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Taking The Pulse: Harlow

Nick Robinson | 15:58 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

KitKats... dog food... a loo brush... and don't forget the bath plug. That and so much more will all be on the ballot paper at this - the first - general election after we learnt what MPs were asking us to pay for.

Graphic of a ballot boxThe impact of the MPs' expenses scandal is unpredictable. Will it inspire people to punish wrong-doers, abandon the major parties, focus on more significant issues or could it lead some to ask the question "Voting - is it worth it?"

That is today's question in our totally unscientific quest to take the pulse of the British electorate.

We've come to Harlow in Essex - an important Labour/Tory marginal. This town's not been the focus of the expenses scandal although the local Labour MP, Bill Rammell, did have to repay over £2,700 for things he shouldn't have claimed for - a garden table and a suitcase - and things like newspapers and printing he claimed under the wrong heading. The talk around here is also of the recently-resigned Tory leader of Essex County Council, Lord Hanningfield, who is facing charges for his alleged abuse of House of Lords expenses.

I've been speaking today to members of the Harlow Allotment Association who - unlike Members of Parliament - have never been able to claim for the cost of their gardening. One or two cite the scandal as a reason for not voting. Most, who share their anger, insist, however, that voting is a privilege and duty and that you can't complain if you don't participate in choosing who runs the country.

Some of the more working-class crowd watching the greyhounds race at Harlow Stadium do mention expenses as the reason for not voting but more commonly I heard people express lack of interest in or knowledge of politics. The bookies there offer me odds on who'll win the election but it is anyone's bet how many will actually vote.

At the last election - long before this scandal - 8,000 fewer people voted here than in the election when Tony Blair first became prime minister and 17,000 fewer than when John Major was elected. In the country as a whole five million fewer voted in 2005 compared with 1997.

This is the last day of my tour of marginal constituencies. I've heard a huge range of opinions but have been struck by the widespread anger with Labour; the real uncertainty about the Tories; the willingness of a minority who once stayed silent to talk openly about backing the BNP but most of all I am struck by the depth of the decline in belief in politics and politicians.

It is a profound challenge to all those who believe that elections are the only fair, safe and decent way for the country to make choices, resolve debates and decide who wields power.

Update 12 Feb: Here's my package from Harlow.

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  • Comment number 1.

    "This is the last day of my tour of marginal constituencies. I've heard a huge range of opinions but have been struck by the widespread anger with Labour; the real uncertainty about the Tories; the willingness of a minority who once stayed silent to talk openly about backing the BNP but most of all I am struck by the depth of the decline in belief in politics and politicians."


    You should read your own blogs then, instead of feeling the need to gallivant around the country at our expense to come to the self same conclusion.

    All the best!

  • Comment number 2.

    "The housing minister, John Healey, has told the BBC that, for some people, having their home repossessed "can be the best option".


    Sounds a bit like a "Price worth paying" type comment to me.

  • Comment number 3.

    "most of all I am struck by the depth of the decline in belief in politics and politicians."

    If you've got your finger on the pulse, Nick, that shouldn't have surprised you at all.

    Politicians have setup numerous self-appointed quangos, all paid for by us, to try and keep the "one rule for us, different rules for everyone else in the country" situation.

    Meanwhile, the Lords say that if you're a Lord, then simply staying at your mum's house for a week can net you 30grand of tax payer's money (actually it's more than 30grand because it should be subjected to tax but it's not), but if you're a member of the public then you're not allowed to claim the tax back on a kit-kat while you were on a business trip.

    People will only want to vote again when Parliament says "we'll live by the same tax/expenses laws as we force everyone else to live under".

    All politicians are still all in the same trough as they ever were, it's just that they've hid/obfuscated things a bit to try and throw people off the scent. It won't work; the only thing that'll work will be if MPs and Lords all say:

    "See those laws on tax and expenses that we force everyone else to live under? Well, let's use those and just bin all the quangos that we setup to police ourselves. We'll get "policed" by the police and HMRC like everyone else does"

    It won't happen though, and that's one of the reasons why people will continue to not bother voting, and why that number, in the long term, will just continue to fall (the other reason is the EU; why bother voting for your MP when whatever they do is superceded by an unelected EU commission?)

    What MPs and Lords are claiming (even now after they've "mended" the system) would, in the private sector, be subjected to tax, or be deemed to be fraud. Not many people are going to vote for someone who, in the private sector, would have been put in jail by now.

    I'm going to vote because despite virtually all labour/tory politicians still being in the trough and not wanting to get out of it, it's more important at the moment to stop the country from going bankrupt under another labour term than it is to make a protest against the whole system being corrupt.

  • Comment number 4.

    What really strikes me most from your soundings so far are the numbers of people who are fearful of change.

    Unfortunately change is acoming and although I can understand their fear the devil that you know is not going to keep things as they are or have been.

    Quite the opposite. What we need now is a completely fresh approach to the common problems we all face that will give us something to look forward to rather than sticking our heads in the sand.

  • Comment number 5.

    'This town's not been the focus of the expenses scandal although the local Labour MP, Bill Rammell, did have to repay over £2,700 for things he shouldn't have claimed for...'
    Says it all really! If I did that I'd be sacked.

  • Comment number 6.

    The reason 17,000 more people voted in 1992 was because the election was close and votes mattered. 1997, 2001 and 2005 were foregone conclusions hence many stopped at home.

    Simple really. Yet why don't political commentators say this when looking back at voter turnout?

  • Comment number 7.

    I have found these interesting reports and would like to suggest that Nick looks at the Hexham constituency in Northumberland. Hexham is particularly interesting because it has been a Conservative seat for over 80 years. This year it will see a new MP elected for the first time, as none of the candidates have been elected to Parliament before. Also there is an Independent standing, who was previously a doctor who had a practice in the constituency.

    Although the seat has been primarily Tory, the sitting MP did not win the seat with an overall majority and many of those on the electoral roll did not come out to vote. With a bit of tactical voting and the electorate being motivated to vote there could be a shock here, especially if the disaffected voters support the Independent.

    I am sure there are a number of constituencies like this across the UK and I would like to see some constituencies with Independents standing getting some focus. The Independent Network could be quite influential this year, and it would be good to see it get more coverage on the news and also other programmes such as Question Time.

  • Comment number 8.

    Two points

    1) This is not a key marginal, in fact it's not even going to be marginal - it's in the bag for the tories with a knife-edge majority for Rammell he is certainly toast.

    2) The talk is not "of Lord Hanningfield" it is of GSK shutting Harlow North, following the shutting of Merck's Terlings Park in 2006 and several others. High tech jobs disappearing in this area and East Herts faster than anywhere in the country it seems :-(

    The not voting thing is interesting however - if the tories can win back some of those 15 million (those who are still alive...) who voted for them in 1992 but who have not voted since, they will be laughing. Tories got 9 million-odd last time round. If they can get 12 million this time Cameron is in Downing street.

