Page last updated at 16:30 GMT, Sunday, 28 March 2010 17:30 UK

Wavering voters meet the future prime minister

By David Thompson
BBC Politics Show reporter

It is what party leaders always say they want - the chance to debate the issues that will win or lose the general election directly with the public.

Gordon Brown meets Storubridge voters on the Politics Show
Voters don't often get the chance to talk to the PM face to face

For the past three weeks, the BBC Politics Show has made exactly that happen... but sometimes Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg must have wondered whether they should have been more careful about what they wished for.

All three came to Stourbridge to meet precisely the kind of people they need to win over - a roomful of undecided voters.

Why Stourbridge? It is the knife-edge marginal constituency the Politics Show has adopted as its own for the election.

Not only is it a key political battleground, it is also Britain in microcosm.

If it is happening in the High Street there, chances are it is happening somewhere near you too.

But it is not just that. People in the West Midlands are famous for telling it like it is - and they did not pull their punches with the party leaders.

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown took questions from wavering voters worried about the state of the NHS

First up was Gordon Brown. He came face-to-face with clinical psychologist Sally Austen, who told him point-blank she doubted whether he could deliver on Labour's pledge to ring-fence funding for frontline NHS services.

She also said that in her hospital, targets were distorting patient care and an incessant round of changes had left staff tired and demoralised.

The prime minister promised to look into her specific concerns - but when asked whether he thought staff like Sally were on the front line, said that was a decision for individual health authorities - not him.

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown was asked to justify why troops are still operating in Afghanistan.

Ann Probyn lost her son Daniel when he was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2007. She believes he was not properly equipped and wants answers from the Ministry of Defence.

Mrs Probyn cut to the chase, asking Mr Brown: "Would you like your son to go out on a night patrol with no equipment?"

The prime minister expressed his condolences to the family and insisted that equipment was being upgraded all the time.

But he also said that if Mrs Probyn wanted her son's death to be investigated further, it would be done.

Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, answers questions on immigration policy from a group of undecided voters in Stourbridge, West Midlands.

Nick Clegg was asked about his party's plans on immigration, particularly the idea that people should only be allowed to move to sparsely-populated parts of Britain.

Brian Craddock wanted to know whether, if they lost their jobs there, they would be allowed to move. Nick Clegg said quite simply "No."

So would immigrants be given unemployment benefit? Would they be deported? Could Mr Clegg say whether regions like the West Midlands were full?

The Liberal Democrat leader said he could not go into that kind of specific detail - but insisted his party's plan would give Britain the benefits of immigration while reducing the demands it made on the country.

Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg outlines his party's position on the level of fuel duty depending on the budget.

Mr Clegg was also grilled about fuel tax - would he increase it or freeze it?

After some sustained questioning, he appeared to say he thought it should go up. However a few minutes later, Danny Alexander, his Chief of Staff, called for a freeze on the Politics Show Scotland.

David Cameron
David Cameron

David Cameron: Single parents 'will not be disadvantaged' with marriage tax breaks

And what about the man who could be our next Conservative prime minister?

What most people seemed to want from the Tory leader was clarity - what would his cap on immigration be, would he scrap the rise in National Insurance contributions, how deep would Tory cuts in public spending be?

Single parent Sam Billingham wanted to know whether plans to recognise marriage within the tax system would leave her at a disadvantage.

Mr Cameron said no, but also said we would all have to wait until the election campaign proper before he would spell out exactly how the system would be reformed.

David Cameron

Cameron: Competition 'would create huge improvements in the education system'

On education, teacher Remley Mann said she feared the Tory idea of increasing competition between schools would actually make things worse - what was needed was a period of consolidation, not more change.

Mr Cameron took that one head-on, admitting he had a very different vision from his questioner, but insisting that his plans to generate choice and competition would create huge improvements in the education system.

Mr Cameron, Mr Brown and Mr Clegg came to Stourbridge, they saw, but did they conquer ?

That's for the voters there to decide - but for all of us, make-up-your-mind time is getting ever closer.

The Politics Show broadcasts on Sunday at 1200 GMT on BBC One and for seven days after on the BBC iPlayer.

Print Sponsor

Prime Minister faces Stourbridge
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