GENERAL election apathy reigns supreme in South Tyneside.
That was the conclusion to be drawn from talking to a cross-section of would-be voters approached by the Gazette in King Street, South Shields.
Ed Miliband doesn’t come across well to me. It all seems about badmouthing the other parties. I don’t really know what his party stands for.Shop worker Stephanie Doxford
There are now just over two months to go before the nation decides on its next government.
The odds are on another coalition pact, with neither the Conservatives or the Labour Party predicted to win an overall majority.
A lot is riding on the May 7 poll.It is being heralded as the most important election in a generation, thanks to the emergence of the UK Independence Party and the Green Party as political forces to be reckoned with.
But on the streets of the borough, we found little appetite for any of the parties jostling for our votes in the coming weeks.
Retired panel-beater Russell Dodds, 74, of Biddick Hall, South Shields, said: “I am a bit mystified by the whole political scene.
“Nobody seems to have answers on anything, from the Middle East to pensions and even the Metro system, which is always breaking down.
“I’m sad to say there is a blandness about politicians these days.
“You have to look for the difference between the parties. No one really stands out.
“Look at Nigel Farage. He’s always pictured looking happy with a pint of beer in his hand, but does that really make him qualified to run the country?”
Ex-shipyard worker Norman Ogden, 72, of Hebburn, said: “It’s hard not to be cynical about politics when you hear about MPs fiddling their expenses and former ministers being filmed trying to bolster their incomes.
“At the same time, hospitals are struggling because there are not enough nurses.”
South Shields shopper and retired foundry supervisor Leslie Milburn, 75, said: “There used to be an old saying that it’s six and two threes. Now, it’s six and three twos.
“There is more choice as far as the number of parties, but there is less choice because everyone is the same.
“I’ll vote, but only because if I don’t vote, it will be my own fault if we get the worst option in.”
South Shields shop worker Stephanie Doxford, 23, voted for the first time in 2010, and she intends to do so again on Thursday, May 7.
She said: “I’ll definitely be voting, although part of me thinks they are all as bad as each other.
“I voted Conservative in 2010, and I’m inclined to do so again, but I’ll hear what the other parties say in the run-up to the election.
“Ed Miliband doesn’t come across well to me. It all seems about badmouthing the other parties. I don’t really know what his party stands for.
“I think the election will be close, but my instinct tells me it won’t be a coalition this time, that the Conservatives might get an overall majority.”
Retired Merchant Navy bosun Denis Atkinson, 67, of Jarrow, said: “I’d be inclined to stick with the Conservatives. I think David Cameron is doing a pretty good job, particularly with the economy.
“Why change things when we’re heading in the right direction?
“I know this is a Labour heartland, and I was Labour years ago, but I think the tide is turning away from them, even here in the North East.”
The most of apathetic of those we spoke to was unemployed George Pattison, 45, of Jarrow.
He said: “I won’t be voting. I never vote. I don’t believe in politicians. I get on with my own life and make my own decisions. I want nothing to do with them.”