My sister is not the only one undecided until the last possible moment.
Here follows another fine article by Cath Elliott:
Since Ian Gibson's resignation as my constituency MP in early June this year, I've been taking a keen interest in the upcoming Norwich North byelection. It's not a byelection I ever wanted to see happen, and like a lot of the constituents I'm still angry at the way it has come about, but as it's happening I need to decide who to vote for. As someone who has adopted as one of their mantras "Women died to get you the vote!", refusing to vote, or boycotting the election in protest at Gibson's treatment simply isn't an option for me.
In the past I haven't had much of a problem deciding who to vote for, because despite my opposition to the Iraq war, and my concerns about the erosion of our civil liberties that's been taking place under the careful watch of New Labour, I've always known that Gibson was on my side. I've been able to tell myself when putting that all important cross next to the Labour candidate that it's not the odious Labour government I've been voting for, but a hard-working constituency MP who shares my political views on near enough every issue.
But now it's all change. Now, for the first time ever in an election, I'm a floating voter. Even as I write this, with ballot boxes due to open tomorrow, I still don't know for sure who I'm going to endorse. I have managed to whittle it down to a choice between two candidates: the Green party's Rupert Read, and Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who was removed from his post after complaining about human rights abuses there, and who's standing as an independent under the banner "Put an honest man in parliament". It feels like it's been a tortuously long process even getting this far, and I'm someone who takes an interest in politics. I wouldn't be surprised if this election sees one of the lowest turnouts ever, if my own experience of trying to let the candidates persuade me with the strength of their arguments is anything to go by.
In all there are 12 candidates standing in Norwich North, but the serious race is between just five of them. Like most people I ruled out some contenders right at the start, as I did with the more rightwing and extreme parties such as UKIP and the repugnant BNP. So that left me with a choice between the Conservative candidate Chloe Smith, the Green candidate Rupert Read, the Lib Dems' April Pond, Chris Ostrowski of Labour, and the allegedly honest man Craig Murray.
I already explained a few weeks ago why I wouldn't be voting Conservative and that was before Chloe Smith's occupation became a source of some controversy. But had I not already decided against the Tories, the overkill of their campaign would have been enough to put me off. I've never seen so many election leaflets from one political party in any election campaign, but all that's managed to do is convince me that the Tories have way too much money to spend. I'm not impressed with slick and expensive electioneering, to me it's the candidate and the policies that matter, and charming as she is Smith hasn't been impressive once the spinners and minders have been taken away and she's been left on her own to debate the issues alongside the other candidates.
It's the same with Chris Ostrowski, who didn't come across at all well in the live debate on BBC1 earlier this week. I understand now that some of that may have been down to him having swine flu, but with so much anger still in the air over Gibson's forced departure, and with the big guns like Gordon Brown staying well clear of Norwich, the Labour campaign is at best unconvincing and at worst half-hearted. It's almost as though they'd given up before they'd begun, which given Gibson's popularity among the local voters is perfectly understandable but not likely to get them anywhere near first place in this election.
April Pond has been impressive, but once again the Liberal Democrats have let themselves down by running a dirty tricks campaign. The election leaflet where they attempted to paint Rupert Read as some kind of terrorist sympathiser echoed some of the worst excesses of the tabloid press, and when Pond backtracked on her initial opposition to academy schools any chance of her getting my vote was well and truly lost.
Which brings me back to Rupert Read and Craig Murray, the two candidates who were the first to respond to the Twitter challenge I set them of laying out for me in 140 characters why I should vote for them, and the two candidates who, despite not having anything like the financial backing enjoyed by the Conservative candidate, have still found ways of getting their messages across to the local electorate. Read has been particularly impressive with his attempts to schmooze me over the last few days, which I realise is probably a cynical attempt on his part to get me to write nice things about him, and which as you can see has worked.
For an undecided voter, the build-up to tomorrow's byelection has been a fascinating experience. It's been great to see so many candidates embracing new media, extending their campaigns beyond leafleting and door knocking to Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere. It's been interesting to observe the difference between a general election campaign, where someone such as Cameron would probably only make one appearance in the area, if that, and a byelection campaign, when the entire party machinery is set in motion for a single candidate.
But however I do eventually decide to vote one thing's for sure, having kept such a close eye on things over the past few weeks, whoever wins the seat had better stick to their election promises – because I will be holding them to account.