    A lot of people forget that Major's tories in 1992 got more votes than Blair's Labour in 1997. Britain is conservative with a small c, Cameron needs only to connect and somehow address this disillusion.

  • Comment number 9.

    I live very close to Harlow, but in the Epping forest constituency. Winston Churchill's former seat has always been tory s there is little incentive for anyone to vote.

    This time though the reselected tory MP, aka the biggest flipper since Moby Dick, has caused alot of anger by legally avoiding CG tax on her million pound profit on properties partially paid for by the taxpayer.

    I and many others will vote to keep her out. Maybe, Just maybe we can make affect the outcome this time and who knows? it may make us feel that our democratic system is worth saving.

  • Comment number 10.

    This is scary. When marginal voters turn away then democracy is at risk. The bad can continue (Labour) or the marginals can get more than a foothold (the BNP). This is how Hitler did it.
    Both the major parties need "to get it" and quick. Labour needs to get in the real world - every utterance they make is more incredulous by the day.
    The Tories are silent or backtracking.
    Whether we like the high spending, we are where we are. The electorate knows pain is coming and is braced for it. This is a perfect opportunity for the Tories - if only to offer a change - but they are demonstrating a complete lack of cohones.
    They need to step up and take control - be firm about aspirations - small government, greater personal responsibility and reliance, less taxation. We don't expect miracles, but that would set the course. With those aspirations, all else can follow and be judged against them.

    Wake up David Cameron - this is your moment!!!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Vote none of the above until they reform the ballot to give proportional representation and ban tourist MPs ( e.g some herbert from Surrey representing a party in Liverpool or better e.g. some PM from Scotland representing English people who never even had the chance to vote against him)

  • Comment number 12.

    I grew up in Harlow, and I understand the feelings of the self-disenfranchised. But I loathe Labour so much now that I'll vote for anyone who will displace them. So if Harlow is still a Lab/Con marginal, I'd vote Con.

    The problem that I have - that your poll is probably supporting - is that nobody represents ME. If I vote for someone, I get THEIR party. That means I get all of their policies, lock, stock and barrel. I just know that I support almost none of Labour's policies, and I resent being run for twelve years by a Scottish clique.

    This election cannot come soon enough. I'm just tired of waiting for these clueless, hopeless, self-important apparatchiks to start the campaign.

  • Comment number 13.

    I still don't think the MPs have understood how they have undermined their integrity - and not just the worst abusers. This has been going on for a long time. I welcome Labour's idea of the Alternate vote - it will give a value to voters in safe constituencies. For the first time an MP will only be elected when he/she gets at least 50% of the votes cast. Shame the Tories are not backing this -they are obviously against democracy

  • Comment number 14.

    Nick I am struck that you only seem to work a 4 day week. I wish I could!!!!!

    Also most of the content of the article above could be written without the expense of you driving round the country with an old ballot box.

  • Comment number 15.

    Voting only encourages them..

  • Comment number 16.

    It will give you a new view then Nick when you get back to reporting from Downing Street.

    Lesson 1: Don't believe everything that comes out of Number 10

    How about following up on Ian Dale's scoop about John Denham, he's asking for someone to look further.

  • Comment number 17.

    In some places it is totally pointless voting (apart from saying you contributed so you have the right to moan, which I agree with).
    This is the case in many areas where there is always a sizable majority for one party, regardless of who the mp is, or in places where the MP is so popular that they will get reelected whatever. You see this on election night when the results come out, when whatever the little changes and swings happen the vast number (and sometimes the majority) of actual voter numbers are not with the winning candidate. In those circumstances it has been totally pointless.

  • Comment number 18.

    Voting only encourages them..

  • Comment number 19.

    What happened to marginals in Scotland - did you not think it was worth the effort to travel a bit further north?

  • Comment number 20.

    The surprise is that the media is surprised. People woke up one day and found out that their retirements and investment accounts had been substantially reduced. The government not only had done nothing to prevent this but turned around and gave the bankers who reduced the accounts taxpayer monies. Add to this the same people who were in charge are still in charge and paying themselves obscene bonuses while everyone else struggles and maybe that generates a little anger...would't you think. Since no one stood up and said this is coming the general belief is that all parties were party to the theft. Given that, voting seems futile in the current circumstances. You just can't trust any of them.

  • Comment number 21.

    The issue is that politics no longer relates to the person in the street: it has become a game for an expensed class of stooges and opportunists. The political parties are no longer structures rooted in the community reflecting the different values prevalent within society.

    Add into that disconnection the sense of the average elector that they have been brutalised by excessive taxes, bullied by too many unnecessary laws, patronised by the vast majority of the political class, ignored by the media and confused about everything as none of it makes sense any more.

    There is a problem!

    For as long as the political class consider that their only task is to compete in bribing the people of this country with their own money then the anger and the apathy can only grow. They - all of them, regardless of party - need to come down and talk to people about what directly concerns the people.

    Jobs, pay, and tax are all small words but for ordinary folk they mean a great deal. There are other words as well which you have picked up on. Point scoring at PMQs is irrelevant before these fundamental issues!

  • Comment number 22.

    So is that it now, Nick? Have you stopped taking the pulse? Are you coming back to Central London? ... to the real world.

  • Comment number 23.

    "It is a profound challenge to all those who believe that elections are the only fair, safe and decent way for the country to make choices, resolve debates and decide who wields power"

    Well if you had asked anyone from the fathers for Justice arena more that 7 years ago you would have come to the same conclusion. If was the failure of democracy at the level MP's and upwards to even open there eye , ears and mouths on the problems in the family courts that this lead many to believe that this was more than just children issues at stake but how our "lack of Democracy" works. But then you have a cosey job at the BBC and are not engaged in real reporting like a allful lot of others too.

  • Comment number 24.

    If we're to have a better say in politics, and express strong opinions on certain issues, we need a better voting system. If you wish to express support for other than the two leading parties, their canvassers may tell you that your vote will be wasted and your opinion ignored, unless you pretend to support them. It's a scandal that this may be true.

    I'm not a big fan of proportional representation, but an Alternative Vote system would help us break free of the cosy two-party system, and express support for minority parties and particular issues at the ballot box.

    The Conservatives won't permit reform, and Labour will only offer lip service before elections. Don't vote for either of them, even if your local PM says he/she supports reform. Bill Rammell won't get my vote.

  • Comment number 25.

    It isn't surprising you have come to that conclusion.Everyone is fed up with Gordo but Cameron lacks the guts to kick out the crooks in his party so its the same old Tories that we all remember.

  • Comment number 26.

    Really sad that you didn't realise the extent to which most people are fed up with politicians and politics, Nick.

    The folks who blog on here are only the tip of the iceberg, and not the extremists you might have presumed.

    You will be able to see more of how much attitudinal change and work needs to be done by the politicians if they are to connect at all with the people and if people are to trust them at all.

    They've made a real mess and need to put it right - not go on another recess.

