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AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 26-Jul-13 15:00:27

Many thanks for agreeing to take part in this closed discussion thread. As you'll know, you all have an individual user name, separate to your on-site profile. So please feel free to be as open and frank as you like, without your views being read-across to your site profile.

The aim of these discussions is to discover if, how and why women's voting intentions are shifting and what you think about each of the party leaders.

We'll ask a few questions, allow you to think them over, respond, engage in a bit of discussion with other participants, and then we will pop back on the thread. We might want to tease out the reasons behind particular views or opinions and then will crack on with the next set of questions (on Thursday) and one more set over the weekend. Do feel free to re visit the thread at any point over the next week or so. We'll email you when we add a new set of questions.

Here are the questions to get you started

Thinking about when you decide which party to vote for, how important is the leader of the party in that decision?


What do you look for in a party leader? What makes a good party leader and what makes a bad one? What makes a good prime minister and what makes a bad one?

Thinking about the party you voted for at the 2010 General Election and the party you would vote for now, has it changed?

Why not?

Feel free to include any thoughts you might have - they don't have to be the conventional, just true to how you feel!

delegate103 Tue 30-Jul-13 14:57:38

The leader of the party is quite important to me. They have to be a charismatic speaker - to be worth listening to. They need to inspire confidence to their voters and MPs.

As I mentioned above a party leader needs to inspire confidence and to speak eloquently, be sympathetic to all their voters but to be definite and firm with their views. They also need to be media savvy. Think about how Gordon Brown came unstuck with his 'off mic' comments when he called one of his voters 'bigoted' - it was a media scrum! They also need to have a clean image - no skeletons in the closet and no extramarital affairs. If there are skeletons then be up front about them and honest. I still believe Tony and Cherie Blair should have said whether or to Leo had his MMR jab or single jabs. Also think about how many MPs have been outed re their sexuality. If they are doing a good job I don't care who they sleep with!!

As a stay at home mum I still vote the same as in 2010 but quite frankly don't really rate any of them but choose to vote for the party who I feel benefit our family the most. Still disgusted that they penalise stay at home mums re child benefit if dads earn over a certain about though. My voting habits have changed since marriage and kids.

delegate108 Tue 30-Jul-13 15:11:11

For me a party leader is important as they are the 'face of the party', if I didn't feel like I could connect to the party leader or I didn't like them as a person, I wouldn't vote for them. I think that the party as a whole and its key values does play a part in my decision, but who the leader is, is very important. The only time when this would play less of a part would be in local elections and only because its a different agenda - or thats how I see it. I would want a party leader that I felt was trustworthy and who has our interests at heart.

For me a good party leader and prime minister is honest and trustworthy. They have integrity in how they present and handle themselves. If they can't demonstrate these qualities at a party leader level I wouldn't want them as a prime minister. For me a prime minister and party leader earns there place to be there. I was really angry when Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister as I felt that he got there through the back door, and not by any of the means mentioned above. I hate it when party leaders make promises that they have no intention of keeping, or promises which they know up front that they cannot keep. For me a good party leader is someone who can see the big picture and fights for the wider agenda focusing on key aspects like education without getting caught up in personal agendas. They have to be respected as well as being charismatic as it is such a tough role to fulfill.

Being honest I didn't get around to voting in the 2010 elections because we were living abroad at the time, and despite applying for a postal vote, because of the Royal Mail postal strikes in England it meant that we were not able to. However I don't think my vote choice has changed and I would vote the same now. It hasn't changed because I haven't had a good enough reason to change my mind.

delegate119 Tue 30-Jul-13 16:19:53

The leader of the party is important as he or she is the mouthpiece for the party and often makes the difference in terms of how well understood the party's interntions / policies / values are in society. For me personally, the person who is elected as leader says something about the party overall. Although there are lots of reasons why I make a choice about who to vote for, the party leader will always have an influence even if that is unconscious.

A good party leader in my opinion is someone who is honest about the values and intentions of their party, who explains the reasons for their choices and when there is a need to change their mind, it is made clear why this is the case. It is also really important to me that party leaders have a clue about the people they are representing, in the sense of keeping in touch with real people and not just politicians!

