On their soapboxes – and on the spot in Cardiff

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The Independent Online

No tomatoes were thrown. None of the candidates fainted and fell off their soapbox. The heckling remained within socially acceptable levels.

Instead, five would-be parliamentarians from Cardiff scored a modest victory in the battle to reconnect Britain's politicians with their public.

The Westminster hopefuls addressed constituents in the first of a series of Independent Live! events that will see 50 candidates in marginal seats take to the stump and face questions.

In front of University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff's Heath Park, the candidates were quizzed about the future of the NHS, international aid and how they would deal with the record deficit. Alun Williams, 58, a retired union worker, said he was pleased to see the candidates out. "I've been to meetings in the past, but you don't see it much anymore. It's a pity."

Julie Morgan, the incumbent Labour MP for Cardiff North, said she was "independent minded" as an MP and described the hospital as "world class". But there was soon dissent from a neighbouring soapbox. "The choice is five more years of Gordon Brown and putting the economy at risk further, or David Cameron and the Conservatives getting our economy moving," said Karen Robson, Tory candidate for Cardiff Central.

John Dixon, the Lib Dem candidate, said a vote for him was the only way to help Vince Cable become Chancellor. Plaid Cymru's Llywelyn Rhys said the three main Westminster parties had been "self-serving and let the people down"; his would ensure the vulnerable were protected from public services cuts. Christopher von Ruhland, for the Greens, decided to stand after all the 2005 candidates failed to make global warming a priority issue.

"It's great to see them all out and being asked questions by we, the people," said Penny Owen, 54, a retired GP.

Every weekday up to 6 May, 300,000 copies of an edited-down special edition of The Independent are being handed out at train stations, in city centres and in crucial marginal seats. Each edition is covered in a paper jacket, reading (so far), "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election. You Will," and "Trade union money won't decide this election. You will." Today's jacket reads: "Lebedev won't decide this election. You will" – a reference to our proprietors and their commitment to editorial freedom.

Today the candidates for Bristol North West will meet their public on College Green, by the Queen Victoria statue, at 12.30pm. On Monday we go to Cambridge, on Tuesday Oxford. All are welcome.

Highlights of the day

Lucky escape of the day

A Tory council candidate wearing a John Prescott mask had a lucky escape after knocking over two women, "trying to get" the former Deputy PM during his east London walkabout. He had his collar felt by the constabulary but he can probably count himself fortunate that Prescott – who punched a man who egged him in 2001 – was not in a fighting mood.

Bad omen of the day

After going for Nick Clegg all guns blazing, is George Osborne next on The Mail's hitlist? The paper's website asks readers 'Who would make the best Chancellor?' It offers the options: Ken Clarke, Alistair Darling and Vince Cable.

Hollywood moment of the day

Ed Balls is not a man to miss out on a photo op. With polls giving the Tories a decent chance of taking the seat, the Guido Fawkes blog reports that the Morley and Outwood candidate "muscled in" on a snap with the Mayoress of Morley, saying: "Do you know who I am? I'm the Secretary of State!"

Tasteful leaflet of the day

A Ukip leaflet in Lancaster highlights the Eurosceptic party's hitherto obscure concern for the fate of the Native Americans. Its headline, above a photo of a Native American, reads: "He used to ignore immigration... Now he lives on a reservation."

Twitter trend of the day

The Twittersphere is mocking the anti-Clegg onslaught in certain sections of the media. One of the best: "In tomorrow's daily mail: clegg thrashes oap with stick. Drunken clegg vomits on diana memorial. And clegg: my squirrel porn shame."

Unlikely Lib Dems of the day

Members of the press were braced for an English Defence League-style protest as they waited for Nick Clegg to arrive at a Bristol nursery, as a number of muscle-bound gents turned up. Happily, they turned out to be promoting Paddy Power's odds of 8-1 for Clegg to be the next PM. "Funnily enough, most of us are Lib Dems," claimed one heavy.

Progressive alliance of the day

Former Labour cabinet minister James "Jim" Purnell leaps to the defence of Nick Clegg in the face of this week's right-wing press onslaught. "The Tory press in full smear mode really is a disgusting sight," he tweets. Next stop, coalition?

Kevin Rawlinson, Olivia Alabaster and Tom Brooks-Pollock

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