    It sure looks like fiddling whilst Rome burns....and the fiddling is financial too.

  • Comment number 27.

    The reaction to the election will be unpredictable. All polls are on the basis of personalities and parties. More people are making noises about not voting at all, or not voting for sitting MPs just to get rid of them.

    So, the results may well be to provide a completely clean sweep and with no party in the dominant position.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi Nick if standards remain the same apathy and resentment will continue to increase and this advert summs up a true reflection of present day politics. Regards Paul

    JOB VACANCIES. We are seeking 659 men and women for the post of MP, no qualifications required, other than perhaps knowledge of the language of duplicity.

    Job description; 139 days per year, pay £467 per day or £65,000 per year, generous expenses allowances, subsidised restaurants and bars, gilt edge pensions, attractive lobbyists perks, prestige position in society, employ family members, freedom to take up other well paid employment, self regulating, where mastery of the language of duplicity, greatly assists promotions to senior post, and greater rewards of junior and senior ministers with rich circle of friends, with prospects of promotion to the Lords and Directorships.
    Dedicated, trustworthy people with strong desire to serve the community, who work hard, such as nurses and alike, need not apply.

    Paul Lehmans

    PS. Millions of voters willingly troop out to employ you.

  • Comment number 29.

    "I've heard a huge range of opinions but have been struck by the widespread anger with Labour; the real uncertainty about the Tories; the willingness of a minority who once stayed silent to talk openly about backing the BNP but most of all I am struck by the depth of the decline in belief in politics and politicians."

    Hold the front pages, this is dynamite.

  • Comment number 30.

    Our country does not need a written constitution (I was told long ago)
    because it is run by gentlemen! I am devastated by the expenses claims, it is immoral and they must have known that. I may vote again in the future but this time I want them to know how I feel so I am not voting.

  • Comment number 31.

    Nick, I refer you to the this lines in your blog,
    "but most of all I am struck by the depth of the decline in belief in politics and politicians."

    Really? I know politicians haven't helped themselves with the expenses issue and "the punch and judy show" that we call Pariliament.

    But I would also blame the the BBC. When CNN was covering the US elections in 2008, their version of David Dimbleby, Wolf Blitzer and his co-presenters urged the watching public to vote if they had not done so already. They do it at every election, even the mid-terms. True, it has not meant that turnout has improved. But that's not the point here. If an AMERICAN commercial TV station with no political loyalty can do that, please tell me why the state-funded BBC cannot do the same? Isn't it better for democracy if we could have 80-90% voter turnout instead of the pitiful 60% that we're likely to get this year. Who knows, with a high turnout, the winning party might even get more than 50% of the vote, instead of the paltry 25% that Labour got in 2005. There'll be no need to tinker with the voting system then.

    So, come the election, I'm looking for the BBC's political commentators to encourage eligible voters to vote, even if they want to vote for the BNP. Are you up for it? No, I didn't think so either. Why would the BBC want a strong democracy? After all, you are only interested in discord and disunity because that's what keeps you in a job.
    Setting up webpages such as "DemocracyLive" is just paying lip-service to the concept of democracy. Talk about wolf in sheep's clothing !

  • Comment number 32.

    #23 looks like the moderators are back with vengance again , wonder what excuse they will have for stop that one, well it will be past the time anybody reads it, even if they do put it up.

  • Comment number 33.

    Gosh! At last Nick and the BBC have realised outside of Westminster all is not as they thought it was! Shame it was a totally unscientific poll.

    I remain a floating voter in as much as I don't know who to vote for at present other than I know it will NOT be labour.

    With regards to AV, do not know much about it but if you only put one preference on your paper will it still count? Would that be a good way of keeping out undesirables?

  • Comment number 34.

    since my lad was old enough to draw an X - ive been taking him to vote at every election, local, county and general, he puts the cross where i want him to and was told that "we" had cast our vote.

    hes old enough now to vote for himself, and he does so, with enthusiasm.
    voter apathy in our house? not a bit of it!
    he understands that people died for the right to vote, whenever i spot people queues for votes in countries where there are dictators in charge on the news, i remind him about using his vote, i dont really have to though.
    i dont care wether he votes for a major party or the holidays for geese party, as long as he uses it!

    the main parties do not just notice those that vote for them, voter turn out in one particular area near where i live is over 85% - now where do you suppose has gotten a new play area for kids, housing grants for both inside and out, new road surfaces, traffic safety measures, improved street lighting, grants for local shops, etc?

    now imagine if your voting area had a turnout of over 85%

  • Comment number 35.

    Many are questioning the usefulness of Nicks "pulse taking" and I agree it has been an odd escapade. However if nothing else I am sure NIck has now got the message that many, many want Labour gone but at the same time are not that keen on the Tories as a replacement.

    Perhaps the LIb Dems will do better than most think and at worst be the partner in a hung parliament.

    I remember the last Lib/Lab compact as it was strangely called and it worked quite well but lasted only a short while, about 14 months I think. Hopefully tho they would not support another Labour govt, please God!

    Perhaps we will finish up like Italy was some years ago requiring a coalition of sevral small parties to form a govt . The circs are certainly right for small party candidates getting elected when so many are disenchanted with the big two.

    Could be quite interesting. As could the reaction if Labour somehow get back in.

  • Comment number 36.

    32 IR35 survivor

    Can you paraphrase what you put in 23 as it would be good to know what someone moaned about.

  • Comment number 37.

    Saga where are you? I have a special pass out and was looking forward to your frivolous banter!!

  • Comment number 38.

    It is very difficult in these days of economic crisis, to know what is important to the British electorate. Is it continuity (staying with what you know) or taking a chance(with which ever party takes your fancy)?
    It is difficult to say.
    The next few months are going to be politically interesting.
    At one time I thought that the current Labour administration was finished. They have had their time; everyone is bored with them; so time for the Tories to take over. Part of the political swing from Labour to Conservative, then back again. The traditional British political see-saw.
    But no more.
    My thoughts are turning now to the disillusioned British voter. Who are they going to vote for? Lib-Dems? BNP? Green Party? The Looney Party?
    At this stage I seriously don't know.
    Between now and the election anything can happen.
    It is not the party who has the biggest smile that is going to win; it is not the party who have the best policies; it is not the party with the greasiest, fastest mouth who is going to win. is the party who doesn't make the biggest mistakes.
    All parties are now poised; waiting; to see who amongst their going to make the biggest, gigantuan, scandalous [mistake] that will lose their party the election!

  • Comment number 39.

    The blame for the depth of decline in the belief in politics and politicians can be laid at the door of the current generation of MuPpets. The tax money spent, the lives wasted, the decline in personal moral standards and behaviour, failure to lead, failure to admit or even correct their mistakes, spin (lies), smearing, wholesale abuse of trust and power, betrayal, broken election pledges, slogans, sound-bites, manipulation of data and figures, and hundred of other distasteful practices have driven us to either rage or apathy. They have earned the publics contempt and are quite un-trustworthy; the whole damned lot of them.