In 2010 I voted for the Liberal Democrat party for the first time as I really felt there was an opportunity to be part of a significant change. Of course, in the event it was an underwhelming result and has resulted in a particularly difficult time for the UK parliament with a coalition that I don't feel is working well. I would not vote for the Liberal Democrat party if were choosing now, as I don't feel they have a strong enough approach to managing the problems facing the UK and are not trustworthy, as demonstrated by the u-turns made on policy / supporting policy since the election.

As mentioned by other posters above, I decide who to vote for based on what is important to me. As a full time working parent, I am interested in decision about tax, childcare, education and healthcare. Of course, the economy in general as well as crime and immigration are important and these are significant in terms of how a party approaches them. I am also influenced by my local MPs and councillors and how effective and responsive they are in my local community.

delegate109 Tue 30-Jul-13 16:39:10

The leader of the party is important to me because it is them who represent the party and act as the party's voice. If you don't like the leader it can be hard to like the party! I look for a strong but fair leader, someone who presents themselves well and answers challenging questions well. You don't want a leader who breaks under pressure. I also want someone who is empathetic, who has a caring, human side, not too harsh. I also want someone who answers questions rather than dodging them which all politicians seem to do!

I voted conservative in 2010, and would vote the same again. They are having to make tough decisions, which are upsetting people, but I do think they are making the best of bad economic situation. I think the coalition is generally working, so I would be happy if this continued. I really don't like Ed Miliband, just a character thing, and wouldn't want him to be prime minister.

delegate117 Tue 30-Jul-13 16:47:10

For me, the leader of the party does have a part to play in who I vote for - although I would say the local candidates are just as important when it comes to voting day.

It is so so important that the leader of any party is 'prime ministerial'. That means he or she needs to be confident and an excellent communicator. They need to be able to hold their own in a debate in the House of Commons. They need to have the balance right between seeming approachable and in touch with the normal people, and having the confidence and leadership qualities that would make them look at home amongst the leaders of the G8 etc. It is vital that they have integrity - personal and political. And in this day and age I suppose they need to be appealing as a personality in the mass media (this is why Tony Blair was more likely to win an election for the Labour Party, than Gordon Brown).

For me, in a party leader, I am looking for someone who personifies their party. They represent the values the party hold. It is easier to get to feel like you can weigh up a person, than it is to read, understand and weigh up a manifesto - plus, you don't know if election pledges can be kept! But you do know that a person is that person and their strengths/weaknesses will remain largely the same when in power. So I suppose you want a leader who you can get to know - what they are like, what they believe in, their vision and values.

delegate101 Tue 30-Jul-13 16:51:50

I believe the party leader must be a strong, trustworthy character, who inspires confidence in the voters and their own MPs.

They need to understand the problems and issues that affect the population, and be in touch with real people, not just MPs. They should possess real integrity, demonstrating that they can lead and achieve results. A good leader should gain respect from their colleagues aswell as their voters.

For many years I was a committed Labour voter, however, I changed tack in 2010 and voted Conservative. Gordon Brown was not an effective leader or Prime Minister, and I became disillusioned with what the Labour party had become. I cannot stand Ed Milliband - he and his cronies constantly seem to be critical of anything David Cameron or the Conservatives say or do - it just reminds me of playground squabbles. Labour also seems to disregard that they are responsible for anything to do with the state of the British economy or recession, forgetting that they had been in power before, for so long. As it stands, I will probably vote Conservative again, but at times, it does seem difficult to tell the political parties apart.

delegate117 Tue 30-Jul-13 16:58:17

Another thought - I kind of agree with delegate109 re Ed Milliband. He is hard to like, and comes across as weak at times. This is why the leader of the party is so important. Another leader of Labour Party (chuka umunna, for example, or... dare I say it? david miliband) might change my mind about labour. But at the moment I am put off by the leadership. Just can't quite imagine Ed and Ed running this country!

delegate122 Tue 30-Jul-13 19:06:31

Thinking about when you decide which party to vote for, how important is the leader of the party in that decision? Why?

Very important. For me if their leader is crap then the party is going to be weak and unable to stick to its policy. A good leader is absolutely essential which is why I think the libdems don't do well - Nick, bless him, appears to be as tough as a bag of marshmallows!

What do you look for in a party leader? What makes a good party leader and what makes a bad one? What makes a good prime minister and what makes a bad one?

