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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 April, 2005, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
Politics takes speed dating test

By Ollie Stone-Lee
Political reporter, BBC News website

She was beautiful, funny and trendy and her hand was on my knee. But all hope of romance was dashed as she said: "This is dreary, let's talk about something else."

This is what happens when you go speed dating determined to talk about politics all night to test the mood among the "Bridget Jones vote".

The format was simple: three minutes to chat up each of 17 "dates" before moving to the next table.

At the end of the night, you say which people you want to meet again and if the desires match, contact details are exchanged.

Nervous start

All the talk of "hard working families" in the election campaign seems to have made single people feel a bit neglected - not for the first time perhaps.

And so it was that I joined Martin and John as they nervously pinned their name badges on freshly ironed T-shirts and enjoyed complimentary cocktails at the start of this London speed dating night.

Census figures suggest 30% of the adult population of England and Wales have never been married
30% of households are single resident: although pensioners account for nearly half of them
A Mori poll last week suggested only 24% of 18 to 24 year-olds was absolutely certain to vote, or 44% for 25 to 34-year-olds
Nationally, 58% of adults and 71% of over-55s said they were certain to vote

As they cast their eyes towards the two blondes in the corner they were no doubt wondering how to get their telephone numbers. I was wondering what they thought of constitutional reform.

My political patter was ready, this is election time, how could anyone resist?

I was about to find out as our host, propelled us to our first dating table.

Australian Joanne greeted me with a smile which strangely did not budge as I confessed I was so caught up with the election I could talk of little else.

"That's alright, my housemate is a Liberal Democrat campaigner so he never stops talking about it," she said.

Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Did Bridget Jones have to cope with political nerds?

Spying a possible opening I tried to sweet talk her into giving me her views on climate change, but somehow that conversation did not catch light.

Relenting, I asked instead about beaches in her home city of Sydney - after all, this poor woman had to put up with election talk at home every night.

Three minutes talking to each "date" does not sound much. By date three, it seemed too long for anyone meeting me.

Chance to moan

The next date gave me strong signals from the outset - about her voting intent, anyway.

"I run a shop selling organic clothes - you know, it's all free from pesticides and everything," she said.

Aha, so she would be voting Green, no question?

Man drinking beer
Drinking laws were on the singles wish list

"Well, I would vote Green but they haven't got a chance of getting in so I'll probably vote Labour - at least if I vote for them I feel I can moan about them."

She actually seemed quite disappointed when our three minutes were up - maybe this politics trick might actually work.

Maybe not. Sharon looked worried as I popped the question immediately: So, how are you going to vote?

In fact, her political allegiance was as blue as her eyes: she liked Michael Howard, especially when he was offering to cut stamp duty and she wanted to move house.


At the break, I reached for a well-needed beer and sympathised with the guy following me from date-to-date for leaving him to pick up the pieces.

He admitted I had left some of the women staring into space. He put it down to my obvious wit and charm.

It was time for a tactical rethink about how to tap into the political mood of British singletons.

Politics, oh don't go there!

The main parties insist they are not ignoring those who are young, free and single, pointing to their policies on tackling crime, helping first time buyers, education and training, job opportunities, licensing hours and in some cases rules on mini cabs.

And as Mark Gill, of opinion pollsters Mori, points out, the politicians are on safe territory by helping families, since most people are part of a family in some way.

Sadly, none of this seemed to offer much help in my quest so I decided on a more cryptic approach.

"So what kind of party do you like?" I asked my next date.

"What? You mean what do I like doing at the weekends?" she replied. Not quite.

We did somehow get onto discussing shootings outside her home. Sadly the three-minute whistle went before I got the chance to quiz her closely on which set of violent crime statistics she believed.

Work outing

By now I was beginning to lose heart and when asking the delightful Phillipa who got her vote, I honestly hoped she would take it the wrong way and talk me through her evening so far.

Not a bit of it. She was going for the Lib Dems and could tell me exactly why. Our three minutes together whizzed by and I moved on with new ardour.

