Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oldham East & Saddleworth - Undecided voter experiment

So it’s election day in Oldham East and Saddleworth so let’s play a game and pretend I’m an undecided voter sat at work trying to work out who to vote for, so what do I do? Of course I Google the candidates and take a look at their websites to see what they stand for.

Debbie Abrahams - Labour
First up Labour Candidate Debbie Abrahams. Well I struggle to find her website as searching for "Labour candidate Oldham East" just comes up with loads of news stories about Debbie Abrahams being selected, not her site. After a bit of work I find her site and look for an about me page to read all about her, except there isn’t one. So then I look for her priorities or policies page, except there isn’t one. So I read the text on her home page which says:

“The LibDem-Tory Government is making the wrong cuts, at the wrong time.

In Oldham East and Saddleworth they’ve let down local people. The axing of nearly 1,400 police officers, the increase in tuition fees and the VAT rise are just three of the Lib Dem broken promises we need to expose.

It doesn’t have to be like this. There is an alternative. This by-election is your chance to send a message to the Lib Dems and to Nick Clegg."

It doesn’t say a lot so I watch her video and it says the same thing.

Conclusion: Vote for me because I’m not a Lib Dem. My priorities are exposing broken promises, but I don’t have any policies or local priorities and not just because my party’s policy book is a blank sheet of paper.

Elwyn Watkins – Lib Dem
Next up Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins. Good start for Elwyn when his website appears as the first hit on Googling for Lib Dem candidate Oldham East. Then it all goes a bit wrong again as like with Debbie Abraham’s there’s no obvious about me page (it’s tucked away under contact Elwyn & the Team for some reason) or a policies or priorities page.

So I’m left reading the home page text which says:

“Elwyn is well known locally as a straight talker. He has proven he will fight for what is right for local people. He lives locally in Delph.

As our new local MP, Elwyn's priorities will including fighting for more jobs, better health services and to keep our streets safe.

The by-election looks set to be a photo finish between Elwyn Watkins and Labour. There were just 103 votes in it last time!”

Conclusion: Vote for me because I’m local. I’ll focus on jobs, the health service and crime. Don’t vote conservative because otherwise you’ll get Labour.

Kashif Ali – Conservative
It doesn’t start well for Kashif after Googling "Conservative Oldham east candidate", as the first two hits are all about how low key the Conservative campaign has been in Oldham followed by an article on Labour Uncut about how David Cameron forgot his name. His website comes in at number 6 on the Google, but at least I don’t have to know his name as I do with Debbie Abrahams.

At last I cry an about page, where I learn that Kashif is local, and is a barrister, first candidate who is happy to clearly say what they are doing at the moment (Elwyn turns factories around apparently, and who knows what Debbie does, I’m guessing she works for a Union). No priorities page but the about page points out :

“Kashif's key priority is the economic regeneration of the constituency. "Jobs, businesses, and better public transport are the key to prosperity and the key to a better future for residents."

Having benefitted from a good education himself, Kashif realises that good schools and educational opportunities are essential to unlocking the talent in our communities and families.

Tackling drug crime and guns in many parts of Oldham needs a concerted effort. Where drug dealing is concerned Kashif wants zero tolerance policing as well as a renewed focus on re-cooperating the proceeds of crime, a much greater police presence on the streets, harsher sentences for those convicted and for communities to start reporting suspected dealers.”

Conclusion: Vote for me because I’m local. I will focus on improving the economy through improved public transport. I will also focus on education as well as tackling drug and gun crime through zero tolerance policing and a greater police presence. I also want harsher sentences for criminals.

Overall Conclusion
The websites of all three candidates are rubbish, none of them give that election day floating voter the information they need to make their mind up. Particularly poor is that of Debbie Abrahams which fails to tell you who she is or give you a positive reason to vote for her. Elwyn Watkins’ is a little better but fails to give any meat to how he will achieve his priorities. Of the three Kashif Ali’s is the best of a bad bunch as he actually lays his cards on the table and tells you who he is and what he believes in.

In the end though  if I was an undecided in Oldham today that exercise wouldn’t have helped me one bit.

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