Good hair (no seriously, not looking like a sack of crap is important). Someone who looks like they will survive two terms in office without keeling over.

A good party leader is someone who can inspire but also make difficult decisions. A bad leader is one who does not walk the walk and spurts out things he does not believe. I know there is a lot of training provided these days in body language but there are some that you just can't trust on instinct.

Thinking about the party you voted for at the 2010 General Election and the party you would vote for now, has it changed?

I voted libdem because I didn't like either the labour or conservatives and thought a hung parliament might make some changes. In retrospect it's been quite a weak constitution and next time I'll probably vote tory. I don't like them but at least I know they will protect some of the things I hold dear. I don't like the labour party - they feel old fashioned and my parents voted for them but I have felt extremely let down by them over the years.

The issues that matter to me are NHS, education, welfare and frankly I couldn't care two hoots about immigration or taxation (don't get me wrong I pay a lot of tax but if you get the first three right the rest will follow). I care about getting the economy shifting (because that will impact the first three massively). I despise the nanny state which says you cannot take responsibility for your fecklessness if you decide not to work and wish people had stronger personal moralities and were prepared to stand up and say what they believe in. I don't care if I don't agree with people but if they are unable to stand by their principles I really dislike them - and for this reason, I dislike a LOT of politicians. Like Boris though, he's an eejit, but at least he's SINCERE about it. grin

delegate122 Tue 30-Jul-13 19:06:58

Oh and Ed Milliband is the world's largest waste of oxygen - did I mention that?

delegate115 Tue 30-Jul-13 19:27:43

I think that the leader is important but not imperative, I think likeability is a big factor in the decision however the manifesto of that party is also important, however, I do also think that the area you are in has an effect. I for example live in an affluent area lead by a conservative MP who has done our town good. I do think as well that voting is somewhat influenced by your peers and also your family.

I think that a paty leader realy does need the likeability factor as PP have said Ed Miliband comes across as an idiot, he really does have the kind of face you want to punch.
I want a party leader to not have their head in the sand completely when it comes to real life and trying to relate to the constituents.

I voted Tory and would again I think people are being far too negative about what Cameron is doing for our country, he is trying to right the wrongs that Labour left us in.

delegate106 Tue 30-Jul-13 19:29:24

What's important to me is that the party leader appears to be honest and trustworthy, respected by their party and be respectful to the electorate. They need to be able to explain their party's policies and strategies in a clear and concise manner. A good prime minister, like any good leader will have 'come up through the ranks' and having done so will have a good handle on the important issues of the day. Whilst taking the final decision, a good leader will also seek opinion from colleagues.

I voted Conservative at the last election and will do so again. Labour has got this country into a terrible economic mess-Gordon Brown sold off this country's gold reserves and raided our pension pots and that party borrowed, borrowed and borrowed. I despair for the future for my children and grandchildren. My children are in their 30s, have thousands of pounds worth of university debt, working all hours and still can't afford to buy their own home or have children of their own.

delegate113 Tue 30-Jul-13 21:51:52

Although the party leader is very important to me for instance if they do not have a certain likability or come across as trustworthy I find it hard to like or relate to the party, ultimately it is the parties policies that influence me the most to vote. It doesn't matter how impressed you are with the leader, if I can't believe in their principles how can I back them?

I wouldn't change who I voted for, as at the time I believed in them and their policies, I believe it is hard for any party once in power its hard to please everyone all of the time. Very much damned if you do damned if you don't.

delegate110 Tue 30-Jul-13 21:59:53

Party leaders are critical to the success of an election campaign. As they will be the public face of any party that succeeds to office, they have to inspire confidence in voters & colleagues alike.

The things that I look for in a strong party leader are strong and confident speeches, rapport with delegates and voters, and the ability to be persuasive under pressure. There's nothing worse than watching Ed Millaband face a barrage of boo's in the HOC - It conjures images of playground bullying as he just seems so ill-equipped to deal with it! Sadly you have to expect such ridiculous behaviour in the HOC so you need a party leader that is able to deal with this confidently and come out fighting - so much of this is having absolute belief in your party policies - David Cameron is very impressive at this, arrogant even, but it's certainly not misplaced.

