Election '97: The voice of Redditch - how three voters came to their decisions

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The Independent Online
STAYING WITH

THE TORIES

Susan Lovett, 38, is a former sales consultant who now stays at home to look after two young children. She has been unhappy with the Conservatives but early in the campaign decided they would still win her vote.

"At the start of the election I was dissatisfied with Tory arrogance but recognised their record on the management of the country and could not see an alternative. Labour still seemed to be the same party but with a glossy finish - Tony Blair.

"At this general election, probably the most important one for decades, I think it's a great shame that the run-up so far has been dominated by smoke-screen electioneering, sleaze and lies, when the public need to be far better informed, given the importance of the issues, especially Europe.

"Tony Blair has smiled and preened his way into public view but when pressured, waivers and panics, as highlighted by his refusal to appear on a live question-and-answer show on Talk Radio. Are these the actions we want from our leader?

Indeed, apart from the politicians who have forced their views on us, I feel the most important aspect of the election are the unheard views of the Labour militants who are sitting in the background, waiting. Is Tony Blair strong enough to control them?

"I feel the campaign has turned into a Tony Blair campaign and not a Labour Party one.

"The splits within the Labour Party have been very well hidden. The Tory campaign has not been so slick and not so well stage-managed.

"My view is that John Major can take us carefully into the next century, negotiating strongly on our behalf."

NOT VOTING

Andrew Davies, 19, is a pupil at Arrow Vale High School, a comprehensive in Redditch. He has decided not to vote.

"This will be the first election that I am entitled to vote in; but I am not going to. Not through apathy but through reasoned choice. I feel that I have been made into something of a 'leper' by people who have half- baked notions of what the parties offer and are voting merely because they can, rather than because they have understood what they are voting for. I am familiar with the argument that people have died so that I have the right to vote.

"It would be foolish to claim that I'm not going to vote because politicians don't do enough for 'young people'; rather, I am taking the idealistic and arrogant position that they don't deserve my vote. Too many ministers are caught out as moralising hypocrites and while I know that no one is perfect it is the smarm and pomposity that seems to surround politicians that annoy me so much.

"I have met all of my local candidates and Tony Blair visited our school. Nothing they said convinced me their party was any different to the others.

"Over the past six weeks we have been almost constantly assailed by one party or another claiming that the election will be decided on policies not personalities, and then within seconds, resort to backbiting and sniping. How is the country to prosper if we entrust it to spoilt children?"

SWITCHING TO

NEW LABOUR

Craig Coates, 37, a local government worker, has always voted Conservative before and was a Thatcher supporter, but is switching to Labour.

"I was a Conservative voter because they were the best party for me and my family's personal circumstances. But now I think the country needs a change.

"I think the rot set in when Mrs Thatcher left in 1990, but I voted for John Major in 1992 because there was no way I could have voted for Neil Kinnock.

'' Tony Blair is a big improvement on who they've had before.

"As for Paddy Ashdown, he's in the wrong party. If he had the backing of Labour it would be perfect for me.

"Not that I think Labour will necessarily be any better at running the country now - I just hope they will prove me wrong.

"The reason why I'm unhappy is that under the Conservatives the rich seem to be getting richer. They don't seem to care about people in the middle like me.

"Another thing is that I work all the hours and the wife works all the hours, and yet there are people who do no work and are able to sit in the pub all day.

"I think something should be done about it. I think the Conservatives used to do something but there are too many do-gooders now.

''Law and order is one of the main issues for me, and I think older people are concerned about job security.

"I'm not sure that Labour will be any better, but the point is there is no other choice and I will vote to give them a chance.

"I think the election is now a one-horse race. Anything has got to be better than what we have at the moment."

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