Meet the EDP's citizen's panel - and what they think so far

Sarah HallWe have heard plenty from the politicians over the past week, but what do the general public think of the General Election campaign so far? The EDP has put together a diverse range of people from across Norfolk to form a citizen's panel.Sarah Hall

We've heard plenty from the politicians over the past week, but what do the general public think of the General Election campaign so far?

The EDP has put together a diverse range of people from across Norfolk to form a citizen's panel. We will regularly ask them about the campaign to gauge opinion between now and May 6.

Tonight will see the leaders of the three main political parties go head to head in an unprecedented live television debate.


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Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg will appear in the first of three planned televised showdowns on ITV1 at 8.30pm tonight.

In a week which has seen the parties publish their manifestos, the public will get the chance to analyse the performance of the leaders on the small screen.

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We asked the members of the EDP's citizens' panel whether they will be glued to their television screens and what they have made of the campaign so far.

THE FIRST TIME VOTER

Callum Ringer is a 21-year-old first time voter. He lives in Bodham with his parents and is a bar worker. He said: "The televised leaders' debate clashes with my working hours, but if it's not on at work I'll make sure I put it on!

"It's an opportunity to see the leaders up against each other and it's good that all three main party leaders are there. It should be different to Prime Minister's Question Time and really show us what they are thinking.

"I have pretty much decided who I will vote for locally, but that doesn't mean I know who I want to win overall. Speaking to people I think that's the outcome many of them want. There's a chance for the smaller parties to really have a say if that happens."

Locally he said campaigners seemed very quiet. He said: "We have had nobody knocking on the door, although we did get a leaflet from the Liberal Democrats. I have seen a lot of Conservative posters around, but we've not had anyone at the door."

THE WORKING MAN

Jim Lingwood, 52, is a fisherman who lives near Sheringham. He is married with five children. He said: "I'm not going to watch the debate because it will just be them bickering. What little I have seen so far was the Conservatives slagging off Labour and I just don't think this is the right time to go in for the negative campaigning.

"I could probably do with knowing a bit more about what they say, but I'd rather just see in a paragraph what they have to say. With so much media coverage, and with the internet, you get so much now that it reaches saturation point.

"The difficulty is that they are always robbing Peter to pay Paul and Peter seems to be getting robbed more and more. I think when they introduced the legislation to stop so many people smoking they lost a lot of revenue, so they put it on fuel instead. For me, as a fisherman, I need to have a 4x4 to get the crabs back from the shore, so the price of fuel for that is really adding up.

"Locally I've had dealings with Norman Lamb and he's always done right by me. But will that mean I tick the Liberal Democrat box? I don't know if it will. I'm happy with the man, but will it make a difference in the bigger picture."

THE BUSINESSWOMAN

Sarah Pettegree, is in her 40s and runs Brays Cottage Pork Pies in Holt. She lives in Hindolveston with her partner. She said: "I've got a parish council meeting tomorrow, but I might record the debate and watch it afterwards. It seems fairly fundamental to me and should give us a bit more substance.

"I watched some of the chancellor debate and that did give me a better feel for how they behave, so I think it will be worth it as long as they don't try to present soundbites. They need to come across as human!"

A keen user of social media, Ms Pettgree said predictions that the likes of Twitter and Facebook would play a key role in this election had, so far, yet to prove the case. She said: "They have got a bit involved, but some of them just post messages and if you respond you just get silence back. I appreciate they are busy, but they are not making the most of what it can do for them. This election might not be the one which is won or lost because of social media, but I think it will be the one where they realise how bad they are at using it."

THE FAMILY MAN

Married father-of-two James Leeds is in his 30s, lives in Kirby Bedon and works as a computer programmer. He said: "I don't own a television, so I won't be watching the debate. I don't know how anyone who does own a TV finds time to do anything!

"So far in this campaign, all the parties seem much of a muchness. They are not really saying anything. But I think Labour will do better than people are predicting because it's so hard to know what the Tories will do if they get in.

"You know what you are getting with Gordon Brown, but with David Cameron, if he wasn't so obviously posh and a bit deceptive, he might stand more chance. But he's saying he wants to clean up politics and then his party is producing huge posters slagging off Brown.

"The only person who seems to be talking sense is Vince Cable. Why isn't he the Lib Dem leader. I don't even know what the Lib Dem leader looks like, but I might have voted for Vince Cable if he was the leader.

"He was dead right about the financial crisis and seems to be prepared to say what he believes, regardless of what anyone else says. There's a man who knows what he is talking about."

THE PENSIONER

Jo Henderson, a retired care home manager, 65, who lives at St James House, off Barrack Street, in Norwich, said she is interested in local issues and has started attending her local resident's association meeting.

She said she was thinking of voting for the Green Party.

'I would change my vote if I was more impressed by one of the candidates. I haven't always voted for the same party. I was brought up with Labour and voted for them in 1997 and 2001, but I'm pretty sure I won't be voting for them again'

But she was also not impressed with David Cameron or Nick Clegg.

"They are posh rich blokes, they are pretty much the same."

And she said she was sceptical about all the main parties, particularly after the expenses scandal.

'They are not listening to what we are saying," she added. "I do agree with broken Britain, I've got grandchildren and I am very worried about how they are going to cope with class sizes and how much control teachers should have.'

THE LONE PARENT

Lone parent Julie Briggs, 36, lives in Hethersett with her four-year-old son Campbell. She said: 'I'll definitely be watching it. It is going to be good to hear what they have to say.

'I have been astonished by what has been happening so far, with the wives on the election trail. It's becoming very American and I don't care what Samantha Cameron has to say, it's the leaders I want to hear from.

'Hopefully the televised debate will have a bit more depth because the Conservative manifesto has four pages on families, but very little substance.

'I've been more impressed with what Labour have said about giving parents more flexibility about whether children start school at four or continue with nursery care.

'I'll be interested in what is said about schooling and on the NHS. I'm especially interested in what they say about mental health services because the recession has caused a lot of family break-ups and depression.'

Visit www.edp24/elections for the latest news, views, facts, figures and features on the election campaign.

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