Election 2015: Why the leaders came to Nottinghamshire

John Hess
Political editor, East Midlands

image copyrightPA/Chris Radburn
image captionDavid Cameron visited a roofing college in Nottingham on Monday

If you want a flavour of the general election to come, take the road to Nottinghamshire.

In the space of a few days, both David Cameron and Ed Miliband have "road tested" their campaign issues and speeches in separate visits.

The Prime Minister choose the site of Nottingham's new Enterprise Zone for his speech on the need for continuing deficit reduction.

It was a set-piece event in front of local invited Tory activists, candidates and the live cameras of the news channels.

The blue backdrop highlighted the key slogan or buzzwords of the day.

As the Prime Minister told his audience, the themes of his later campaign speeches will focus on education, homes, jobs and pensions.

The Nottingham speech concentrated on deficit reduction and £30bn worth of further cuts in government spending in the next parliament.

image copyrightPA
image captionEd Miliband took questions from an audience at a B&Q distribution centre in Worksop

"When you look at the children you love, do you want to land them with a legacy of huge debts?" he said.

"We have a responsibility to act. We can get Britain back to living within our means in a way that is fair and sensible and secure."

The prime minister's choice of the Enterprise Zone - on the Boots industrial campus on the edge of Nottingham - was no coincidence.

It was one of the first set up by the coalition four years ago. Its offer of regulation light touch and tax concessions has resulted in 30 companies (specialising in well-being and beauty products) and 80 jobs.

The East Midlands also has a strong economic story for the PM.

The governor of the Bank of England last year described the region as the "bellwether" of the UK economy.

David Cameron went one further and described the region as the "firing engine" of the country's economic revival.

A few days before, Labour leader Ed Miliband held the first of Labour's "People's Question Time" sessions in Hucknall.

It's one of the main towns in the Sherwood constituency - the most marginal Tory-held seat in the East Midlands. Labour's Leonie Mathers hopes to overturn a Conservative majority of 214.

So Ed Miliband and his campaign message need to work in this part of Nottinghamshire, and the "People's Question Time" format - and its viewing on the news channels - is the vehicle he hopes will work for Labour.

image copyrightAFP
image captionDavid Cameron delivers a speech on the economy at an event in Nottingham

"I am determined to fight the general election in a different way," he told his audience, a mix of party activists and invited members of the public.

"I will be having direct conversations with people."

With the Labour leader surrounded by a variety of faces, this was no platform speech but a free-ranging succession of questions, ranging from the NHS, starter homes, railways, schools and zero-hour contracts.

The one issue that no-one asked was about immigration. Likewise, out of all the key speech themes planned by David Cameron, there was no mention of immigration.

Yet according to a MORI poll that tracks public opinion, immigration was the top concern of voters. When asked the most important issue facing the country, 37% said immigration, almost 10 % higher than a year ago.

The economy was runner-up in the "concerns league table" on 34% and the NHS on 27%, also up by nearly 10% over the year.

If the two main party leaders hope to keep immigration out of the campaign headlines, you can guarantee UKIP's Nigel Farage will be bringing his spotlight to Nottinghamshire and the other election battleground areas of the UK.

image copyrightPA
image captionEd Miliband visited the B&Q warehouse on 8 January