 10. But if he were, he has shown the signs of growing and maturing into the job.

Paul, known to all as 'H' (whose hands my life were in when doing the jump) once voted Labour but no longer. He hasn't decided who will get his vote but it won't be Gordon Brown. Liz, a trainee teacher and skydiving instructor, feels her vote would be wasted and cost her with hours and a considerable amount of money in petrol since she is registered to vote in a strong Tory area and she is minded to vote Lib Dem. She also thinks if the economy is so crucial an issue why don't kids get some kind of financial education at school about debt and what it means.

None of them was entirely convinced by the argument that a vote for the Lib Dems will hand victory to Labour or the Conservatives depending on whose making that argument. They also have some sympathy for the concept that hung parliaments make traditional enemies have to sit down and work together though John is in no doubt of, and thinks he will get, a Conservative victory.

This is also an area where expenses may play a big role. They are all agreed that the final result, a bit like their pastime, is very much up in the air.

Today's guests: John Horne (skydiving instructor), Liz Ashley (skydiving instructor), Paul Hollow (Centre chief instructor), Noel Purcell (Centre manager)


ON THE ROAD: Boxers in Hampshire

After the second historic Prime Ministerial debate with all its metaphors of rounds, knock-outs and points scoring it seemed perfect to make today's visit to a boxing club.

But if as analysis suggest, the debate has left the campaign as a three-horse race, it was interesting that women boxers of Gosport were all still undecided.

They may vote the way they always have but they are still looking at the others.

All of them felt politics has become slick talking at them and not nearly enough listening to them. They had issues with childcare, benefits, being penalised despite working hard, and facing redundancy, and still feel at this stage of a campaign that those concerns are not being addressed in a way that makes sense to them.

It is perhaps the sort of this election that there is a genuine doubt amongst people that the politics on offer at the moment has the answer these ladies all, bar one of which, will vote are looking for.

Guests: Amanda Holloway (boxer and coach), Nicki Chapman (club committee member), Tammy Kent (club member), Helen Young (club member), Becky Langford (club member)


ON THE ROAD: Beer makers in Devon

You might expect brewers to be befuddled and bemused by an election campaign; heads full of hops and a bell full of Old Moggie or Rib Tickler but you'd be wrong!

Amongst the throng of tasting judges at Tucker Maltings in Newton Abbot, Devon, sampling far more choice than the electorate get we found four feisty but nervous brewers. Not nervous about appearing on the Daily Politics but because their beers were being judged.

Carl's red boots and yellow socks could not disguise his true blue politics. Cameron is his man and it was quite right that certain newspapers Gould take a hard critical look ay Mr Clegg.

Paul, a Labour voter, feels his vote is wasted where, in his area, anything in a blue rosette would win but he does not like these Clegg attacks. He doesn't want the press doing the job of a political party. John, whose brews we got to sample, was a lifelong Tory but disillusioned with Cameron, European policy, and mainstream politicians post-expenses and thinks he will go to UKIP.

Tina, a lifelong Tory, won't vote for them this time. Frustratingly for the Conservatives, it is nothing they have done wrong but she votes on what is best for her kids, and whilst one is an apprentice and the other at university she worries about tuition fees and education, she is undecided but looking at the Lib Dems.

They are all concerned about underage drinking and cheap, supermarket-sold beer and think minimum pricing and restricted hours of purchase might do something to stop drink-related anti-social behaviour.

Amongst this beer-loving and brewing community you get the impression they know how to drink responsibly and the only trouble at these events is remembering whether your last pint was Grockel Grog or Spanked Monkey.

Today's guests: John Lawton (Teignworthy Brewery); Paul Diamond (Branscombe Vale); Tina Ryder (Dartmoor Brewery); Carl Beeson (Summerskills Brewery)


ON THE ROAD: Dorset bellringers

The bells, the bells may have tortured Quasimodo but the eight that hang in the tower of Sherborne Abbey are a passion for the group of ringers who gather to pull the ropes.

It us a truly astonishing noise when you are up close and personal with the heaviest eight in the world inside the bell chamber, but from the Abbey's manicured lawns it is the perfect soundtrack to a town that is the epitomy of the English country idyll.

There are a lot of Tories on the ground here but not all our guests will be ticking the Conservative box on polling day. Andy, a lifelong Labour voter, feels the first sign of madness is sticking to the stays quo hoping everything will change. David, that rarer species, a pro-European Tory, confronts the central dilemma of this election - to concentrate on sorting our massive national debt without losing the sorts of services people in this mainly rural region rely on.