    If any of you dull parliamentary chumps are reading this, there are only a few ways to re-engage the public. Here’s a starter for 10:

    1. Remember that you are a public servant, not their master. Never forget this.
    2. Answer the question, truthfully, and if you don’t know, say you don’t know, and then go and find out.
    3. Stop lying, spinning and smearing.
    4. Stop boasting.
    5. Stop stealing our tax money through your expense accounts.
    6. Give everything, take nothing.
    7. Seek expert advice and make proper plans. Not one of you is considered as experts in any field.
    8. Admit your mistakes – we will forgive minor errors of judgement.
    9. Set an example, you must be above reproach.
    10. If you cannot follow such a simple code, or get caught, then resign and get another job.

  • Comment number 40.

    #33 think there should be a more serious debate about what type if any there is to replace FPTP, not just limiting it to the favoured method of ZANU_liebour and thier reasons to pervert the polling system to get re-elected.

    should this include no more than 2 terms for any PM, also if the PM is changed then election within 100days etc etc

  • Comment number 41.

    "I've heard a huge range of opinions but have been struck by the widespread anger with Labour; the real uncertainty about the Tories; the willingness of a minority who once stayed silent to talk openly about backing the BNP but most of all I am struck by the depth of the decline in belief in politics and politicians."

    Astonishing much did it cost Nick to come to this breathtaking conclusion?? Tell you what, next time you want such insight, give me half of this cost in a brown paper bag and I'll tell you - gissa job mate.....yours seems too easy....

  • Comment number 42.

    #23 must be because I brought up the isssues of democracy and fathers
    the BBC does not like that one being joined

  • Comment number 43.

    #35 I remember quite the opposite actaully it just delayed the changes that were required and might well have made them far worse than need be.

    if they support labour this time they will go done with them.

    Maybe they would be better off in bed with the Tories and nmoderating some policies

  • Comment number 44.

    For as long as I can remember, BBC (and other) journalists have peddled a cynical and dismissive line about politics.

    You've developed political discourse into nothing but a personality contest. "No difference between the parties" etc. etc.

    So, yes, yet another article implying there's no point in voting. And then you wonder why the capacity to engage with politics has declined.

    There's been no surge in the BNP vote at all, although we're led to believe there were millions more of them. There aren't; it's just now they make up a higher proportion of those who do vote, because more moderate people are staying at home.

    There's no surprise when the public on the streets of Harlow or anywhere else recite back to you the same cynicism that you've fed them for the last 20 years.

    What did you expect?

    Bring back good old John Cole.

  • Comment number 45.

    39 feduplittlefellow

    You are right. Hope MPs do read it. However, with their current rate of not 'getting it' they probably won't think it applies to them even now or 5 years after they fail to get voted in again.

    Fingers xed though. Always look on the bright side....ta dum ta dum dum dum dum dum...

  • Comment number 46.

    It is interesting to consider some of todays stories in the news. Two in particular are worthy of consideration and debate. The Home Office Minister who signed a letter claiming to prove the retention of DNA being a good thing. I am not saying that it is not. My DNA is held after a drink driving conviction. But why do the government feel the need to falsify the alleged supporting evidence. It does them no credit. We also have the story of the Government Law Officer who mislead the Court of Appeal to remove critical comments from a ruling.

    So we have a Government that lie to try and prove their point of view. They also lie to the judiciary, to remove criticisam of the law enforcement agencies. With these two instancies how much of what they say can we believe.

    We can ask for numbers from the government about the state of the economy. We can also ask for costings on what they propose to do to get us out of this mess. Can we believe any of the answers that the government may publish.

    The Prime Minister said he new nothing of a £50,000 fund or that an MP had asked written questions about it.

    Why are we blogging about what the people of Harlow think and not about our Government suppressing Judicial opinions, falsifying evidence and telling families that losing their homes is for the best.

    to me this shows a total disregard for anyone but themselves. How can anyone even consider voting for such a deceitful lot?

  • Comment number 47.

    #23 2 hrs later and no explanation as to why it has been blocked, and how does that exactly help the process of democracy the Mr BBC Moderators, look to yourself wh ywe have a problem today

  • Comment number 48.

    This country no longer has an Empire, yet have they downsized, modernised, and economised within the Houses of Parliament and top civil servants?
    Can we afford them all or will they bankrupt us along with the bankers?
    A very low turnout would show how disgusted the electorate are with the whole system.

  • Comment number 49.

    If we are reminiscing, then
    I remember the 3 day week in the 70's, power cuts and all.
    My father receiving petrol rationing tokens (we ran a sun post office) and being aghast as they looked just like the food ration tokens in the war.
    Maggie getting into number 10 and the instant hike in interest rates.
    Milk costing 4.5p a pint (about 10p a litre)
    The Poll Tax riots
    The Falklands war

    I could go on, but basically some of us have long memories and some of us have short ones. Some of us have no memories as they are not old enough.

    The only way this election will be won decisively is on NOT MORE OF THE SAME. Conservatives and all other parties but Labour please take note!

    I say that because although I am not normally Labour policy inclined I really believed Tony Blair on his ppb when they won in 1997. Shame they turned out to be Reds in a Pink suit!

  • Comment number 50.

    it does not matter which party wins the election,once elected all mps look to there own self interest,no mp of any party has the guts or interest to make a stand for there electorate,any who do are hounded by the press,to be made out to be odd balls,it is not only mps who treat the public with distain our press also do a good job of doing the same tv or newspaper reporters again it does not matter all in the same mould,read any paper or watch any tv political programe and the same type of person seems to appear or is written about we other mortals appear if our views are the same if not no way are you seen?mps news media all cosy up to each other,hence public apathy!

  • Comment number 51.

    "Voting - is it worth it?"

    In this constituency (North East Cambridgeshire) NO, it is not. It is a 'safe seat' and the replacement for our outgoing MP has already been chosen by the party apparatchiks from a list provided by party HQ and their choice has been approved by them.

    Voting? an utter waste of time. And will remain so for as long as party selection committees can select whom they will as MP without any effective reference to the electorate.

    Roll on electoral reform ....

  • Comment number 52.

    This all makes very depressing reading for people who believe in the right to vote. If you feel you have no choice then get off your backsides and create a choice. This is what we have in Hexham. A doctor has had enough of the way things are going, taken early retirement and decided to run as an Independent in the constituency. Look out for his name, Dr Steven Ford, as he will get coverage.

    There is no point sitting on your backsides moaning about how everything is wrong in your area, unless you decide that you are going to do something about it. Even if the good doctor does not get elected he will have raised the issues that need to covered and heightened voter awareness in the constituency. It is not too late to mount a serious campaign as an Independent, if you can arrange enough financial backing to do it.

  • Comment number 53.

    #50 maybe that why the BBC does not like my psot at #23 and still no reasons. The men in lycra were made out to be odd balls indeed, which I guess proves your point.

  • Comment number 54.

