Labour's first 100 days: Tory deserters breathe sigh of relief

Mondeo Man
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The Independent Online
The land of Mondeo man has given a cautious welcome - a C+ rating - to the first 100 days of New Labour.

Those on The Independent's election panel in Redditch, Worcestershire, who switched their votes to Tony Blair see little reason to regret their change; most are quietly impressed with the party's move to power. There is little sense of excitement though, just relief.

Equally, most of those who stayed with the devil they knew and voted Conservative can pick out enough wrong in just three months to vindicate their decision.

The one issue which unifies them is concern over money - and the regular increases in interest rates since polling day.

Mark Redfern, 29, an engineer, who voted Labour for the first time, said: "Since they've been in everything seems to have gone up. My mortgage costs about pounds 10 to pounds 15 a month extra."

But he adds: "I think I always knew the rates would have to go up once the election was over. I'm still glad they got in, but I think I'll be able to give a better view in 12 months."

Brian Nicholls, a butcher aged 60, who also made the switch for the first time, is even more cautious. "I think it was a smart move of the Chancellor's to let the Bank of England decide interest rates, as it gets him out of hot water. But it's early days, isn't it?" he said.

A former British Gas travel manager Roger Frost, 54, likes the calm, purposeful way the Home Secretary Jack Straw has acted, citing the inquiry into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

"I also still like the way Tony Blair is handling things. I've no regrets. The interest rates help with the savings."

Craig Coates, 37, a local authority administrator, admits he was a "sceptical" first-time Labour voter, but is so far impressed with the Government's positive attitude. "I knew the Conservatives were keeping interest rates down so the rises haven't surprised me."

But he added: "Nothing's really hit them yet, has it?"

The caution gives way to outright scepticism among the Tory voters. Susan Lovett, 38, a former sales consultant, is struck by the activity of New Labour. "They seem to be going at a fair old pace, but I'm not sure they are achieving a lot. For example on devolution - how effective is it going to be?"

Meanwhile Denise Sparkes, 35, a dressmaker, is unhappy at plans to charge for university tuition and suggestions the age of consent for gays should be lowered to 16. "And I was proved right on interest rates - it's costing us pounds 40 a month more."

But Lionel Baird, 52, a paramedic, conceded he may not have been right in voting Tory. "It can leave a bad taste in the mouth but sometimes you have to admit you've got it wrong. So far I've been pleasantly surprised with the Government."

Roger Jones, 42, the only one of the panel to vote Liberal Democrat, was less enthusiastic. "There's been nothing earth-shattering so far, it's been middle of the road - what some people have described as a lukewarm government."