Election 2015 focus group: Experience brings mixed views

Chairman Roy Parry with voter Margaret Sheard.
Chairman Roy Parry with voter Margaret Sheard.

As part of or election coverage, the Reporter Series has set up weekly meetings with different groups of people to discuss the election issues that matter to them.

My first port of call was the Mirfield Over 50s group, who were awaiting their weekly presentation last Friday. The group was well-attended, with close to 100 people eventually packing out Zion Baptist Church Hall.

This is the only issue I throw my slipper at the TV about.

Roy Wilson, Mirfield Over 50s group member

There is an old cliché that elderly people err towards more insular views but, despite some of the participants nearing centenarian status, a healthy mix of opinions was in evidence at the meeting.

I was greeted by organiser of the Over 50s group Roy Parry, who soon took the lead in the debate.

A veteran of the oil industry, Roy spoke articulately on some of the issues he feels Britain needs to face up to, but also had some strong opinions of his own.

“There are certain issues that have been made during this campaign,” he said. “One of which is the NHS which seems to have been used as an emotive issue by each party.”

It was soon clear to see why each party is so keen to pledge their support for the NHS.

It is well known that the elderly vote in huge numbers, with 67 per cent marking their ballots at the last election – and the health service was of paramount importance to many in the group.

Jean Brownhill, 86, summed up the feeling, saying: “The NHS is so important. I worked in Storthes Hall Hospital for 15 years and I know what sort of pressure nurses are put under.”

Group member Carol Wilson said: “Sometimes it feels like whatever party gets in, they will go back on their promises.

“Immigration is a big issue for us. It feels like we will end up with so many foreigners in this country, the services will collapse.”

“This is the only issue I throw my slipper at the TV about,” added Carol’s husband Roy. “I believe we need a points-based system for immigration, like in Australia.”

It has often been said that UKIP’s support has traditionally come from older voters, so it was somewhat surprising when I found support in the room for Nigel Farage was virtually non-existent.

Mr Wilson added: “I think Farage is too far to the right. He comes up with things that you can say ‘yes’ to, but if you listen to what he says in the European Parliament, I think he is too far right. But I also think the left is too far left.”

Margaret Sheard, 91, a former office worker said she liked the cut of David Cameron’s jib.

“I have always voted Conservative,” she said. “But I really like Cameron – he talks a lot of sense and I like what he is doing.

“I don’t know much about the local candidates – but everyone says the MP we have only works part-time.

“People keep talking about food banks, but I have never even seen one – do people really need them?”

Despite Mirfield’s conservative reputation, Labour still had pockets of support in the room.

“I am voting for Labour,” said Joyce, 91. “They are the same party I have always voted for.

“I was born before the NHS – our family had to give money to a doctor to deliver me so it is important we keep the NHS. The rich should pay more but I know they don’t want to.

“They have a lot of money and it wouldn’t harm them to give a little bit more.”

Not everyone was interested, however.

One woman, who did not want to be named, said: “I find it really easy living in Mirfield. I don’t think I’ll vote – I didn’t know there was an election coming up.”