    It seems our MPs do a lot of spouting and promising to get elected and then completely fail to represent the electorate as a whole. The whip and party politics appear to take precedence over what fundamentally an MP should be doing and that is representing the people that elected him or her. How many of the electorate are fed up with Politicians claptrap on Europe, Immigration the Justice sytem bending over backwards for the perpetrators of crime.
    We need to change our political system so that all MP's are held to account if they fail to pick up and act on the views of the electorate. Its high time something was done to radically change or remove party politics

  • Comment number 55.

    #52 a fine idead , I had a go was very interesting experience

  • Comment number 56.

    The expenses scandal I believe MP's on all sides have gladly welcomed, it has diverted attention away from some very real and very serious issues.

    The banking crisis!
    The City has traditionally generated a huge income for the government in taxation on transactions.
    With the banking crisis has come an outcry that city bonuses must be drastically reduced, this will prevent risk taking, that has generated income for the government of the day, which in turn has been used to prop up public services.

    Take away that income and the government of the day has to either borrow like mad or slash services.

    The current ones have decided to borrow like crazy in the hope that the city will recover, but if you don't pay bonuses to people who are prepared to take risks, it will not recover.

    If it doesn't recover, borrowing to keep things going in the interim will not help.

    So everyone, we are going to suffer, sooner or late, Gordon is living a dream and hoping that he can secure his job, before having to fess up and cut public services, so that he can start to pay back money he has borrowed on our behalf.

    No-one in any party has come up with an answer, or admitted that there isn't one.

    Is it worth voting? Only out of respect for those who gave their lives securing the vote for us commoners.

    Sadly nothing will change.

  • Comment number 57.

    I have enjoyed reading the 'pulse' blogs, and even more so the debate that has taken place in the banter afterwards, but one quick question to the regulars, if I had to explain the philosophies of the three main parties to a first time voter, and how the core beliefs would steer the country for the next term, how would I phrase it? TVM

  • Comment number 58.

    #33 sadlydeskbound wrote:
    Saga where are you? I have a special pass out and was looking forward to your frivolous banter!!


    Well the MPs went on 10 days leave yesterday, maybe Saga has joined them!

    On a serious point it would be good if MPs actually did some real work for a change and only had 4 to 6 weeks leave a year.

  • Comment number 59.

    TO not Vote is idiotic, if the only people to vote where the MPs, they'd all get back in. If you are thinking of not voting, simply check out the second place candidate in your constituenct last time and vote for them or their party. If we REALLY made every constituency into a 2 horse race, the sitting MP versus last time's second place candidate we could remove EVERY sitting MP AND I can assure you, there would be such an change in the power base of political parties that it would be better than not voting. Imagine it, ALL WHIPS gone, ALL Ministers GONE, ALL Shadow Ministers GONE, ALL Leaders GONE. The SPEAKER Gone, The Civil Servants would have been handed back power, and whilst there is no doubt that the Civil Service has to be heavily cut, there are very able ones around, they just have had their powers emasculated, well clearing out ALL sitting MPs empowers them again and what new MP would dare upset his constituents? I can't see the next Government necessarily being able to last 5 years so the new MPs would be even more sensitive to the electorate, we might actually get some decent reform.

    Turf them out, vote for the second placed party candidate at the last election!

  • Comment number 60.

    47 IR35 Survivor

    2 hours ? Another 3 hours and my 43 over on Andrews will be 48hrs.

    If there is something not right with my post I cannot agree and change it, or disagree and appeal until I get the e-mail saying what the score is. That is the stated system and it is blantantly being ignored by the BBC or its moderators.

    I am sure this is interference with the exchange of ideas and opinions and as such is against the law, Article 10 HRA. Anyone know how to take a case ?

  • Comment number 61.

    58. At 8:59pm on 11 Feb 2010, uncivil-civilservant wrote:
    #33 sadlydeskbound wrote:
    Saga where are you? I have a special pass out and was looking forward to your frivolous banter!!


    Well the MPs went on 10 days leave yesterday, maybe Saga has joined them!

    On a serious point it would be good if MPs actually did some real work for a change and only had 4 to 6 weeks leave a year.

    Worrying, I have noticed he's become less amusing, and I discover he has two properties, encourages increased taxataion and doesn't want to volunteer to pay extra tax voluntarily - the circumstantial evidence is building, damn, he's a Labour MP!!!!!

  • Comment number 62.

    re 53 thankyou you are spot on

  • Comment number 63.

    The rich/poor divide is wider than ever, the policies of the last 40 years have consistently failed to deliver a better deal for the average person despite all the promises governments make; Everyone has gotten poorer apart from the rich who have gotten richer.

    They scare the government from taxing them more heavily by claiming that without them the economy would collapse or be in recession for longer. Economic blackmail isn’t their only skill, richer ones share the same boardrooms, clubs or old schools with top ministers. All this so they can rip off the poor, evade taxes and escape the law. Somewhere Machiavelli is smiling, but I'm not.

    No party represents the average working person, they all look after the interests of the super rich and hang us out to dry.
    Which party would you vote for - the liars, the crooks, the yes-men or the extremists?
    It's no wonder most people stay at home.

  • Comment number 64.

    Nick - isn't your conclusion - 'trust the people'?

  • Comment number 65.

    Given the crisis we are in both with the recession and the tainted honour of politicians, I would vote for any party that could produce a statesman to lead the country through it all but all we are offered are three party representatives that can be enticed to maul each other by any morsel anyone cares to throw into the ring. Brown appears set to sell his soul to win an election and with Mandelson mushing in the pack he appears to have no qualms in promising everyone, everything. But then who has he to fear? He must be the most vulnerable Prime Minister for a very long time and yet he is still fighting. Can we trust those that failed so utterly to secure victory already to face the more challenging task of leading the country? Perhaps we should vote for one of the "loonies" just to pep things up a bit.

  • Comment number 66.

    I will be voting at the next election and here is why:
    Women fought for the right to vote. When my grandmother was born, she was not entitled, as a female to vote. Eventually, that vote was won for her, me and future generations.

