29 April 2010
By Melanie Newman, Hannah Fearn
With the general election only a week away, Times Higher Education spent a day on the stump with three academics running for national office. Migration, social responsibility and public lavatories were all hot topics - but what about higher education policy? Melanie Newman and Hannah Fearn report from the hustings
ANNELIESE DODDS, LABOUR
Anneliese Dodds is canvassing at two sheltered-housing blocks.
Her phone keeps ringing: a batch of campaign leaflets has been printed with a hotline number that is "all zeros", so everyone is calling her mobile instead.
At the same time, Roger Hayes, an experienced campaigner who is accompanying her on the round, is nagging her about "stakes" - roadside posters - that have not been set up.
"We had some weightlifters helping out; they've put a lot up," says Dr Dodds, a lecturer in social policy at King's College London, who is standing as the Labour candidate for Reading East. Mr Hayes seems unsatisfied.
Many of the two dozen or so sheltered-housing residents who open their doors to Dr Dodds are undecided about how they will vote.
One resident tells her to go away. Another can't talk because she is cooking and "all oniony".
A third says that he is "voting Greenpeace", as they are going to raise his pension. He has clearly confused the environmental action group with the Green Party.
Higher education remains firmly off the agenda, while the closure of public lavatories is a recurring issue.
About a third of the residents are staunch Labour supporters, although not all recognise Dr Dodds.
"You look fatter in your photograph," says one, "and your hair's different."
Most of the candidate's supporters agree on one thing: they cannot stand David Cameron, the Conservative leader.
"He's so cocky," says one. "He'll look after the rich, it's always the same."
A floating voter invites the academic in to make the case for Labour.
"I could never vote Tory because I come from a small mining village," she says. "I've always voted Labour, but I think it's time we gave the Lib Dems a go."
Dr Dodds warns her that Reading East is a "tight marginal" between Labour and the Tories.
"But nobody addresses the important things," the resident says. "I paid tax all my life, now I'm being paid my pension and I'm being taxed again. No other country in the world taxes you twice.
"And I read the paper the other day and somebody was saying they were proud to be on benefits. You can take the 'great' out of Great Britain, and you can blame the politicians for that."
"I agree it's difficult if you've worked hard," Dr Dodds says. "But things would be better under Labour than under a Tory government."
The resident finally agrees: "All right Anneliese, I'll vote for you."
Back at the office, Dr Dodds' campaign coordinator Harry is frantically cleaning up.
"I've just had Special Branch here. We've got a minister visiting at 1pm tomorrow."
"I can't do that; I've got to be at work," Dr Dodds says, disappearing downstairs to write her speech for a hustings that evening.
draw your own conclusions. I know exactly where Anneliese was and some of the same people are probably still there, especially George.
the leaflets with the wrong phone number - take a bow, Mr Howarth.
of the two journalists by-lined in this piece (from the Times Higher Education Supplement) one is known to me, in fact we spent Christmas together, but the other one wrote the piece about Anneliese. Good on you Roger for all the work you do - getting any help from the boys? Thought not.
Immigration is another concern. "We're swamped," says a pensioner. "Sometimes when I go into town, I think I'm the only British-born person here."