Jan does not have a television and rarely reads the newspaper. She accepts that it was her choice to live deep in the countryside but public transport is simply not an option for her and she does not like the trend in petrol prices. She'll unashamedly vote for what is best for her. As an ex-member of the services she is a Tory because she always felt they treated the Armed Forces best.

John will vote within our current political system but thinks things could change. He's got ideas too: less professional politicians, fixed number of terms MPs can serve and despite also being a Conservative he is much wooed by that traditionally Lib Dem policy of changing our voting system away from first past the post.

When you scan the horizon from the top of the Abbey's tower you can understand why all of them felt the environment was a crucial issue and one that simply hasn't been tackled enough during this campaign. David in particular is frustrated with those who have decided whilst the climate is changing it hasn't much to do with man.

Chatting things over with them before we went live these were people unafraid of having a good old political ding-dong!

Today's guests: John Cawood (Treasurer, Sherborne Abbey Bellringers), Jan Keohane (Vice Captain, Sherborne Abbey Bellringers) Andy Waring (bellringer), David Fifield (bellringer).


ON THE ROAD: Cotswold beekeepers

All the places and people we meet are interesting, but every now and then you are sat chatting politics in such an idyllic place you just don't want to leave.

All our guests, members of the North Cotswolds Beekeepers Association, are bar one instinctive Conservatives. So why with an unpopular Prime Minister and Government are they still hesitant about giving the Tories their vote?

Claire, our marvellous host, was angered by David Cameron's failure to honour his 'cast iron guarantee' on a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. She has not abandoned the Tories but she's looking at UKIP.

Chris doesn't care how good Tory policy on education, health, crime or defence are if he cannot see credibility in their starting point that they can make efficiency savings to pay off the deficit in the space of one Parliament. He's an accountant and he says it just doesn't add up.

Nicole might turn from blue to green. Quite a jump politically but for her the environment and the planet are just too important and she is not convinced by her natural political party's conversion in favour of environmental issues.

Martin thinks Tory likes bees think about their colony. If the state gets too big break it down to a smaller manageable unit (bees swarm and form another colony). For him what is missing are details if a radical plan to put the economy back on track and tackle the massive debt. Still, his vote is effectively cancelled by his wife Julia who votes Labour and whilst that may be something of a wasted vote in an area as blue as this she is not tempted to cross the line and agree with her husband.

All of them think taxes will rise whoever wins and that the recession will go on longer and deeper than we are being led to believe by all the parties. However, they understand the strange nature of the electorate that if any party actually stood up and admitted that, however honest it may be, would be also be commiting electoral suicide.

Back in the studio former shadow Home Secretary David Davis suggested after such a barrage of bad news that we had selected Conservatives who had doubts. The rather worrying truth for them is we selected a group of beekeepers. It just so happens they are Tories who have doubts. Oh by the way, their honey tastes great!


ON THE ROAD: Cardiff parents

Amongst the scientific treasures in Cardiff's fabulous Techniquest, we found four very clued-up and articulate parents and, of course, voters. For 21 years, this scientific adventure playground has been inspiring children and adults alike in a way politicians can only dream about with elections.

Having said that, whatever people may be saying about how lacklustre this campaign may have been so far, everyone we spoke to here felt it was a vital election and not voting was just not an option. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was also in town surfing his boost in the polls and interestingly two of our guests who haven't voted Lib Dem before are actively considering doing so.

John, our stay at home dad, won't be doing so. For him, it's about the economy. Only two parties have a chance to form the next government and he won't vote Labour. As far as the Lib Dems go, he felt the party needed to come clean before polling day about which way they'd go in a hung Parliament.

Rebecca, like many, votes one way in the local elections but not the same in general elections. Her prime concern is the health service as she works within it. She says redundancies are already coming and she fears more. Roberta, who used to be in the army, felt the defence budget could actually be cut and spent elsewhere. What this all adds up to, it seems to me, is that mums and dads don't just vote on family policies.


ON THE ROAD: Ayr racecourse

They say the sun shines on the good and bad equally but despite most people's expectation of weather in Scotland it was beaming down on Ayr with some force.

The morning after TV history was made with that leadership debate our four guests all connected with racing had either missed it, caught highlights, been drinking or had seen the whole thing!

As we were where they run the Scottish Grand National it seemed apt that former legendary jockey Peter Scudamore should use a racing analogy to describe the leaders' performances: Cameron and Brown steady but reserved lest they should fall. Clegg run away winner with a nothing to lose attitude going for the line.