    Do I believe my vote will actually matter?
    We don't live in a democracy. We're spied on, photographed at legitimate democractic demonstrations, ignored by the politicians......
    The people left behind fall further and further behind as the years go by. We're losing the most important things we have - innocent until proven guilty, poor people are assumed to be frauds, those who work with children are assumed to be dangerous...
    Those who have will demand yet more; be that business of the wealthy, they will demand more and more for themselves, and blame the poor, the sick the unfortunate for being where they are.
    My husband and I are in a good place, but I can't vote for the two main parties - it isn't about 'just me'. We are paying the bills. No fancy cars or holidays but for now we are OK. We won't be able to have a comfortable retirement, but we won't starve either, at least not as long as we can chew! We won't freeze as long as we have a duvet and each other.
    But what about those who aren't so lucky?
    Voting is about more than what you can get for yourself, it is about society and civilisation. About how we want the future to be for all of us. If people voted for purely self-interest, then men would never have agreed for female emancipation. Think about it.
    I want to live ina democratic country, where it is understood the people are the ultimate employer, not big business. I want to live in a meritocracy where the talented are recognised for their gifts, not a society where the worst engineer wins the contract because of who he knows, or because 'his face fits' better than the talented guy.
    I don't want to live in a society where it is acceptable to talk about 'them over there'.
    At the moment, the poor are 'them'. In a few years, it will be another group, but for now the poor are being kicked, bullied because they don't feel able to fight back. There is no one on their side.
    I don't want to see the BNP win a single seat, I want a party who will work to bring us all together, rebuild communities and our ability to get on with each other, and to work together at least a bit more than we have managed so far. But I don't see any party, any politician who has either the will or the strength to dampen the anger and simmering resentment in Britain.
    I want to have a sound government with our interests at the heart of what they do, not their own. If they can't look after our interests, the interests of their own employer, then they'll never sort out the environment, the economy or any other urgent issues. No politician will have the creativity to do so.
    Instead they will work to secure their own long-term future, no matter who they are, because that is what politicians generally do.
    The only economic corrections they'll take are the ones that will suit them and their friends their own financial futures, not their employers: the public. That is what policitians do.
    We'll have Labour carrying out punitive policies or we'll have the Tories carrying out punitive policies. When they're done, who will be the next ones to punish the next targeted group?
    Let's watch and see, shall we. How many politicians who leave office will have to sign on at the dole and still be there two years later, suffering, struggling to pay for heating, for food, like so many others will be.....or perhaps be sent out to a minimum wage job where they will be terrified of finding the money to pay the dentist for that filling..

  • Comment number 67.

    #61 DevilsAdvocate wrote:

    Worrying, I have noticed he's become less amusing, and I discover he has two properties, encourages increased taxataion and doesn't want to volunteer to pay extra tax voluntarily - the circumstantial evidence is building, damn, he's a Labour MP!!!!!


    I hear Geoff Hoon has decided to step down at the next election. He is in Russia at the moment. You dont think that Saga = Geoff?

  • Comment number 68.

    Nick should come to Exeter where the Labour Party is doing everything in its power to discredit the opposition and present its candidate as the local hero. Such has been the web of 'spin' and exaggeration of the Government's achievements, it's difficult to know WHAT to believe any more.

  • Comment number 69.

    CD @ 66

    Another very nice post. Your last one (on AN) was 44, wasn't it? So you have to go 88 next. Sorry to be so humdrum but I have nothing to add to what you've said. Plus, number sequences mean an awful lot to me.

  • Comment number 70.

    There is one result that would be a nightmare for all politicians: A high turnout of voters spoiling their ballot paper with "None of them" written across the paper.
    The prospect of the majority of voters in each constituency voting against the lot of them would really shake them up.

    We need a "spoil your vote" campaign.

  • Comment number 71.

    uncivil @ 67

    "You dont think that Saga = Geoff Hoon?"


    How could you? Of all the insults hurled my way on here - and there have been so so many - this one stands out for it's gratuitous cruelty.

  • Comment number 72.

    Post 71 Saga. It could be worse.

    Then again maybe not.

  • Comment number 73.


    Thanks, for the usually good information from the road trip to Harlow..And, excellent insight that you have provided...

    NB: I am not an operative in the political system in the United Kingdom...


  • Comment number 74.


    But a student of Frederick Engels perhaps?????

  • Comment number 75.

    Spoiled ballot papers are not sorted into categories. They are all assumed to be the ignorance of the voter (does not know how to vote) and therefore they boost the turn out.
    IF the electorate just did not turn out to vote, voter apathy (a favourite) could not be used as an excuse this time. A low turnout would show the political establishment that people have had enough.
    People are priviliged to be able to vote but just this once it would really be good to stay at home.

  • Comment number 76.

    I thought Sagamix was Harriett Harmon, not Geoff Hoon. That was, until earlier in this thread I discovered:

    a) That CopperDolomite is a Lady
    b) Saga agrees pretty much with what says.

    Maybe Geoff has a thing about Harriett. New scandal!!!

  • Comment number 77.

    I'm fascinated with both how people try to judge the mood of the electorate other than through opinion polls, which themselves aren't always very accurate. Over the last year I've been following comments on blogs like yours & the HYS section of the BBC website. Though one shouldn't assume that bloggers represent the voting majority, what it does demonstrate is how some people's views place them on a totally different planet. I realise that their view of the world is totally different from mine and the information on which they base their opinions comes from a different planet. that's not to say that I'm right or that they're right. What I think it does suggest that the metropolitan media & middle class view the world and how to interpret it in a wholly different way from many people whose sources of information may be more local, who feel marginalised and disempowered. Blogs may sometimes appear to be outpourings of ill-informed bile, but unless politicians genuinely address some of these issues and the media as a whole start to present an accurate picture of the world, not a short term, trivialised, sensationalised, over-simplified one, we risk Yeats's famous "the best lack all conviction,while the worst are full of passionate intensity".

  • Comment number 78.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] When we took a weeklong trip to NYC in early December, we asked Holli to house/ pet sit for us.

    The night before we left, we unfortunately discovered that Harlow's paw seemed to be inflamed or itchy, the fur was disturbingly discoloured, and she constantly kept licking at it. We informed Holli of this and she let us know she'd keep an eye out, and if need be bring her to the vet.

    Later in the week she let us know that she had brought Harlow to her uncle, a vet who looked at our puppy's paw for free, and indicated that it was probably nothing serious, the licking common and that the discolouration was caused by enzymes in her saliva. She also clipped Harlow's nails for us since she noticed that they were getting rather long.

    Our flight was delayed on our trip back, but Holli graciously and at the last minute gave Harlow an extra long walk in the early evening so that she would be extra tired to wait until we arrived much later than expected that Friday night.

  • Comment number 79.

    77. At 00:29am on 12 Feb 2010, lacplesis37

    I think you are right.

    That is why the Joanne Cash story was so interesting to me this week, trivial but interesting.

    The media has been presenting her and her like as the new breed of thrusting tory that were going to do for the conservatives what Tony did for Labour.

    And that is exactly the point. 12 years ago she would have been a bright light of New Labour. A young successful photogenic media lawyer, good at networking but if she's anything like other lawyers of today, ultimately shallow and dysfunctional for anything but lawyering. She's married to man called Octavius for god's sake. How are the people of Harlow, Pendle or Cardiff supposed to treat her seriously?

    And unfortunately when you look at the Conservative hierarchy overall, the same picture emerges (even if unfairly). The media gives us Dave, George and Boris on a daily basis and it's starting to annoy many voters. Where are the serious, passionate, heavyweights who are demanding real change ?

    There is a real danger that people will just not bother this time round and let GB go down with the ship.

  • Comment number 80.

    sagamix wrote:
    uncivil @ 67

    "You dont think that Saga = Geoff Hoon?"