Next stop was a group of women who for some reason they could not now fathom had chosen speed dating for their work outing.

Among them, feisty Kimberly said she could no longer back Tony Blair and anyway with earnings of more than 100,000 she liked the Tory line on lower taxes.

Door slamming?

By now, I felt like a bedraggled election candidate going door to door asking for votes: a comparison which amused Holly, who worked behind the scenes for an adult television channel.

She demanded to know my personal manifesto and had no doubt about the policies to win over single voters: 24-hour drinking and cheaper taxis.

With the end in sight, Kirsty gave me it straight: choosing a man was easier than picking a political party.

And Emma was even more honest: "Politics, oh don't go there!"

Colleagues had hoped I would in years to come boast of meeting my wife while discussing House of Lords reform.

Fat chance! I confidently predict none of these speed daters will be signing up to meet this political anorak again. I only hope that it really was just my politics to blame...

Does politics matter to the Bridget Jones generation? How would you respond if a date talked just about politics? Send us your views using the form below.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

I think it's terrific and not in the slightest bit boring that my boyfriend is actually interested in having a political debate with me. More men (and women) like Ollie, please!
Gemma, Birmingham

I wish I'd talked politics on the first date
Jack, Leeds
Meeting women who are into politics has never been easy for me and now I'm in a committed relationship with one who thinks neo-cons are some kind of sneaker. I wish I'd talked politics on the first date - it might have shown up the gulf between our political mindsets. It's too late to dump her now, though - I love her, damn it!
Jack, Leeds

That's the problem with our generation - sound-bite politics. To think one can have a meaningful conversation about party politics in just three minutes is as offensive to democracy as thinking that one can find love! It is, however, the perfect time for boiling an egg.
John, London

Young, compassionate conservative seeks likeminded female - worth a try!
Bob, Kent

Why are there so many patronising comments from men who find it so amazing that a "Bridget Jones generation" woman wants to talk politics?
Ally, London

We spend all our time arguing about politics so don't bother arguing about each other
Kit, Chipping Norton
My girlfriend and I are from completely different political worlds. I am a Lib Dem activist and campaigner, she is a right wing Tory who hates Europe. Its great - we spend all our time arguing about politics so don't bother arguing about each other.
Kit, Chipping Norton

One of the speed-daters' quotes was "Politics, oh don't go there!" It's like saying, "Attitudes, values, beliefs? Everything that defines your personality? I'm not interested."
Rob Szczerba, Sheffield

I'd rather be single my whole life than date someone who supported politicians and policies I despise. I want to know right away where a possible boyfriend stands - I wouldn't date them unless they were as into politics as I am!
Meredith Clark, New York, NY, USA

A person's politics is a fundamental part of their character. If your political views are very different from those of your date, then it's likely you'll end up arguing. But then, isn't that what domestic bliss is all about? My wife and I invariably end up discussing politics over the kitchen table as we listen to the morning news!
Peter Barber, Glasgow, Scotland

This is an excellent way of finding out about each other quickly
Sarah Mabbitt, Bedford
I think this is an excellent way of finding out about each other quickly. You don't discover much from frivolous chit-chat. True speed dating.
Sarah Mabbitt, Bedford

A few days ago I had a first phone conversation with someone I met online. We discussed work, politics and recreation. Anyone can talk about work and recreation, but it takes a bit of depth and an ability to articulate a point of view to discuss politics. I appreciate the way it separates the women from the girls.
David, Birmingham

I'd be very glad for a girl to talk about politics to me. It shows very early on what is important to them in life, but the real benefit is it avoids the mind-numbingly tedious small talk about TV soaps and relationships that most women want to talk about.
Alan B, Edinburgh

This is the funniest thing I read! Ollie's ploy just cracked me up loudly. I find it refreshing when a woman from the Bridget Jones generation has her independent views on politics, rather than simply echo the papers.
AA, Boston, MA, USA

