'Independent' battlebus comes to the seat of power

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Indy Politics

After brighton, London. Today: Cardiff. Then it's Bristol tomorrow.

The Independent's democracy campaign, which will see 50 candidates in key marginal constituencies around the nation challenged to mount soapboxes in town centres and directly address the public, travelled to the Houses of Parliament yesterday.

After starting on the South coast, this newspaper's democracy battlebus snaked up the A23 from Brighton to the capital. Its journey over the next two weeks will take it through Wales, the Midlands, the north of England and Scotland. Candidates of all political hues, among them Schools Secretary Ed Balls, will be called on to mount a soapbox bearing their name and address the breakdown between Britain's politicians and its people.

The bus is also part of the effort to distribute more than 300,000 copies of a smaller, special edition of The Independent, which is being handed out at train stations, in city centres and in crucial marginal seats every weekday in the run-up to 6 May. Yesterday the editions were covered in a paper jacket reading "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election. You will." Today the jacket reads: "Trade union money won't decide this election. You will." This newspaper hopes to provide a balance to the biased political coverage of some other media outlets.

Yesterday morning, outside Parliament, Ann Muggeridge, 48, an engineering lecturer from Woking, welcomed the effort to encourage candidates to take to the stump. "I can only applaud attempts to get them out and about and explaining their views," she said. "I don't think we really have any great orators on the level of, say, Churchill or Bevan." She said people were fed up with Westminster "big beasts" touring television channels and delivering the party line.

Rebecca Shapiro, 17, an A-level student from Hertfordshire, said: "The only view we get of politicians is through the media lens. That is not right, we should be able to hear people who want our votes speaking live more often."

Patrick Magan, 25, a pilot, said he had previously voted Conservative after seeing William Hague speak live. "He was then leader of the Conservatives and there were quite a few divisions within the party so it was good to see him getting out and connecting with the people."

At 12.30pm today, Cardiff candidates will take to their soapboxes at Heath Park, behind the University Hospital of Wales, to be tested in the forum of public debate. All are welcome.

Tomorrow, the candidates for Bristol North West will face the public and each other on the city's College Green, by the Queen Victoria Statue, also at 12.30pm.

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