Nothing irritates me more than Ed posturing and capitalising on everything that goes wrong in this country without offering ONE single solution. Honestly, we could have an act-of-God disaster in this country and he would find a way of making this Cameron's fault.

I think the biggest cultural shift in current years has come as a result of the televised pre-election broadcasts. I don't think anyone would have seriously considered Nick Clegg a viable option before he blew us away with his confident speeches. Recalling the names of questioners, great intonation and authoritative body language and he managed to inspire enough votes to forge a coalition. Never mind that his manifesto was financially impossible to bring about, he moved to scrap trident (a big mistake imo) and didn't appear to have a very clear strategy on how to tackle the recession.

On the other hand Gordon Brown came across very stiff and nervous. I appreciate that whoever was in his position at that time would have had a tough job. Labour had done so much damage and there was simply no coming back from that. Poor old Millaband (who seems like a thoroughly nice chap) is simply not strong enough to convince me that the country would be safe in his hands. I agree with delegate117 that David Millaband would have been a much more interesting leader for Labour.

Like delegate103 - I would hope that any party leader would have no major skeletons in the closet. I would find it very hard to trust them if any extramarital affairs were brought to light (despite this being none of my business) this might be because I am a woman. I don't however believe anybody should ever have to justify the way they parent - so am less bothered about whether they chose private or public education (if I had enough money I would send my own child to the very best school I could afford).

I'm a Conservative voter (have been for many years) and am yet to come across a leader that I don't trust. If confronted by this, I honestly don't know what I'd do as I just can't see my personal politics aligning with any other party.

Most important issues for me are taxation, education, housing, economic strategy, immigration and welfare. I think these things best shape the world my child will grow up in. Unfortunately green issues and matters of defence are lower down on my list.

delegate107 Wed 31-Jul-13 19:14:53

For me personally I like to see a leader who has "balls" so to speak. I want to know that if they promise something they are going to fight to follow this through even if they face opposition nick clegg

I do feel that they are the mouthpiece of the party but if elected they need to have the courage to go against their own party if necessary.

I have no interest in their private lives at all and their extramarital affairs do not make me judge how they could lead.

Previously I was always a true labour supporter but over the last few years this support has gone given the mess we were left in. The last election I swayed to lib dem/conservative. I was sort of hoping for another thatcher era really to help us recover however Cameron now is just on a massive power trip in my opinion and nick clegg may as well sit at home knitting for all the input he provides!

delegate119 Wed 31-Jul-13 19:35:45

I agree with delegate122 about the stage we have got to with the nanny state providing. I can't imagine that Labour originally intended benefits to be a lifestyle choice and whilst I know that this is certainly not the case for most people, it bothers me that it is possible for anyone to be worse off going to work than relying on benefit. I think the government are trying to do something about this, although as often seems to be the case, not getting it right consistently. I think this is about the people executing the policies rather than the macro decisions about how payments should be allocated.

delegate122 Wed 31-Jul-13 20:34:50

I'm not a bigot - I have had affairs, it happens, particularly when you work in a high powered environment. So I wouldn't judge a leader who did it too harshly. We are far too obsessed with private lives of public leaders. If they are criminals or paedophiles it matters, if they are boinking their secretary, male or female I don't think it matters.

delegate104 Wed 31-Jul-13 21:25:43

Thinking about when you decide which party to vote for, how important is the leader of the party in that decision? Why?

The leader of the party I'm voting for is fairly important, but in the past I have considered the qualities of my local MP more important - I want to know who is representing me and what they will do. Having said that, my opinion on this is changing and I actually consider the national party leader more now than I have in the past.

What do you look for in a party leader? What makes a good party leader and what makes a bad one? What makes a good prime minister and what makes a bad one?

I look for someone who is eloquent, trustworthy (as much as modern politicians can be), and not afraid of voicing unpopular views if they are genuinely for the national good. They have to be personally appealing - Ed Milliband is (I think) rather creepy and I wouldn't choose to vote for him. Nick Clegg is too weak to be a good prime minister. David Cameron is doing an OK job in the circumstances but could do better.
A good party leader has to be able to appeal to both the party members (who elect for them as leader) and the voting population as a whole - who generally hold much more moderate opinions than factions within a party will, so it's a tricky balance to maintain.
A good prime minister will rise above party politics and work for the good of the country. I'm not sure that that happens often, but it should (in my naïve and idealistic world...). A bad prime minister is one who plays to his party rather than the nation as a whole.