The point of the first date is to make a good impression, not to antagonize or debate your date. There are several topics should never be discussed on a first date: sex, religion and politics.
Roberta, Washington, DC, USA

I'm desperate to meet a man who will talk about politics
Hayley Priest, Camberley
A few years ago I would have hated for anyone to talk about politics to me but now I'm desperate to meet a man who will talk about it. I'd have loads of respect for him straight away.
Hayley Priest, Camberley

One of the first conversations I had with my girlfriend was about our mutual admiration of the BBC's own Andrew Marr! That sealed it - she was the woman for me!
Benjamin, Sheffield

Politics is the best topic to start a date, if the other person is somehow attentive to the world outside. When you talk about politics you are exposing your core values. Isn't it what a relationship should be based on?
Ani, Gainesville, FL US

I wouldn't fancy talking politics on a speed date as I'd probably find out far too soon that the handsome devil opposite me was a raging Tory-boy. That would definitely put a dampener on things.
Suzy, London

Being a bit of a politics geek myself, I'd be thrilled if a man showed that he had a knowledge on the subject, and that he cared enough to form opinions on the subjects that really matter.
Rachael Cox, Portsmouth, England

The only time I argue with my boyfriend is when we discuss politics
Jess, Leicester
I'm a politics student and in my experience romance and politics don't mix - the only time I argue with my boyfriend is when we discuss politics.
Jess, Leicester

Why is it that so many of us think politics is dull? It affects everything from pub closing to the price of condoms - how can that be dull? I'm going speed-dating tomorrow and would be delighted if someone asked me my opinion on, say, the erosion of civil liberties in the UK or revolution in the former Soviet Union, but I think that might just be wishful thinking...
Jo, London

If a lady spent the whole time talking about politics I'd soon get bored of her - or end up arguing. I'm quite into politics, but the fact is that it's far from being the only thing I want to discuss with anyone.
Nick, Leicester

If my date talked just about politics I would be bored, but then again if he had no opinion on the way this country is run, I would run in the opposite direction.
Thembi Morris-Hale, London

I'd love it if my date talked politics - it would at least show he cared about something. Most men I meet only care about themselves and yabber on all night about 'me, me, me'!
Karen, Derby

I'm sick of himbos who don't seem remotely interested in the world around them
Maz Cook, London
I'd be delighted if I came across such a man - I'm sick of himbos who don't seem remotely interested in the world around them.
Maz Cook, London

I was sick of dating guys who read The Sun and had nothing else to talk about except football and celebrity news. I finally met a man who was more aware of the things that mattered to me - he wooed me by discussing politics and current affairs. We're now married.
Joan, Scotland

Being single, childless and 47, I too am the singleton that feels ignored. Single is the new discriminated class; ignore us at your peril.
Stuart Rogerson, Huntingdon

I think it's an important subject, especially at present, but there's a limit! Besides, you can be certain that no two people will agree on politics and that you might end up arguing for three minutes. Isn't the point of speed dating finding things in common?
Anne-Claire Edynbry, London

Ollie was darned lucky to find young women even capable of naming the three main Party chiefs in Britain. My experience is, young people in Britain and here can only discuss two subjects: pop music and football.
Basil Jackson, Brussels, Belgium

I would have probably reduced Ollie to a quivering mess
Mercedes, St Ivese
Politics is not for everyone. However, I'm a women in my 30s and I adore talking politics to the point were I've actually lobotomised quite a few people. I would have probably reduced Ollie to a quivering mess by my loud and vehement views on politics! I have a feeling I probably would have kept going after the 3min whistle!!
Mercedes, St Ives

Three minutes is fine, but conversation has to lead elsewhere eventually. Don't get me wrong, I love talking politics, but you gotta have more.
Elisabeth, Brussels, Belgium

If my date, especially my speed date, began the evening by quizzing me about politics I would most definitely switch off. Politics is best left to the third or fourth date when you run out of other topics to converse about it.
Nicola Pinkerton, Renfrew, Scotland

