The 2010 General Election Guide

The Independent voters’ panel

Meet 12 readers from Middle England who will give their verdict throughout the campaign...


'Education policy will influence my support'



Melanie Viney, 37


Mother of two, from Edgbaston. Works part time as an NHS manager


The constituency: Birmingham Edgbaston: Labour seat, held by Gisela Stuart by 2,349 votes (16,465 for Labour; 14,116 for Conservatives).


In the last election: voted Conservative.


This time: "We have another round of redundancies coming up in our hospital and people are worried that cuts will hit frontline services. "We have been told PCTs will have a freeze put on their funding and we have to take that into account when we are planning; that will be an important battleground. I think the economy will be a big issue as well.

"Education policy will sway my vote. I am having to send my daughter to a private school because we are not in a good catchment area. I want to see what the politicians are proposing to help me with that."

'My vote swings on the debates'
Roger Pass, 67
Retired project engineer for Land Rover
The constituency: Redditch: Labour seat, held by Jacqui Smith by 2,716 votes (18,012 for Labour; 15,296 for Conservatives).
In the last election: voted Labour.
This time: "I was a committed socialist but recent events have changed my mind. We were affected by the Jacqui Smith expenses affair. The expenses broke my heart. It kind of put me off the Labour Party. It is a shame she will still be around. I have faith in Gordon Brown but not in Jacqui Smith. I want to see how the cuts will come but I do not mind paying extra taxes if it means keeping the services we already have. My vote swings on the debates. I will vote for a party, not a person."

'The main issue for me is schools'
Ashley Evans, 25
Primary school teacher
The constituency: Solihull: Liberal Democrat seat, held by Lorely Burt by 279 votes (20,896 for Liberal Democrats; 20,617 for Conservatives).
In the last election: voted Labour.
This time: "In terms of the election campaign, the main issue for me will be education. I would also like to see a government look at increasing the minimum wage to more than £6 per hour – I think that is a fairer rate. I have written to my MP about possible cuts to schools and to the NHS. I do not think the personality of a leader is as important as their policies."

'I do not have a clue who to vote for'
Sunita Sorroy, 23
Customer adviser at Skipton Building Society, engaged to Paul
The constituency: Northampton South: Conservative seat, held by Brian Binley by 4,419 votes (23,818 for Conservatives; 19,399 for Labour).
In the last election: did not think any candidate was worth voting for.
This time: "I do not have a clue who I am going to vote for. I think the NHS is going to prove an important issue; you hear a lot of bad reports about disasters like that in Mid-Staffordshire and they are worrying. What is going to be done? Something needs to be done about the economy, too. Our company has not been too badly affected by the recession but we need to make sure that we keep improving."

'What I want to see is action'
Mumina Hassan, 22
Accounting and finance student at the University of Northampton, originally from Somalia but registered to vote in Northampton South
The constituency: Northampton South: Conservative seat, held by Brian Binley by 4,419 votes (23,818 for Conservatives; 19,399 for Labour).
In the last election: too young to vote.
This time: "The important thing is not what the politicians are saying – what I want to see is action. I am not 100 per cent sure for whom I will vote, I will decide when the time comes.
We need to change the structure of our economy so that a recession is never allowed to happen again."

'NHS funding is a vote winner'
Michael Wager, 25
Office worker for Endsleigh Insurance Services
The constituency: Gloucester: Labour seat, held by Parmjit Dhanda by 4,271 votes (23,138 for Labour; 18,867 for Conservatives). In the last election: voted Labour
This time: "I want to see a politician who can do something about fixing the banking system and making sure that we have some degree of control over it in the future. NHS funding will be a vote-winner, but I really want to see improvements to the education system. I would like a wholesale move away from the league tables, targets-based system because it doesn't produce results."

'Childcare policy is my issue'
Hester Maclean, 33
A mother of one from Solihull. Works as a sales manager at Lloyds TSB
The constituency: Solihull: Liberal Democrat seat, held by Lorely Burt by 279 votes (20,896 for Liberal Democrats; 20,617 for Conservatives).
In the last election: voted Conservative.
This time: "I have always voted Tory in the past but I am not convinced by David Cameron. The big thing for me is childcare policy – taking away the childcare vouchers will impact on me personally.
"I do not have much confidence in Labour's leadership. How the party leaders come across during the campaign and on the televised debates will influence my vote. Another issue which is important to me is the economy, but, more so, the expenses scandal. I submit expenses myself and I could never get away with what they have; I would be sacked if I tried."

'The economy will be a big part'
Ben Williams, 33
Retail manager of the Spar shop in Melbourne, Derbyshire
The constituency: Derbyshire South: held by Labour by 4,495 votes (24,823 for Labour; 20,328 for Conservatives).
In the last election: voted Labour.
The campaign: "As a local shopkeeper, I would like to hear the politicians address community issues. Despite Melbourne being a seemingly idyllic little village, there is quite a lot of anti-social behaviour on an evening. The economy will obviously play a big part in the campaign as well."

'The parties are too similar'
Oliver Chapman, 18
An A-level student from Ticknall, Derbyshire. Studying history, geography and English literature
The constituency: South Derbyshire: Labour seat, held by Mark Todd by 4,495 votes (24,823 for Labour; 20,328 for Conservatives).
In the last election: too young to vote.
This time: "A focus on the economy is a large issue, as is immigration and overpopulation and cuts to funding in universities. But the parties are often too similar and do not focus on any specific issues. They do not like to make any major changes, for fear of upsetting people. I will probably vote for one of the main three parties so as not to waste my vote."

'I want some new blood'
Will Workman
Market stall owner
In the last election: voted Liberal Democrat
The constituency: Redditch: Labour seat, held by Jacqui Smith by 2,716 votes (18,012 for Labour; 15,296 for Conservatives).
The campaign: "I have always been a Labour man, but in the last couple of years I have become increasingly unsure. I want some new blood in the government. The expenses scandal was criminal; if I did half of what they did, I would be in trouble with the law." I believe the election will be fought on the back of the expenses scandal. It is like Ashcroft not paying taxes – the system needs to be cleaned up."

'It should be easier to start a business'
Lisa Smith, 43
Owner of a hair salon, from Billing. Lives with her husband and three children
The constituency: Northampton South: Conservative seat, held by Brian Binley by 4,419 votes (23,818 for Conservatives; 19,399 for Labour).
In the last election: voted Labour.
This time: "As a new business owner, I think that the people on middle incomes get stung for everything. It is only those at the top or at the bottom of the scale who seem to reap the benefits of government measures. I would like to see the politicians put measures in place to make it easier for those wanting to set up and run their own businesses."

'I might even vote Green'
Babar Niazi, 40
Married father of two from Edgbaston. Works as an operating theatre nurse
The constituency: Birmingham Edgbaston: Labour seat, held by Gisela Stuart by 2,349 votes (16,465 for Labour; 14,116 for Conservatives).
In the last election: voted Labour.
This time: "I'm broadly left-wing but I'm disillusioned. I do not know which way I will vote. The Conserv-atives look more like the old Labour Party than Labour do. I might even vote Green. The main issues in the campaign would be the NHS and the economy. I'm disillusioned with the NHS because we are understaffed and overworked. I think we should be careful about how quickly we cut the deficit. I think the banks will be a big issue as well. Their staff get bonuses while I can't even get a mortgage. I'm trying to move house and twice it has fallen through over the mortgage."

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