Election 2015: it’s time to make your mind up...

It's time to make your mind up...

It's time to make your mind up... - Credit: Archant

Over the last few weeks, members of the Herts Advertiser’s team of voluntary election commentators have been offering their opinions on the policies and issues at the heart of today’s General Election - both at a local and national level.

Now, as voters across the district mark up their ballot papers, we wrap up our coverage by asking them how they are voting, why, and whether their decision has been swayed in any way by this year’s campaign.

We’re not trying to influence readers, many of whom will have already voted by the time they read this week’s paper, but merely offer a neat coda to our election features.

Mum and blogger Penny Carr, 36, said: “As the election campaign has gone on I seem to have moved from someone who was confident that I knew how I was going to vote to someone who is now completely undecided.

“I am still of the opinion that Anne Main doesn’t represent me as a St Albans resident, especially since she doesn’t live in the constituency, or even very close!

“The Greens are an appealing choice, but I struggle personally with their positions in Trident and nuclear energy even though I strongly support many of their other manifesto pledges. I’ve also felt that their national leadership has been a bit disappointing compared to the other parties.

“At a local level I see a lot of support for Sandy Walkington, but that doesn’t reflect the national Lib Dem picture quite so much. I think Sandy would be a good MP for St Albans, and he has certainly already shown through his work on the county council how passionate he is about the city.

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“If the election were the day I’m writing this I think I will be voting Green for the local council, but possibly Lib Dem for the General Election, but I’m leaving my postal vote to the very last minute as I could be swayed still!

“Nationally I think St Albans will be a close call between Tory and Lib Dem with the Sandy just getting the better edge. Nationally I expect that we will have another hung parliament, but with Labour getting the biggest share.

“I expect that they will end up in coalition with a reduced in size Lib Dems and possibly a few others and that Ed Miliband will be our next Prime Minister.”

Philip Webster, 87, a retired floating voter, said: “Having watched the TV debates and pored over the press reports it seems to me that to have a Labour government would be a disaster for the economy.

“Their record when last in office was abysmal and they still have people like Ed Balls claiming he has the policies to sustain the strong economy built by the Coalition. Although I disagree with some of the Tory proposals, notably extending child care allowances, I feel they will sustain our economic growth far better without the Lib Dems in tow.

“We need a national leader who can hold his own and protect our interests internationally and Ed Miliband is not that man; nor is Nigel Farage who admits he is not prime ministerial material. I do share his view though that we would be better out of the EEU and I deeply deplore our Supreme Court decisions being overruled by outsiders from places like Latvia and Slovenia.

“We should repeal the Barnett formula and ensure that all members of the United Kingdom are treated equally so that the Welsh and Scots do not get tuition fees and prescription charges subsidised by the English. So on balance and for the good of the entire nation I think we need a continuation of a Conservative-led government.”

Labour voter Stephen Poxon, 49, who works for The Salvation Army, said: “I shall be voting for Kerry Pollard to be elected as MP for St Albans, in the hope of a Labour victory in the General Election.

“As well as keeping a close eye on the election campaign generally, I was present at the election hustings supported by the Herts Advertiser at St Albans Abbey. I came away with the strong feeling that it really is time for Anne Main to step down as MP. Her performance on that evening was strident and unpleasant, and carried an unfortunate whiff of stale Thatcherism. One cannot escape the thought that the Conservative needle is stuck on what has become quite a boring line of patter.

“In St Albans, the Green Party haven’t a hope. Their policies locally and nationally are just so much well-intentioned but entirely uncosted pie in the sky, whereas Kerry Pollard speaks good, down-to-earth common sense and represents a credible local opinion. He has a sound grasp of important local issues and would represent St Albans excellently.

“UKIP? The least said about them, the better. I really can’t bring myself to offer them the oxygen of publicity.

“For my money, Labour’s strongest opposition in St Albans comes in the form of Sandy Walkington, the Liberal Democrat candidate. He is an intelligent, eloquent man who clearly cares for the city, its people, and its affairs.

“My prediction for the outcome of the General Election? A coalition is looking increasingly likely. Whereas I hope for an outright Labour victory, my prediction would be for a Labour/Lib Dem coalition.The option of a Tory/UKIP coalition is awful.

“My concern would be that the SNP has the final say in matters. They need to be held in check, as their interests lie north of the border. I hope the Labour Party has the good sense to reject any overtures from Nicola Sturgeon.”

As he is only 17, student Spencer Caminsky will not be eligible to vote in this election, but we felt it only fair to include him in the debate: While I am under the voting age, if I were to vote, I would vote for the Labour Party. In making my choice, I analysed the five standing parties in St Albans primarily on a national scale.

“In UKIP, I see a party very focused on immigration and leaving the EU, with a fully-costed manifesto confirmed by a third-party organisation- their numbers do add up.

“For me however, legitimacy is not a problem for UKIP. The problem is everything else.

“From a sly and pessimistic leader in Nigel Farage, very right-wing, selfish thinking in cutting foreign aid, and a host of scandals related to racism among big UKIP names, the sense of all-inclusiveness and multiculturalism the country thrives on would be crushed by a UKIP government. It’s a reputation I feel the UK does not –and should not - want to have going forward, and so my vote goes elsewhere.