Although I would have no objection to politics as a topic of conversation, to talk about this continually would be extremely tedious. A definite turn off!
Louise, Chorley, England

Oh, for a heady dose of Iraq and Pensions Policy to help the Lambrusco go down
Christine Gilmore, Edinburgh
I somehow agreed to go speed dating with my cousin tomorrow night and am hoping against hope that someone might just try and talk to me about politics - knowing these events it's highly likely that I will suffer seedy and simple-minded small-talk instead. Oh, for a heady dose of Iraq and Pensions Policy to help the Lambrusco go down.
Christine Gilmore, Edinburgh

It'd be so refreshing to meet a woman of my age who took an interest in it. Sorry, but it's true.
Justin, Bristol

I think that for the most part we are a generation drowning in the noise of political spin. I am politically active, but at the same time, keeping conversation light on a first date is probably a good idea.
Jacob C Kelly, Richmond, VA USA

While I would be heartened to meet someone who could hold a conversation about serious matters, I would suspect that she didn't fancy me and was using the topic of politics to prevent any intimacy from creeping in.
Martin, Wrexham, Clywd

I think politics is an interesting topic but if a date was to talk only about politics, then I think it would be slightly off-putting.
Mariah, Glasgow, Scotland

If a guy came at me with such an obvious motive, I'd lose the stinker
Evin Maria Eldridge, Washington DC, USA
If a guy came at me with such an obvious motive, I'd lose the stinker. When I go out on a first date, I don't want to be pushed into anything, and if I don't feel like talking about politics then that ought to be all right.
Evin Maria Eldridge, Washington DC, USA

For most people, politics are dreary and dull. They don't ever give them much thought. I know before Bush took the White House I didn't. But then his policies upset me so that I got more interested and involved in politics. Now I can't stop thinking or talking about politics. I need therapy.
Jeff Bartlett, Harrisonburg, VA, USA

I am refreshed when a man talks politics as opposed to football or Playstation. It show he has intelligence and an awareness of current affairs. My other half and I argue politics regularly, it's sometimes a bit of a turn on.
Eleanor, Brecon

Not a response to the question asked, but instead a rapturous applause for a brilliant feature describing what must have been an hilarious evening. Oh, to have been a fly on THAT wall!
John D, Leamington

Politics do matter and I will be voting BNP. If I were having a long discussion about politics I would ensure that the overview of BNP's policy statement is covered before an opinion is offered. I would have to change the subject eventually though!
Rhiain, Bristol

Who a person votes for reflects their core values
Zoe Stollery, Cwmbran, South Walese
I would love my date to talk about politics; who a person votes for reflects their core values and would give you an idea of what type of person they are.
Zoe Stollery, Cwmbran, South Wales

If a date talked of nothing but politics, I would probably never want to see her again..thinking about it, if she was just amazingly gorgeous I might forgive her.
Folco, Lausanne, Switzerland

That is absolutely hilarious. Very original. Thank you for bringing a smile to my morning. Excellent work!
Colin, Dallas, USA

Ollie, I would speed date with you anytime! It's hard to find people in the Bridget Jones generation that would have even a passing interest in politics or current affairs.
Glenda, Australia

I wouldn't care, so long as they were good looking!
Jamie, Oxford, England
I wouldn't care what my speed date talked about so long as they were good looking and wanted my number!
Jamie, Oxford, England

If all my date talked about was politics, but the conversation was give and take, I would not necessarily be turned off. However, if all subsequent dates talked of nothing else, then what's the point?
Juli, Houston, Texas, USA

I am 23 and I will certainly be voting. The problem is that politics affects just about every aspect of life. I find it extremely hypocritical when others my age wash their hands of politics and then complain about tuition fees, for example.
James Jackson, Durham

So what was the outcome? Did any of the beautiful girls pick you?
Sam, Reading

I would be very keen to hear my date talking politics since I enjoy debating and discussing political issues. Someone who enjoys talking politics would be just my style.
Natasha, Alexandria, VA, USA