Bolton is delighted

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The Independent Online
Bolton embraced Tony Blair's vision of a new Britain yesterday, and even estate agents thought he would be better for the country than John Major.

Two of Bolton's three MPs are Tories holding marginal seats who would have found little comfort on the streets of the former mill town.

Ross McCawley, 24, is a voluntary worker for the Citizens' Advice Bureau and active in his local Labour Party. He said: "The five early pledges show that the Labour Party is the only one offering something positive for Britain. On the jobs front, the plan to get 250,000 people off benefits and into work is off particular interest to me - because I'm one of those 250,000.

"I did a degree two years ago and I'm still looking for full-time work. Economic policies aren't so well defined in the manifesto, but the view and approach is sophisticated. The model and outlook is one attuned to the Nineties.

Estate agent David Redman, 26, said the economy could only benefit from Labour's policies, but worried that Mr Blair would ignore his pledges if he won control. "The housing market is already picking up - in fact Bolton is fifth in the country for improved property sales. The manifesto talks about long-term low interest rates, and that's definitely what is needed.

"I can't see that Labour getting into power would have any detrimental effects, so long as they stick to their guns."

Pub landlady Carole Bretherton said: "Everyone wants someone to do something that will help us all. But the way we are at the moment, it will take a miracle. So many people are so disillusioned, we are all working more for less. If someone could come along and make things better, they would be very welcome."

Headteacher Michelle Coughlin, 38, from St Andrew's Roman Catholic School, welcomed Labour's education promises and the new "fast-track" approach to crime: "The fewer children you have in a class, the more attention they receive. They need that attention to develop their potential. There are always going to be pros and cons about how those extra classes are funded. It's a shame Labour is talking about phasing out the assisted places scheme - a lot of students benefit from it and it would be better if they could find new funding altogether.

As far as the punishment measures go - the "fast-track" idea is a good one. Punishment should come as soon after the crime as possible so that the two are linked in the mind of the offender.

Derek Hamer, secretary of Breightmet Labour Club, said: "I am all for it. We have got to have a forward way of thinking and go with the New Labour.

"Something has got to be done about unemployment. I've got a son who has never worked - and he's 24 years old. It's soul destroying. They need something to keep them occupied, some training, but with some prospects at the end of it. That's what Blair is promising, and I just hope he can deliver".