Election '97: Middle England makes decisive switch to Blair

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The Independent Online
The crucial Middle England seat of Redditch appeared to be heading into Labour's hands last night. Significant numbers of the Independent's group of disaffected Conservative voters switched to Tony Blair.

The panel, which reflects the views of so-called Mondeo Man, suggested that Labour optimism at taking the new town was well founded. Yesterday the panel in Redditch - seat 44 on Labour's target list - were voting in line with their last published intentions.

This meant six out of 13 former Tories voting New Labour, one switching to the Liberal Democrats and the remaining half-dozen staying with John Major.

Roger Frost, 54, a former British Gas travel manager, voted Labour for the first time."I felt liberated," he said.

Adrian Blick, 30, a warehouse operative, said he had no last-minute doubts about voting for Tony Blair after wavering earlier in the campaign: "I just felt we needed a change."

Andrew Osciak, 45, a toolmaker who had also had doubts, voted Labour as well. "I have thought about it a lot and I was uncertain at one time. But I made my decision - Tony Blair convinced me more than John Major."

Another switching to Labour was Mark Redfern, 29. "I made up my mind and voted Labour. I've had enough of this government and we need a change. I hope Tony Blair now does a good job," he said.

It was only at the last minute that Roger Jones, 42, a goods invoice manager, decided who would win his vote.

"I voted Liberal Democrat. I saw the interviews with the leaders and Paddy Ashdown answered the questions. He portrayed his case better than the others," he said.

Susan Lovett, 38, a former sales consultant, voted Conservative in the general election because she did not trust Tony Blair on the economy, but voted Liberal Democrat in the County Council elections.

"I like some of their policies, but I thought they had no chance of winning in the general election in Redditch," she said.

Denise Sparkes, 35, a supermarket worker also stayed with the Conservatives not wanting to "risk" the state of the economy, as did ex-British Telecom engineer David Bignell. He said: "I just could not trust the Labour Party. It's not that I trust the other parties that much either, but I couldn't support Labour."

Labour's lack of experience persuaded Steven Marriott, 28, a radio frequency engineer, to stay with the Tories after leaning towards Tony Blair earlier in the campaign.

"The Tories have had their cock-ups, but what do Labour have to offer? They don't have the experience."

Alan Tomes, 35, a coldstore operative, said he was "sure" about voting Conservative again. He said: "It was the right thing to do for me but if Labour are in power then I shall just have to accept that."

Lionel Baird, 52, also voted Conservative, having intended to vote Labour at the start.

"I am quite happy to have voted Conservative again. I think a lot of people have only made up their mind at the last minute," he said.

Craig Coates, 37, made the switch to Labour. "I think it was the right thing to do. I voted for Labour in the general election but Liberal Democrat in the council elections. It was the right thing for me."