Big Mac generation opts for conservative approach

First-time voters are unimpressed by the election campaign, writes Michael Streeter

The political temperature may have been raised several degrees by the latest sleaze scandals but many young people feel cool about the prospect of voting for anyone, according to a selected group of first- time voters.

A number of the Independent group, members of the so-called Big Mac Generation, born when the ubiquitous hamburger had just appeared on British high streets, will not bother to support any party at all, reflecting their indifference to the political process.

University student Robert Bishop, 19, who like all the sample of young voters lives in the marginal seat of Redditch, says he has made up his mind to abstain. "They [the parties] are just different shades of grey. I think a lot of young people feel this way." Andrew Davies, 19, a sixth- former at Arrow Vale school in Redditch, said he would still be reading newspapers and watching the election coverage on television, but felt "resigned" to not voting.

"It seems to me the parties are more interested in sniping at each other than putting anything positive forward.

"I think the sleaze issue is going to drag on, and that does not make any of them look good."

Another student, Richard Watson, 19, said he was interested in the way the media was covering the election, especially the drift of newspapers away from the Conservatives. But he said he, too, would "probably" not vote despite listening to many of the arguments."

Ian Wright, 19, a floor manager at McDonald's, says he is undecided and has has found the campaign so far "boring".

"I think most people I know has found it like that - nothing has caught the imagination. I'm looking forward to seeing a head-to-head debate, which may help me decide. Hopefully they will not be able to dodge the questions."

When first interviewed by The Independent last year Alice Melvin, 21, who works in a betting shop, had considered voting Green, but has now drifted towards the Conservatives. "I just feel that things in the economy are going okay, and will a change under Labour do any good for us? In the end, I'm not sure I'll vote at all."

Among those who have decided to vote, there is more comfort for John Major than Tony Blair, suggesting that alongside a sense of general disillusionment with conventional politics, much of the younger generation has a largely conservative approach to society.

Rachel Putt, 18, who is at North East Worcester College, Redditch, who had previously been undecided, had now opted to vote for the Tories.

She said her mind had been made up by Labour's talk of ending the universality of child benefit. "I do not agree with that," she said. "I know that the Conservatives said last time that they would not put up taxes and they did - but I think Labour will do the same.

Tim Halmshaw, 18, another pupil is "fairly definite" he will vote Conservative but will watch some of the televised debates. "I will vote but I'm not terribly excited by the campaign."

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