“In the Greens I see a party new and hot on the political scene, with huge promises such as scrapping tuition fees and building 500,000 social homes helping to steal pretty much all of the student electorate away from the Lib Dems, after they decided to toss their promise to cap tuition fees down the toilet, and flush all their members away.

“Overall, there’s potential for something good in the future. The problem today however, is their legitimacy.

“Again, referencing Natalie Bennett’s interview on social housing, the promises on this (as well as on the NHS in their supposed £20 billion funding boost) are about as ludicrous as policy 1777 of the Monster Raving Loony Party, reading “Terrorists to wear bells and horns so we know where they are”.

“Sure, the comparison’s slightly exaggerated, but those two Green policies are more than two times the amount of money other parties are willing to put in, the NHS pledge for example £12 billion more expensive than the Tories are spending, making questions arise even before the Greens assume office about these insane funding pledges, thus losing my vote in the end.

“Briefly on the Lib Dems, while their policies are sound and their manifesto well-costed - they are probably still at heart the most legitimate and central minor party - to me, they’ve lost all credibility over tuition fees- I can’t put my vote into a party that backstabs its members.

“Finally, it comes down to Conservatives and Labour. In the Conservatives, I see a party poised solely on getting the deficit down, stopping at nothing to balance the books and continue with the magical “long-term economic plan” George Osborne loves to go on about, which is supposedly going to solve everything.

“The problem is, voters have no idea what this plan is going to mean to society, and how deep the imminent cuts to public services are actually going to be.

“This makes me worried about voting Tory, as I don’t know how much more strain our vital public services can take through even more austerity - it’s all too much of a risk.

“In my opinion, the answer lies with Labour: a confident, clever, and passionate leader in Ed Miliband, warming to the public more and more every day, and a slower plan to reduce the deficit that ring-fences vital public services, backed up with the huge money-making policy in the mansion tax to fully cost their plans on one of the biggest talking points of this election- the NHS.

“I think if we ignore the threat of an SNP coalition, and focus on trying to bring in a majority government, the Labour Party is most definitely the way to go. Sadly, while my vote would go to Labour, I predict a Labour-SNP coalition or formal agreement, due to Labour’s huge loss of representation in Scotland.”

Alan Morton, 67, also a retired floating voter, said: “Over the course of the last five weeks I’ve followed coverage of the election on both TV and radio and as the weeks have gone by I’ve become quite disheartened by just how personal it has become, and I suspect in the final days it will only get worse.

“One part of me wants to walk away and not vote at all – that’s because the major parties have all but turned me off, but that’s not an option.

“Everyone who is entitled to vote should do so.

“My mind is more or less made up, although I still think I’ll be mulling things over as I go to the polling station. I won’t say who I’ll end up voting for but I will say who I won’t vote for.

“It won’t be Labour as I mistrust Ed Milliband and Ed Balls with the economy. They haven’t convinced me that they won’t just increase the borrowing as was the main economic policy of the last administration and, for me, they remain tainted by their time in the treasury alongside Gordon Brown.

“Also the possibility of any type of deal with the SNP is not something I would support. We all know the SNP wants independence and I find their anti-Conservative campaign distasteful to say the least. The thought of Alex Salmond in Westminster as kingmaker is the stuff of nightmares!

“Nor will I be voting for any of the minor parties. Their policies as a complete package just don’t stand up and are unrealistic. They may have a chance of having a degree of influence with one policy or another but that is the best they can hope for.

“That leaves only two realistic options. Personally, I don’t think that the coalition did a bad job in difficult circumstances. I think the Conservative main drive about everything stems from a strong economy is right but I also agree with the Lib Dems’ ‘reasonable’ message of bringing some restraint when it comes to the fine balance of reducing austerity, maintaining services and reducing the deficit.

“This is possibly uppermost in my mind at the moment as the Conservatives have stated how much they will cut but have repeatedly refused to say where the cuts will be made.

“Locally, I think both Anne Main and Sandy Walkington are worthy MPs., so my choice will be between those candidates as I go to the polling station.

“As for the outcome I think the Conservatives will get the most seats but not with a workable majority so agreements will need to be made with other parties to have a working majority. May is going to be an interesting month.”

Conservative voter Brian Moores, 64, responded: “I will be voting Conservative as I have for most elections in the past.

“The Conservatives have my vote because they do invariably make the country more prosperous and because of that we can then afford to make all aspects of the way the country is run, fairer for all over time.

“Taking the country to the edge of financial ruin as the last Labour government did and the next one would do, is not fair on anyone, least of all those who are less fortunate than those with steady jobs and income.

“I have been swayed by this campaign but in the sense that it has reinforced my belief that Ed Milliband’s Labour Party would be the ruin of this country as we know it today.

“More borrowing, less business confidence, frightening influence of the Scots (how fair would that be?), votes for 16 year olds (that would include one of the Bethnal Green girls who went to Syria and the two others next year, who were described by social workers as ‘only children’).

“I am not claiming the Conservatives have everything right, but it is like the local Harpenden secondary school issue, they are in a sense the least worse cases and if you want the country put properly back on its feet and a new local school by 2017 you have to vote Conservative for one and accept the Batford site for the school for the other.”

Finally, the Herts Ad team would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the members of the election team for their dedication and honesty in the commentary they have submitted over the past few weeks.