    How could you? Of all the insults hurled my way on here - and there have been so so many - this one stands out for it's gratuitous cruelty.


    Well it was within the "rules". Maybe a full investigation costing millions of pounds to see if the "rules" were broken!!

    Saga I am sorry if I hurt your feelings. ;-)

  • Comment number 81.

    Re #23

    It is a profound challenge to all those who believe that elections are the only fair, safe and decent way for the country to make choices, resolve debates and decide who wields power"

    Well if you had asked anyone from the fathers for Justice arena more that 7 years ago you would have come to the same conclusion. If was the failure of democracy at the level MP's and upwards to even open there eye , ears and mouths on the problems in the family courts that this lead many to believe that this was more than just children issues at stake but how our "lack of Democracy" works. But then you have a cosey job at the BBC and are not engaged in real reporting like a allful lot of others too

    this was not present at 20:45 when i left work , so why did it take that
    long to pass the moderators then , perhaps the system should not just display the time of posting but also the time that it was post by the BBC on there web too.

    As it up there seems to be no reason for the delay, other that to though debate about democracy

    Or is it that NR has made a journalistic revelation and evidence that point out to the contary , especially when the BBC has not its best to supress this evidenice is NOT in ther interest.

    Not only do we have a rotten system of governement and elections process we also have a rotten BBC too,

    Delaying the post is a form of sinister sensorship , because people will rarly go back and read all post, often I try but it hard work when you are working too,

  • Comment number 82.

    #79 I think we needless lawyers in parliament and more ordinary people,
    surly this would be breaking some of HH'sequality laws ?

  • Comment number 83.

    The expenses scandal has just been a simple way of focussing on the ineptitude of main party politicians. If they had been doing a good job the expenses issue would not have angered people so much.

    We need to look at the reasons why we have such a weak lot of politicians seeking to run the country. The most obvious failing is the career structure - first of all it is wrong that it actually exists within the major parties - secondly the centralised control eliminates the possibility of anyone with real ideas from coming to the fore. The other issue is that the parties are too large to be anything but alliances which are riddled with compromise in order to stay together for decades. Running the country then becomes secondary to keeping the party together. Only once we have altered the structure of poltics will we get the leaders and the policies we need.

    A more flippant suugestion is that the media should give every utterance by a poltician a 'spin rating' A = the straight truth through to E = complete twisting of the evidence.

  • Comment number 84.

    Repossession can be 'best option' says housing minister. Best option for who? So much for the caring Government!

  • Comment number 85.

    Oh yes I meant to add....

    No spending cuts from us says Brown until ........

    Mandy says in a speech to an audience of education experts universities - which have had their 2010-11 budget cut by £449m - were not being singled out for cuts and that "much of the rest of the public sector will face similar constraints this year or soon after.......

    Who is leading this government and I repeat my question why do we have a non elected serial corrupt failed politician in a position of so much power? Have Nu Labour no one else to step up to the mark? Is it just me or are there a few contenders starting to make their move re improving their profile. Engaging with the media, sound bites off party line, snipping at policies Etc Etc Etc. It so reminds me of the last few weeks of Major's leadership even Brown has gone past the point of no return. I recall Major saying he new it was the end when anger had turned to pity.......

  • Comment number 86.

    rvaucbns 79

    I think the interest in politics has been dying over a period of time to be honest, I dont think it is really a recent thing. The MPs expenses crisis seemed to be just confirmation of what the public had always suspected about their MPs of recent times. The public feel powerless is one of the problems. They vote but what difference does their vote make, nothing changes. The MPs now live in fear of the public and the media so their integrity has gone completely. They will no longer do or say what is right for Britain for fear of being unpopular. Minority groups make their voices heard much more clearly than the average voter in Britain. Power has been handed to these people and they use it, the average British person does not. So out there you have a very dissatisfied public who feel they know which direction Britain should go in, but nobody seems brave enough to take the action needed. This in turn leads to a feeling of powerlessness. Europe and the Iraq war are good examples. Most British people were against both decisions but did it matter, not at all, the Government just does what it wants. However on less important matters the MPs run scared of making decisions that will upset one group or another, in case they lose votes or get bad publicity. People were passionate in the past about politics because they believed it made a difference, now they do not. They no longer believe that a politician is in politics because they care about the future of Britain.

    Another problem is the media itself, if there is a story about a celebrity this will always be the story that runs all day. There may very well be important political events happening but these are usually quickly passed over for celebrity stories. So the public is uninformed and they gain their knowledge from the partisan newspapers or not at all.

    The public does not know the truth at the moment about the economy or many other matters and therefore cannot make a judgement of what they are being told is right or wrong by politicians. It should therefore be down to the media to present an impartial picture of our politics. This they seem unable or unwilling to do. I dont want to know about Browns personal life or whether he can cry or not, I want to know he can lead Britain out of this mess. The same with Cameron or Clegg.

    I have some sympathy for Cameron because he did attempt to tell the British public the truth. This as we have seen lost him votes. The reason is when you have someone as cunning as Brown who can spin a story which the media will pick up, telling the truth will not get Cameron into Government. However I guess he knows that if he does not tell the truth to the British public the repercussions after the election will be terrible when the hard decisions are enacted. So he has a very delicate balance to find.

    Unless we get someone brave soon and the public is warned what a disastrous outcome for Britain a hung parliament would be, I can only see Britians decline continue and in the end become just the poor man hanging onto the EU.

  • Comment number 87.

    Various on voting or abstaining:

    The greater the turnout in an election, the better the chances of a democracy working. A democracy cannot flourish if no-one turns up to vote.

    btw Vote Green, you'll feel better for it.

  • Comment number 88.

    I think they will only be one winner at the next General Election - apathy!!

    The Electorate is sick and tired of the shennigans at Westminster and the way in which hundreds of MPs have handled and been allowed to handle their expenses and allowances.

    Blair, in 1997, trumpeted from the rooftops that he would put an end to sleaze. New Labour after 13 years has failed abysmally. Infact, we probably have more sleaze now than ever before and the ordinary man in the street is heartily tired of the broken promises and the "I'm alright Jack attitude" of those in Parliament.

    You only have to look at all those MPs who have chosen not to stand at the next Election, by the time it comes round it will probably be an all time record. Many have been found wanting and to my mind they should have been thrown out before now either by their Leaders or by their local constituency party office. Clean up is long overdue and high voting figures will not return until we see a vast improvement.

  • Comment number 89.


    Just had a look at that... thats bad. Cancelling the elections in Norfolk because you know you're going to get spanked?

    Oh dear.

    Thin end of the wedge.

    Whats the betting some crisis will come along in the next 9 weeks or so that will require the Civil Contingencies Act?


