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Prospective MPs go dating to woo voters


speeddatingAs a group of smartly dressed men and women take their seats, in pairs, at small round tables in the dining room of a converted textile factory in Nottingham city centre, some look nervous, some confident, and others just eager to get started.

But before they can, the rules of “speed dating” must be explained: every 5 minutes one person from each pair will rotate to the next table, until everyone has had a chance to speak to everyone else. A whistle is blown. “Let the first date begin,” cries the host and a hum of conversation quickly fills the basement room.

While there certainly seem to be some attempts at wooing going on, these “daters” have little intention of romance. In fact as I watch, some even appear to try and rile their dates, for half the attendees are prospective parliamentary candidates, hoping to win the Nottingham South seat at a general election expected on May 6, and the other half are voters, seeking to quiz the candidates on their education policies.

This is “political speed dating”, and I wouldn’t be surprised if such events become a more regular occurrence as the campaigning gets under way and politicians seek modern, innovative ways to connect with voters. In an election that is likely to be very tightly fought, such one-on-one interaction, particularly in possible swing or marginal seats, is the kind of opportunity most candidates can’t afford to ignore.