Britain Votes: My vote counts, says Mr No Fixed Abode

New Voter
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FEW VOTERS emerged from polling booths high on adrenalin yesterday, but exercising the democratic right clearly held its thrills for some in Manchester. "It was a buzz to place that cross this morning," said Jerry Dale, one of 100 homeless people enfranchised in time for polling day by The Big Issue in the North.

Each needed an address to be eligible to vote, so The Big Issue, the magazine for the homeless, signed them all up. The result: new voters for Manchester and some pretty unconventional addresses on the register, including "The Arndale Shopping Centre car park", "Marks & Spencer doorway" and "The back of Tesco".

The Green Party did not canvass Mr Dale - an engaging 36-year-old who confessed he had missed all the election literature - but they will be pleased to know he would not vote for anyone else. The environment is as close to his heart as you might expect of an outdoor dweller and Mr Dale certainly knows his shrubs. "Can you smell that? It must be the hawthorn," he said, its aroma wafting across the Deansgate Canal towpath not far from his "home" as he strolled with his alsatian/pit-bull cross, Nip, so named because he loves affectionately nipping your face, said Mr Dale, worryingly. "There are enough shrubs and trees for a dawn chorus at my place, not to mention the ducks," he said. "The morning freight trains are the problem. They're my alarm call at 3am each day." Mr Dale, whose face is burnished a deep brown by eight years living rough, admitted he is a cynical voter. "I remember when Labour got in: I was selling Big Issues and they were all saying `Labour's in - you'll be all right now'. It never worked out like that," he said, fingering a stone hanging from his beard which is supposed to ward off bad spirits. "In the end the Greens seemed just right. I thought `I'll just take my chance on this donkey'."

Ruth Turner of The Big Issue said enfranchising people like Mr Dale was critical. "If homeless people are to move back into jobs and homes and take their place in society, we must make sure they have their say in how society is run."