Thinking about the party you voted for at the 2010 General Election and the party you would vote for now, has it changed? Why? Why not?

I voted for the Conservatives in the 2010 General Election, for the first time ever - I would still vote for them so that hasn't changed. I think that Labour overspent while they were in power, and created huge problems for us as a country. I don't necessarily disagree with some of what they did, however what I have a huge problem with is the fact that they denied having overspent, and for ages said that if they were re-elected would introduce various policies that cost money, with no clear idea of how they would be funded. The Lib Dems for me were never a realistic option as a ruling party - they had too much ground to make up. So the Tories were the only viable alternative to Labour. I have voted tactically in the past, too, as the area where I live gets less than 10% of people voting Labour. My vote would always currently be either Lib Dem or Tory.

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 01-Aug-13 09:44:43

Thanks for answering the first questions: some really interesting feedback. Now we want to try to what you really think about the specific leaders.

1) So, these days how well or badly do you think the current main party leaders are doing on understanding the issues and concerned facing women like you.
First of all David Cameron?
And then Nick Clegg?
And then Ed Miliband?
What about another party leader you know of (or one you think should/ could be a party leader) - please name them and then say: how well or badly do they do on this aspect?

2) and how well or badly do you think they make sure or take account of women being heard in their party and in politics generally?
First of all David Cameron?
And then Nick Clegg?
And then Ed Miliband?
What about another party leader you know of (or one you think should/ could be a party leader) - please name them and then say: how well or badly do they do on this aspect?

3) Finally for now - which party - if any - do you trust the most to look after the interests of women? Why? And which do you trust the least? And why?

thanks again - we will add some more questions for the weekend.

delegate105 Thu 01-Aug-13 10:49:29

Sorry to be late to this thread-login problems

I want a party leader to be strong and in control of his government. He/she has to be decisive but also brave enough to admit when they get things wrong. Background is unimportant. I think comments about David Cameron having been to Eton are often based on envy. I really don't care where a leader went to school. After all that is mostly their parents choice.
A bad leader would be weak, a bad speaker and have no charisma.

I voted Conservative in the last election and would do again. They have a huge financial mess which they inherited to clear up and I think it will take more than one term.

delegate105 Thu 01-Aug-13 11:01:41

1) I think that David Cameron does understand most of my concerns (health, welfare bill and education) but has a limited pot of money available and a huge amount of waste and bad management to overcome.
Nick Clegg seems really ineffectual so do not think he understands anything.
Ed Milliband- I really have no idea what he believes in, he seems a faceless person devoid of original thought.

I would quite like Boris Johnson to be a party leader, he is phenomenally clever (although it can be well disguised) and does not worry about public opinion so would get things done, even if they were unpopular, not do things just to curry favour.

2) I think gender should be irrelevant, I do not want my views taken into account simply because I am a woman but rather because I am a human being.

3) See above. I don't think my concerns are any different to ,say, my husbands. I trust the Conservatives most and Labour the least. Labour helped to ruin the economy and we are all now paying the price, regardless of our gender.

delegate109 Thu 01-Aug-13 11:45:41

Like the previous poster, I don't think my issues and concerns are different as a woman to that of men, especially as men are sharing more of the child care these day. I do believe that David Cameron is making the best of a bad situation, there is a limited budget and a lot of mess to clear up after the Labour government. Some of his decisions are not liked but they are necessary to get the country back on track. I think his reform of the welfare and benefits is a positive step, and I'm speaking as a disabled person who receives a couple of benefits. I think child care vouchers are great for families to help them settle back to work. I don''t have a strong opnion of Nick Clegg, he doesn't seem as strong a character as David Cameron, I don't really know what his beliefs are, but he is better than Ed Milliband. I don't like Ed Milliband, he seems a bit wishy washy and not a strong leader. I don't think he'd be a strong character to stand up for issues concerning women, and I don't think he'd understand those issues.
However, I'm not sure what my issues should be!
I do like Boris Johnson too, and agree he is intelligent despite not always appearing it. I think he would be liked as a leader, he strikes me as a genuine person, concerned with people's issues. However, I'm not sure if people would take him seriously enough.

