THE General Election starting-gun was fired last week and the big party leaders’ TVdebate has taken place but many voters still don’t know who to choose.

Nine East Lancashire residents have volunteered to join the Lancashire Telegraph panel of undecided electors to help guide readers.

These voters. from a variety of backgrounds, will keep you updated on what they see, hear and feel as the parties unveil their policies.


We launch our ‘Undecided voters’ election panel’ today in advance of tonight’s LT debate with all four declared Blackburn candidates at the Thwaites Empire Theatre in Ewood at 7.30pm.

Operations director Dean Simpson, recruitment consultant Laura Hartley, telecoms worker Paul Rishton, production manager Ian McLean, pop choir organiser Sue Sykora, student Ikram ul-Haq, business woman Melissa MacFarlane, first-time voter Caitlin Jones and lawyer Juber Deriwala will be following the twists and turns of the campaign and sharing their thoughts.

They will be watching and listening to the leaders, local candidates and what their friends and neighbours are saying.

Dean Simpson is keen on what can be done to revive the East Lancashire economy and boost wage levels. He said: “I see a recovery but no sign of it coming here. I am worried about investment and wage levels.”

Laura Hartley said: “Training, apprenticeships and vocational education are important to our future work force. How will this impact on candidates with a strong work ethic who have found themselves out of work through redundancy?”

Melissa MacFarlane believes incentives for working families will be important. She said: “People working hard and still having to use foodbanks worries me.”

Paul Rishton said: “The Conservatives have let down a lot of working class families and another five years of austerity leaves me feeling cold. So, come on Cameron and Miliband my vote is up for grabs.”

Ian McLean said: “The debate on the day Parliament was dissolved had MPs from all the leading parties. The Tory member backed his party leader up, while the Labour MP wasn’t as passionate. So far, it’s one-nil to the Conservatives.”

Sue Sykora added: “The thing that sticks out for me over the last week was the leaked memo that appeared to suggest that Nicola Sturgeon would favour a Conservative government. I thought the way that was handled was a bit underhand.”

Ikram ul-Haq said: “I am leaning towards Labour but that does not mean I agree with all their policies.” Fellow first-time voter Miss Jones said: “I do not think the political parties understand the issues that the younger generation faces.”

Juber Deriwala said: “Following the crash in 2009, drastic steps needed to be taken by government. Have the measures worked and do we need to continue the same path or do we need a fresh approach?”


Laura Hartley, recruitment director, Blackburn 

Lancashire Telegraph:

Single parent of two sons. Lives in Knuzden. Declined to disclose how she voted in 2010.
I am a small business owner and will be looking at the policies to see if they are beneficial. I am also concerned about the NHS. To have an appointment within 48 hours or late night appointments would benefit working patients.


Juber Deriwala, 35, lawyer, Blackburn

  • Lancashire Telegraph: Lives in Shear Brow, with mother and two siblings. Did not vote in 2010.The burden needs to be shared as we all have an input in making the country grow. I want to see people being able to get on the housing ladder. I am looking to vote for a party that will address needs across the nation.


Caitlin Jones, 19, student and cancer fund-raiser, Darwen

Lancashire Telegraph:

  • At Darwen Aldridge Community Academy. Too young to vote in 2010.

No-one seems to be talking about those who are finishing college. I am struggling to find an apprenticeship so I am interested to hear what the leaders have to say. I do not think they understand issues the younger generation faces.


Ian McLean, 42 , production manager, Blackburn

Lancashire Telegraph:

  • Lives in Witton. Married with one teenage son. Voted Conservative in 2010.

I believe David Cameron that it’s a toss up between The Conservatives and Labour, so I will mainly focus my comments on the two main parties. I will take notice of other parties as well because we might just have another coalition.


Sue Sykora, organiser, Clitheroe Pop Choir, Clitheroe

Lancashire Telegraph:

  • Mother of one. Declined to disclose how she voted in 2010.

I don’t follow politics closely because I’m so busy with my family and the choir. It’s more likely to be a hung parliament and a coalition. I really don’t know who I’m going to vote for but I think a lot of people will be swayed by David Cameron’s speaking skills.


Dean Simpson, 46, operations director, Blackburn

Lancashire Telegraph:

  • Lives in Livesey. Married with one son. Voted Conservative in 2010.

I’m from a Labour background. I want to see how the parties can spread the economic recovery to East Lancs and how they deal with low wages. I almost feel I am betraying my grandad, a former Labour councillor  if I vote Conservative.


Paul Rishton, 44, telecoms worker, Accrington-born

Lancashire Telegraph:

Married with 22-month-old son. Voted Conservative in 2010.
I am undecided. To be honest after five years of austerity and cuts I would have thought Labour would be heading to a landslide victory, however that’s certainly not the case. I also fear another hung parliament. Please, not another coalition!


Melissa MacFarlane, 33, runs adult business, Blackburn

Lancashire Telegraph:

Lives in Mill Hill with husband, Chris, and five children. Voted Labour in 2010.
I would prefer more support for working families. What the Coalition is doing to the NHS also worries me greatly. My husband runs his own business, too, so we’re interested in what the parties can offer our companies. 


Ikram Ul-haq, 18, business studies student, Nelson 

Lancashire Telegraph:

Lives with his family. Not old enough to vote in 2010.
The election will be one of the closest. The two main parties are toe-to-toe. The battle between David Cameron and Ed Miliband will be more exciting than the fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao. There is no party that I agree with all the policies.