On their soapboxes - and on the spot - in Cardiff

No tomatoes were thrown. None of the candidates fainted and fell off their soapbox. The heckling remained within socially acceptable levels.

Instead, five would-be parliamentarians from Cardiff scored a modest victory in the battle to reconnect Britain's politicians with their public.

The Westminster hopefuls addressed constituents in the first of a series of Independent Live events that will see 50 candidates in marginal seats around Britain take to the stump and face questions during the next two weeks.

In front of University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff's Heath Park, the candidates were quizzed about the future of the NHS, international aid and how they would deal with the record deficit. Voters sat in deckchairs and enjoyed a little political cut and thrust in the glorious afternoon rays.

Inspecting The Independent's white democracy battlebus, Alun Williams, 58, a retired union worker, said he was pleased to see the candidates out. "I've been to meetings in the past, but you don't see it much anymore. It's a pity."

Julie Morgan, the incumbent Labour MP for Cardiff North, said she had been "independent minded" as a local MP and described the hospital as "world class". But there was soon dissent from a neighbouring soapbox. "I believe you have a clear choice at this election," said Karen Robson, Tory candidate for Cardiff Central. "That choice is five more years of Gordon Brown and putting the economy at risk further, or David Cameron and the Conservatives getting our economy moving."

John Dixon, the Lib Dem candidate for Cardiff North, said a vote for him was the only way to help Vince Cable become Chancellor. Plaid Cymru's Llywelyn Rhys said the three main Westminster parties had been "self serving and let the people down"; his would ensure the vulnerable were protected from public services cuts. Christopher von Rhuland, for the Greens, decided to stand after all the 2005 candidates failed to make global warming a priority issue.

"It's just great to see them all out and being asked questions by we, the people," said Penny Owen, 54, a retired GP.

The bus is helping to distribute some of the 300,000 copies of an edited-down special edition of The Independent which is being handed out at train stations, in city centres and in crucial marginal seats every weekday up to 6 May.

Each edition is covered in a paper jacket, reading (so far), "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election. You Will," and "Trade union money won't decide this election. You will." Today's jacket reads: "Alexander Lebedev won't decide this election. You will" - a reference to our proprietors and their commitment to editorial freedom.

Today the candidates for Bristol North-West will mount their soapboxes and face the public on College Green, by the Queen Victoria statue, at 12.30pm. On Monday we go to Cambridge, on Tuesday Oxford. All welcome.


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