I'm not sure how well women are heard in the party and in politics. There are female politicians, that we hear about in the media, in David Cameron, Nick Clegg's and Ed Milliband's party, so I assume their voices are being heard. However, I would imagine that there are still far more male MPs than female ones. That is probably due to women having children and feeling torn between a high powered career and looking after their children.

I trust Conservatives the most to look after the views of women, simply because they are the ones trying to sort out the mess that was left behind. I think David Cameron makes firm but fair decisions that benefit the country as a whole. I trust Labour the least because they created the mess we have and Ed Milliband does not seem to be a strong leader.

It is difficult to separate the issues of women.

delegate122 Thu 01-Aug-13 13:25:28

*1) So, these days how well or badly do you think the current main party leaders are doing on understanding the issues and concerned facing women like you.
First of all David Cameron?
And then Nick Clegg?
And then Ed Miliband?
What about another party leader you know of (or one you think should/ could be a party leader) - please name them and then say: how well or badly do they do on this aspect?*

DC - okay I think, he hasn't offended me recently and is generally supportive of mothers who choose to stay at home.

NC - No opinion, I don't think he's good or bad on this subject

EM - makes my skin crawl, don't think they've had a decent family policy for years.

*2) and how well or badly do you think they make sure or take account of women being heard in their party and in politics generally?
First of all David Cameron?
And then Nick Clegg?
And then Ed Miliband?
What about another party leader you know of (or one you think should/ could be a party leader) - please name them and then say: how well or badly do they do on this aspect?*

Badly. All of them. I don't think there is a party who has managed to get this right. There are no strong female role models in UK politics I think, though there are in other countries. Angela Merkel is brilliant at her job - don't agree with her policies but she's very strong and determined and ethical.

3) Finally for now - which party - if any - do you trust the most to look after the interests of women? Why? And which do you trust the least? And why?

I think they are all equally daft in regards to family policies. Laws made just for women will never work in any case. It's a silly question. Women do not exist in some sort of bubble, we are affected by changes in policy to tax, childcare, education, health - all the same things as men and yes we do bear the brunt of responsibilities for families but that does not mean specifically there needs to be laws for us. And I would find it bloody patronising to be marketed to on the basis that I don't have a penis.

delegate119 Thu 01-Aug-13 18:07:44

David Cameron - I think he talks well about family policy in general and has appointed women to his cabinet, which I like to see.

Nick Clegg - I don't hear him talking about specifically female 'issues' but then I am not convinced that he is particularly effective in general.

Ed Milliband - I don't think he understands any issues facing any people, regardless of gender. He seems like a bumbler.

I would like to see someone like Justine Greening as party leader, although it's a shame that she is a Conservative MP as really the other parties need new leader more than they do! She has a practical approach and seems to have an appreciation of the things that real people are concerned about.

2) I don't want to see women being singled out and treated differently with a specific agenda towards 'women being heard'. I want to see all party leaders listening to their party members but over and above this, listening to constituents and the public in general.

3) I don't see any party having a more female focussed agenda than others and this is quite right. I want all parties to consider the main concerns of all people and not single out women or men as having different concerns about the country. My male friends and relatives share similar concerns about the economy, education, healthcare etc. and I don't think it is possible to categorise 'women's issues' with a broad brush. Certainly some of my female friends have more diverse concerns to mine than some of my male friends (not exclusively of course) because your political viewpoint is about your circumstances, experiences and values rather than gender.

delegate113 Thu 01-Aug-13 20:02:09

David Cameron: He tries to understand but can get it wrong, on the whole I am quite happy with him.

Nick Clegg: I always think of him as a hanger on, I don't really have a opinion on him and still unsure where he stands regarding womens issues.

Ed Miliband: I really don't know anything about him or his policies, he just seems to talk a lot but nothing sinks in with me.

I think on the whole they all listen to the women in their party I don't see any of them as being biased towards women. Putting it bluntly being the leader they cant not listen. We sure would hear about it quickly if they brushed away any female within their party who was trying to be heard.

I find it hard to trust any party, they all swap and change at the drop of a hate, and when you look at their policies as a whole there isn't a great amount of difference between them.

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