  • Comment number 90.

    susan @ 86

    "MPs now live in fear of the public and the media"

    This is true and it's a real problem. I want to see politicians stand up - stop allowing themselves to be bullied by the media and the public. It's got to the stage where they're frightened to say what they think. They're always apologising for themselves and grovelling, trying to appease, say the right thing. Or not say the wrong thing, rather. It's killing political debate and it's not helping them regain respect. They'll get MY respect when they start telling us where to get off. When they stop over explaining everything. Just lay it on us, please. Tax rises is a great example. We all know that tax hikes - big ones - are what our fiscal situation demands. The public are, in their own way, crying out for them. Deep down they (we) want a politician to come along and TELL us the way it's going to be. The way it has to be. Here's hoping.

  • Comment number 91.

    Instead of complaining about the grip of individual parties, find a good local independent candidate or cause to rally round, give the main parties a bloody nose, if it can be done in Blaenau Gwent died in the wool Labour since time began, where the local AM is independent and the local MP is independent, it can be done elsewhere.

    If enough constituencies do it it will send a big message to the main parties, "do not take us for granted or fools"

  • Comment number 92.

    Every MUST VOTE, it is vitally important to democracy and freedom.
    If you do not want to vote for a party, SPOIL your paper.
    This stops rigging and false claims of fair representation.

    It is vitally important that everyone who is registered and entitled to vote must go and vote. If you do not know who to vote for because the political parties are just as useless as eachother, the opinions and manifestoes too polarised, any ideas that one party has whether good or not are lampooned by the other parties just because they are the oposition and various MPs cannot be trusted as is the case in this election, then spoil your paper.

    The reasons are simple. If everyone goes to vote, it is practically impossible to rig the results in favour of any one party. If all 21 million people or there abouts registered to vote in the UK went and voted and the results were, for arguments sake: 5 million to Conservative; 3.5million to Labour; 1.5 million other parties; and 11 million spoiled their papers, basically stating that there is no party worth voting for. This is sending out a very loud, strong and clear message to the politicians to get their act together and shape up. The Conservative party could not claim that they represented 50% of the nations interests by statistical extrapolation of the results because the 11 million people who would not have voted due to their displeasure with politics did go and vote and registered that on their card, so now all the Conservatives could say is that they won a majority in order to be in power but over 50% of the population has clearly stated that they are not supportive of any current political party due to their equality in uselessness and dishonesty. They cannot assume they are acting in the interests of the majority of the population.

    Just a thought maybe there should be a box to tick on the ballot papers that says vote no party with a list of possible reasons that can be ticked as to why one is not voting for any party. I won't suggest any reasons they may not be publishable!!

  • Comment number 93.

    #90 and that person is not GB , thats for sure

  • Comment number 94.

    I remember an interview you did with Gordon Brown on a train where he said "I always tell the truth". So when he said there was no deal with Tony Blair over the leadership that wasn't a lie then??

  • Comment number 95.

    Sagamix 90:
    You are, of course, correct about how the media, or rather the misuse of it, is killing debate. Actually, when I say correct, I should say partially correct. Politcal debate is wonderfully alive in this particular media and that is a good thing. The respect you talk of in your post for the politicians thenselves can only be enhanced if, as you say, they come out and talk plainly. That the media will twist every word for their own, often commercial, reasons is the diificulty that has to be overcome.
    This is true also in life outside of politics. The vocal minority in a lot of cases often carries sway because people in general, not just politicians, are afraid of saying the 'wrong' thing. Technology has advanced media in a number of magnificent and positive ways fuelling and thriving upon our lust for information. But it has also thrown up 24 hour news 'stations' so desperate for a story that any slip of the tongue can become news.
    Politicians today are different, naturally, from the type of picture you paint. But they should not be afraid to tell us the truth and allow themselves to be judged accordingly. We have three party leaders who are all so far from this that it is difficult to see how the situation can improve. However, the political debate offered through blogs such as this offer some hope. Our politicians should take note and lead us out of the mess.
    We differ on a lot of points - but on this I am with you. Well said.

  • Comment number 96.

    #92 and labour got wot 25% of all the votes possible in 2005 a had a very very large magority to go with it.

    perhaps then we should have a FPTP/PR system where you need to get more that 60% of the MP's to pass a law, this might lead to collalition

    but it might also enable votes to take more of an interest in what going on around them and use the old grey matter when making that choice, rather that just watching soap after soap.

    Many millions have died for the freedom to vote it is not something you
    cannot be bothered with you have to get out and do something about it yourself then

  • Comment number 97.

    Just two points - I agree with Saga that our politicans do need to stand up and tell us the truth. They also have to act with propriety. It is only then will they regain our respect. I am sick of being told that it will all be OK after the next election. Politicians need to change rather than them try to change all around them. If this was the case and they had courage of their conviction then they should not fear the public or the media. To date they fear what they have done or are doing and do not have courage in what they say as for the majority of it is just spin.

    Secondly, when did our politicians become F factor or Britain hasn't got talent contestants. I have just looked at the clips of Brown's interview with Piers Morgan. Is he going for the pity vote - it did not work for Major! This type of **** should not be allowed, what next Dave about his son. These are personal and should not be brought into politics in this way. Yes, if Gordon wanted to campaing for a cause such as infant death but not just bearing his soul in a poor attempt to gain favour of the UK public.

    How can we have any respect for politicans when they blatently act in this way. And before you start to point the finger, Yes I have lost a son after only a few days. This is something extremely personal and should not be used for personal gain!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 98.

    Nick - 99.8% of this stuff could be, and maybe was, composed via desk research someone sitting at a desk in Millbank.. is this a real tour or a virtual one? Could we have a bit more local colour and evidence of your visit - otherwise you might save our money and your time and not bother? Where was the temperature taking? Almost nonexistent.

    'Taking the Pulse' has now flatlined after only 4 (four) not very illuminating 'visits'. Did you plan to do more or did someone in BBC editorial notice that it was largely a waste of time and money if so little colour or real intelligence from the ground was being conveyed in each piece?

  • Comment number 99.

    Susan #86

    You state that a hung parliament would be a disaster, I am not so sure. The huge majority in 97 led to a debasement of the concept of parliament government. Unchecked immigration in secret, target setting in the public sector, and the PFI scandal a few of the consequences of too much power in too few hands.

    Meanwhile on cushy expenses the bulk of the MPs carried on, snouts in the trough.

    I'd love to hear a Prime Minister say the words - we must see what is the will of parliament...

  • Comment number 100.

    As Borwn is so keen on changing every thing, can he please make a slight change to calling the election.

    After going to the queen to disolve parliment, can he tell her that he wantrs parlement disolved 48hours later. The go the commons and inform the MP's that parliment will disolve in 2 days time and that all MP's retiring over the expenses should think long and hard about resigning.

    This gives them the chance to do the honurable thing and resign and not collect their leaving bonus.

    Also can can MP explain why if they have declaired that they are standing down (some did so months ago) why are we paying to wind up their constiuancy office. Surely they gave notice to their landlord and staff when they declaired there intention to stand down. They could have given a last empoloyment date end of March. After all they will not be doing much MP's work in April or the first week in May.


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