Lucinda buoyed by having a winner the day before at Cheltenham was very disappointed at a focus on personality not policy. She like many, despite the importance of this new addition to an election felt this campaign still lacks spark.

Out student Bruce, SNP by inclination, echoed his party's frustration that Alex Salmond's exclusion made it undemocratic for many Scots.

Oh by the way our bookie's tip for the National is Razor Royal - good luck everyone!

Guests: Lucinda Russell (trainer); Jim Goldie (trainer); Peter Scudamore (former jockey) and Bruce Lambert (trainee manager)


ON THE ROAD: Glasgow curry house

Who'd have thought 20 years ago Glasgow would be the capital of curry, but it is. And from our visit to one of the now many restaurants offering spicy fare in the city the political views of those who work there are just as fiery.

The owner started out in the shipyards as a Labour voter (because his dad told him to!) but confesses he is coming out as a Tory. So why might he vote SNP?! Well it's tactical, since Tory votes have been hard to find here in recent years 'it is time for a change' he says, a view echoed by one of his managers, who values his vote having come from a part of India where turnout is 98%.

His fellow manager is a Labour voter but would dearly love petrol duty cut and the head chef thinks they all pay way too much tax. They all busted the myth of the Asian vote stigma they would not vote for a candidate just because they were Asian or indeed on Asian issues. As the owner says: 'I am not so much Asian as Scottish'.

One thing they do have in common - they make great curry!

Guests: Charan Gill, restaurant owner; Manu Gopi, restaurant manager; Dheeraj Anand, head chef and Debasish Nayak, restaurant manager.


ON THE ROAD: Slate miners in Cumbria

So a Populus poll in the Times tells us 33% of the electorate want a hung parliament, and that they are uninspired with this campaign - well our trip to Cumbria's Honister Slate Mine in the heart of the Lake District has really born those results out.

The team that set up the mine in 1996 really feel they have built a profitable business not with the help of politicians but despite them. The owner wants a hung parliament to shake up career politicians that he claims tell you just what you want to hear. His Mum, who will vote Tory, accepts all sides make promises about tax without, she thinks, being totally honest. But she is surprised her brother is voting Labour because he believes Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson are a good team and David Cameron is too slick. However, both agree pensioners have been too hard hit and that electoral promises from politicians are very rarely kept.

But our final guest will be, like many of us out there, not making his choice until he gets in a booth to vote. In common with many in this area he feels Westminster has forgotten, or never thinks about Cumbria and he'd like the system reformed totally to make politics more engaging for everyone.

Guests: Mark Weir (mine owner), Jon Price, (mine consultant), John Taylor, (mine supervisor), Celia Landsberger, (mine tour guide)


ON THE ROAD: Lindy hop in Newcastle

If anything shows this election will be close, and closely fought, it is our trip to the North East.

In a region Labour could have once counted as safe, Lib Dem and Conservative support has been building and it came out from our dancing guests.

Lindy hop, it transpires, is a swing dance made popular in the 1930s during a recession so it seemed apt to talk to those leading its revival.

'It's the economy stupid!' seems to be the mantra of politicians on the campaign trail, but for our guests other things were important. Promoting with public money businesses that encourage healthy living to cut NHS bills, and reforming our politics, but if they are thinking of the economy it is not to back tinkering reforms but deal with a system based on debt and borrowing.

Our guests will certainly look into who to vote for seriously but my distinct impression is they would rather be dancing!

Guests: Richard Owen (musician) Joo-Lee Stock (dance teacher) John Urquhart (retired) Natalie Durkin (student)


ON THE ROAD: Belfast voters

It's perhaps sadly ironic that today was the perfect day to be on Belfast to discuss politics and whether there has been a political dividend from the peace process given that the Real IRA decided to remind everyone that process isn't over with a car bomb in County Down. Mercifully no one was killed.

Our guess at Carryduff Auction House in south Belfast highlighted the central dilemma of politics in this province - regardless of policy and commitments most voters mark their 'x' for the party that most represents their religion, tradition and community.

But they are not blind to economic realities - how politicians handle the recession while they themselves auction the repossessed evidence of that recession is something they think about. It was hard to tell though if that would ever change their voting patterns.

Guests: Raymond Hill - owner Brian McConnell chairman Frances Smyth office administrator Gillian McNeil Office administrator

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14 Apr 10 |  Daily Politics
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On the Road with UK voters
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