Inside Politics: Why Gloucester will decide what the next Government looks like
SITTING around the table enjoying a latte, two Gloucester traders and I mulled over the pros and cons of the "how to save Britain" ideas brandished by politicians of all colours in recent weeks.
Our cosy chat was all under the glare of a camera, boom mic and Sky News presenter Isabel Webster, for we were being used by the TV channel as Britain's barometer.
What do the people of Gloucester think about reduced business rates or tax breaks for married couples? Who cares what the people of our city think?
Well, everyone should care.
Traditional Shave, Facial Treatment, Whisky and a Shoe Shine -...View details
Gents, enjoy a traditional shave, facial treatment, glass of whisky and a shoeshine for £31
Terms: Early and later appointments available upon request.
Contact: 01242 504887
Valid until: Tuesday, December 31 2013
Whichever party wins the Gloucester seat at the 2015 General Election is likely to be the one that forms the Government.
Our fine city has been swinging between the Tories and Labour like nobody's business.
Both parties have been pushing out their election-winning policies recently, but at the end of the day, who will get their message out on the ground, here in Gloucester? The next election is going to be won on the doorstep.
But what message have they got exactly?
Labour have vowed to freeze energy prices, scrap the bedroom tax and reduce business rates for smaller firms, the latter being popular with small and independent city traders who are hampered by astronomical rates.
The Union pub, in Westgate Street, has already closed down after caving in to whopping business rates. Other traders have told me privately that they are feeling the pinch too.
Tax breaks for married couples and help to get on the property ladder through the Help to Buy scheme are top Tory policies.
I met a young couple who moved into their Abbeymead home after being helped by such a scheme. Their dream was realised in a way they never thought possible. But how many other youngsters are struggling to scrape together a deposit?
Prime Minister David Cameron told his party's conference in Manchester yesterday that Britain was the "land of opportunity".
People in Gloucester will be hoping that those words are not hollow. Our high street is the lifeblood of the city and with new jobs comes new prosperity.
Small businesses need the chance to thrive and young people need to be given a fighting chance.
Cameron's nostalgia about Margaret Thatcher – "the greatest peacetime prime minister" – and throwbacks to how wonderful Britain was when it invented many of the things the world takes for granted are all very good, but we need to look forward.
He certainly had a confident persona about him, resolute on his mission to make the good ship Britain great.
Labour's 'Red Ed' has put in his own good show too, setting out his vision in an hour-long speech without notes.
But when this newspaper asked Miliband's minions if he might say a few words about what his policies, such as scrapping the bedroom tax, would mean for the people of Gloucester (a target seat, remember) he was "too busy".
Unwavering support for Miliband has come from Gloucester's parliamentary candidate for the party, Sophy Gardner.
When asked what she thought of her embattled leader recently, she described him as "charismatic, encouraging, very supportive and hugely intelligent".
She added: "Some of the stuff he does in town halls and shops and meetings is really very good."
But the word on the streets of the city she wants to represent was somewhat different. While a few people said some mildly complimentary things, others described him as "unclear", "nasal", a "waste of space", "not a leader", "weak, bland and spineless" and "untrustworthy".
Sophy Gardner's campaign has been relentless to date, but how much does "very supportive" Ed really care about helping her to steal Gloucester from the Conservatives?