Page last updated at 13:07 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010

Politicians try to win hearts with a little persuasion

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By Anna-Louise Taylor
BBC News

We're all familiar with the way speed-dating works, but can politicians win the votes of disengaged young people in the same way?

The expenses scandal has knocked people's faith in politicians yet again and voter turnout could take a big hit at the next election.

After years of managing to get more than 70% of people at the polls, voter turnout nose-dived in 2001 to 59.4%, and it only improved marginally in 2005 with 61.4% of voters bothering to visit the ballot box.

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Psephologists and analysts remain unclear on what might happen at the upcoming general election, but trust in government and politicians is low.

In a survey by the National Centre of Social Research, 10% fewer people felt they had a duty to vote than when asked in 2007. And people under 24 remain the most unlikely to vote, with dull elections offering no appeal.

Here, five PPCs - prospective parliamentary candidates, or people who hope to become MPs - set out how they think they can win over voters... and get the chance to put their theories into practice. Did any of them succeed in just three minutes? Read on and find out.

BRIDGET PHILLIPSON, LABOUR PPC SUNDERLAND STH EAST

How do you persuade young people to vote?

I appreciate democracy isn't perfect, but if more people get involved more people get their voices heard.

Bridget Phillipson
Bridget Phillipson says "everything you do in your life is political"

Politicians are quite good at talking, but I'm interested in what they have to say. I don't want to lecture young people on why voting is important.

I want to speak to each young person as an individual and not make judgements about why they're not interested in party politics.

Any issues to raise?

If someone is not going to vote there's usually a reason for that, like "I'm not going to vote as my son who lives with me can't get a house nearby".

Politicians can influence that. Housing is a big issue, it's hard to find something affordable.

I'm also interested in revisiting whether the voting age should be lowered to 16, or if young people think that is too much responsibility?

Which "killer lines" will you use to win them over?

Everything you do in your life is political.

From catching the bus, going to school, the money you take home, the food you eat - political decisions affect you. This is your chance to get things to happen.

The tribalism of the past is going, and you might be more interested in certain issues than which party is leading on them, so you should vote.

Bridget Phillipson spent two minutes talking to 20-year-old Rajwinder Saggu, an A-Level student and part-time call centre worker.

Did she succeed? "She didn't win my vote," says Rajwinder. "It seems that student finances are not going to get any better under Labour and they just aren't very enticing for me."

Bridget: "I'm still paying back my student fees, but I feel it was worth it for the education I got."

Rajwinder: "It's de-motivating getting into debt as a student and I would consider voting for Labour if they promised to scrap tuition fees. They just keep getting higher."

Bridget: "It would be easy to say we're going to scrap fees but that won't happen any time soon."

Rajwinder's verdict: "I found the Lib Dem candidate most impressive and I feel as a party they have more to offer me, they'll get my vote."

SHAUN BAILEY, CONSERVATIVE PPC FOR HAMMERSMITH

How do you persuade young people to vote?

I want to give them context about what I believe in, and I fully get it if they don't agree with that opinion.

Shaun Bailey
Shaun Bailey says young people can "see through" fakes

The best way to win them over is to challenge them - not preach. I've heard an awful lot of politicians preaching. Young people grow from challenges, not preaching.

First up I want to know what's important to them.

Any issues to raise?

I come from a poor community and I loathe dependency. I've seen the effects the Labour welfare system has on poor people. Most of my friends don't own their own place, they want change in the building regulations.

There's a tension in our society, in regards to the recession, young people are growing into their economic strength and old people are growing out of their strength. How are young people going to deal with the effects of this?

Which "killer lines" will you use to win them over?

My killer lines will come from them, the power of young people is that they can see straight through you.

If you arrive to meet young people and you are going to try to tell them what's important, you've lost them.

It's impossible to have something that's important to you and it not have a political angle.

Shaun Bailey spent two minutes talking to Christopher Caines, 20, and customer services agent.

Did he succeed? "It was a nice surprise to meet someone from the Conservatives who comes from a similar background to me," says Christopher, "but to be honest he only reinforced views that I have already. I feel that the Conservatives have selfish views."

Shaun: "We want to push certain subjects at school and university, like maths, science and physics. These could be subsidised to encourage take-up and they would help the economy and address our needs as a nation.'

Christopher: "I didn't like what he said about there being too many people studying useless things at university and that certain subjects should be encouraged over others. I think everyone should be able to have a free choice of what they study whether it's useful to the economy or not. I think university graduates need access to more jobs that match the skills they have - and I don't agree with tuition fees. I went to university but am now struggling on a low income."

Shaun: "I'm a fan of education and aspiration. We want to get people on benefits back to work and change the benefits system, housing and unemployment benefits shouldn't be linked as it traps people."

Christopher's verdict: "The Green candidate was the most persuasive, but I probably won't bother to vote as it won't make a difference voting for the Greens."

JO SHAW, LIB DEM PPC FOR ST PANCRAS AND HOLBORN

How do you persuade young people to vote?

There's a reason they don't want to vote, they feel they are not listened to and feel that no matter what they do the issues they care about won't change. I want to connect with them on a one-to-one level.

Jo Shaw (centre) with some of her young campaigners
Jo Shaw (centre) wants to "connect on a one-to-one level"

I'm keen to listen to them about what it is that is important to them, about why they think exercising their vote wouldn't count, and understanding why they don't feel MPs can help them solve the problems they have.

Any issues to raise?

I'm campaigning to create a fairer Britain, something everyone can relate to or see the sense of, to try and see if people really can make a difference.

We're talking about making the first £10,000 of earnings tax free... and young people need that.

Everyone over 25 is going to end up being reliant on the under-25s to pay this country out of the economic mess we're in. It's important young people get involved as they will be carrying the burden they have to shoulder.

Which "killer lines" will you use to win them over?

It's not like choosing what washing up liquid or which shampoo you use. The way you vote expresses what you want to see for your society, so it does make a difference.

Make a fairer Britain, see if people really can make a difference.

Jo Shaw spent two minutes talking to Chantelle Atkinson, 21, a psychology student at University of Derby.

Did she succeed? "She didn't win me over entirely," says Chantelle. "I still want answers on why her party is different than Labour and Conservatives and how she will make the country better for my generation. I'll still have a massive debt to pay off even if tuition fees are scrapped."

Jo: "We think it's completely unfair that students are graduating with so much debt, some can't even afford to pay rent when they're working."

Chantelle: "My main concern is tuition fees, university is so expensive. My parents work god knows how many hours, pay loads of tax and then I have to pay fees."

Jo: "Lib Dems would scrap tuition fees."

Chantelle's verdict: "Surprisingly, the UKIP candidate made the most sense to me. I didn't know the European Parliament was so expensive and the money could be spent here in Britain."

HARRY ALDRIDGE, UKIP PPC FOR HORSHAM

How do you persuade young people to vote?

I think it is a case of trying to put forward a positive vision in general. We've been guilty as a party of saying what we don't like, we should say what we do like.

Harry Aldridge
Harry Aldridge wants "to give the power back to the people"

People should feel in control of their communities. UKIP supports voting locally and young people should vote there to get decisions on issues close to their hearts.

There's a difficulty in working out how you can make a difference, but you need to send a message to policy-makers that this is what you'd like to see.

Any issues to raise?

Look at the current student fees system, tax policies, how do we support young people trying to get on the property ladder?

Think what we could do with an extra £45m a day, that's what we pay to be members of the EU. There is a world beyond Europe.

The choice between Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems is a very small choice, a very small tweak in the margins. We represent a real difference.

Which "killer lines" will you use to win them over?

People are angry and frustrated, they don't know what to do. But you can be heard. I want to give power back to the people which they feel they don't have anymore.

What we're looking at is a real radical choice, a real difference. Go for the real choice, not the "no" choice.

Harry Aldridge spent two minutes talking to 20-year-old Phil Grainger, an entertainer.

Did he succeed? "At the moment I feel like this is a two-party country," says Phil, "there's not a real choice and I don't feel it will make a difference who I vote for."

Harry: "We think it's important to have different voices in parliament and more choice."

Phil: "I am worried about inequality and the gap between rich and poor, even if I'm very lucky and have a great job and earn good money."

Harry: "We feel it's wrong to have a minimum wage and that everyone should be able to have a good standard of living and there should be a lower rate of taxation for those on low incomes."

Phil's verdict: "I still feel like I need more information before I make up my mind about voting for UKIP. I also really liked what the Green candidate had to say about making things better for local businesses and combating globalisation - I come from a farming family."

ADRIAN RAMSAY, GREEN PPC FOR NORWICH STH

How do you persuade young people to vote?

It's really important that politicians engage people of all ages, whether they're old enough to vote or not, so I will try to do just that.

Adrian Ramsay
Adrian Ramsay wants young people to start holding politicians to account

People may see the three main parties and see a similar approach. We offer a different approach.

I plan on emphasising how having Greens in the parliament will make a difference.

Any issues to raise?

We need fairer funding in higher education.

The recession has had a real impact. I'm concerned with the creation of new jobs.

I'm concerned about protecting local services, we've seen local post offices close, we want to stop the privatisation of public services, the NHS, and see better protected public finances.

Which "killer lines" will you use to win them over?

It's your chance to influence the future of the UK, the future of the planet and hold politicians to account.

Vote for a fairer future both here and abroad.

We need to see a parliament that is more reflective of the population.

Adrian Ramsay spent two minutes talking to 25-year-old Daniel Burten-Shaw, who is a single parent. He is also self-employed builder and in and out of employment.

Did he succeed? "In the end it's still a two-horse race and I'm pretty disillusioned," says Daniel.

Adrian: "The Green party wants to improve access to training courses and employment for people of all ages."

Daniel: "There's so much stigma attached to being a single dad - it's a real issue for me. I work hard to try and provide for my daughter, but it's hard to get work at the moment and now that I'm 25 I feel there's no encouragement or financial support for me to get back into education and increase my chances of employment."

Adrian: "I think it's vital that people like yourself should be able to afford to do training or an apprenticeship."

Daniel's verdict: "I would like to vote for the Greens but what's the point of wasting my vote - they're not going to get in power."


Here is how some of the other would-be voters got on at the speed dating event.

speed dating map

Ella Sanders

image of Ella Sanders

Dannii Thomas

image of Dannii Thomas

Rhiannon Hedge

image of Rhiannon Hedge

Dwayne Neveu

image of Dayne Neveu

Tom Brunner

image of Tom Brunner

Guy Rughani

image of Guy Rughani

The BBC selected all would-be voters for the speed dating event by ensuring they had not voted before, had no political affiliations or preferences, and initially ascertaining that they did not plan to vote, prior to meeting the politicians.



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