General Election 2024: Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak have already visited - but no-one here seems to care

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A visit to one Greater Manchester town that’s been in the spotlight - but locals aren’t impressed.

The General Election campaign trail made its way to Bury this week, with visits from the leaders of both the Labour and Conservative parties. 

Bury North is one of the constituencies the whole country will be watching this July. At the last general election in 2019, James Daly won the seat for Conservatives by just 105 votes.

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On Friday, May 31, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak paid a visit to the East Lancashire railway station and Burrs Country Park. And then on Monday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer unveiled his vision for the party’s defence policy at the Fusilier Museum in Bury. Both leaders then went head-to-head in the first televised debate, filmed at Salford’s Media City. 

But it seems neither party leader has managed to win over hearts in Bury, where political apathy is rife. We spent the afternoon at Bury market to test the political waters ahead of the big day.

The world famous Bury MarketThe world famous Bury Market
The world famous Bury Market | ManchesterWorld

‘They're all the same, aren't they?’

Bury’s world-famous market was bustling with people on Wednesday afternoon. People come from all over the region to visit the town, which is one of the only places in Greater Manchester that still has a thriving market. 

The overwhelming majority of people were reluctant to talk about the elections. Several people said outright that they were not planning to vote in the July 4 poll, expressing disdain for both sides of the political spectrum, while some people simply said they did not care about politics or did not know enough about it to comment.

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There was just as little enthusiasm from the people who were prepared to talk to ManchesterWorld on record. One resident who was yet to make up her mind was 64-year-old Jill Ryan, who had stopped for a latte at Costa. She had previously voted Conservative, but not this year. 

She said: “They just keep breaking their promises. With the National Health Service, they've not done anything. You can't get to see your own doctor. I haven't seen a doctor in five years, it's all over the phone. How can they diagnose you over the phone without looking at you?”

Bury resident Jill Ryan is yet to make up her mind about who to vote for in the upcoming general election. Bury resident Jill Ryan is yet to make up her mind about who to vote for in the upcoming general election.
Bury resident Jill Ryan is yet to make up her mind about who to vote for in the upcoming general election. | ManchesterWorld

Labour is not an option for her either as she said she “can’t abide with Starmer” having been unimpressed with his performance during the first televised debate the day before, and she believes a vote for any other party would only contribute to a Labour win. Overall, she was pessimistic about the country’s future. “Everything is going the wrong way,” she said. 

Although, there was one Conservative policy she could get behind. She added: “I agree with this about doing national service, it should have never been done away with because it would teach the younger a bit of respect and discipline, but I don't think it will go through.”

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Another voter yet to make up his mind was 86-year-old Duncan Lees. He has voted across the political spectrum over the years, starting out as a Liberal Democrat voter and then switching to Conservative. When Boris Johnson led the party in the 2019 general election, however, he voted Labour. 

He said: “They're all the same, aren't they? They're all a pack of lies all the time. I watched that program last night. There's no difference between the pair of them. 

86-year-old Duncan Lees from Bury is unsure who will get his vote in the 2024 general election. 86-year-old Duncan Lees from Bury is unsure who will get his vote in the 2024 general election.
86-year-old Duncan Lees from Bury is unsure who will get his vote in the 2024 general election. | ManchesterWorld

“I think Sunak is a bit aggressive, he was last night. I thought he wasn't letting Starmer have his say. Starmer, on the other hand, was a little bit slow in taking him on. Of the two, I would rather go with Starmer. I think he's genuine but the other guy... This £2,000 tax rise, he probably just pulled that out of the air. That's not going to happen.”

His main concern heading into the election was increasing costs, particularly with car insurance, which has gone up by more than 100% for him this year due to his age. He said: “I've had to make cuts. I'm a pensioner, I'm 86. I went down to the bank and I cancelled all the [charity] donations I was making. And I felt sorry about that, but needs must.” 

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One voter who had definitely made up his mind was 64-year-old Brian, who has previously voted Labour and intends to again this time around. Like Jill, he sees the NHS as a priority when it comes to policy, as well as migration and road maintenance.

64-year-old Brian will be voting Labour in the general election 2024.64-year-old Brian will be voting Labour in the general election 2024.
64-year-old Brian will be voting Labour in the general election 2024. | ManchesterWorld

He does not believe the elections will necessarily help with improving the overall state of the country, though. He said: “The only way we will sort it out is if we all put down tools and say we've had enough. We stand up together. Instead of two people talking about it in the pub, we all need to stand up and say we've had enough of this. I've had enough driving on them roads, I've had enough of beggars.”

‘My dying dog could run the country better’

Some people in Bury have decided that they won’t be voting at all. Nathan, who was manning a phone case stall on the market, said he voted once when he was 18 but there is nothing that would persuade him to vote in an election again. As a traveller, he explained to ManchesterWorld that this is common in his community.

“We don't really vote. We keep it in-house,” he said, adding: “Can I say bad words? Rishi Sunak's a knob. Mainly for the XL bully ban thing. I had an XL bully myself and unfortunately I had to rehome it. But other than that, I just concentrate on what I'm doing in my life.” 

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TJ, who has a jewellery stall at the market, has a completely different reason for not voting. This general election will be the first one to require voters to bring photo ID to the polling station. This means TJ, who has neither a passport, a driving licence or a voter ID, will not be able to vote. If she were to vote, she said she would “struggle” but probably vote Reform. 

The 54-year-old expressed contempt for the current leadership and the opposition. “I've got a nearly blind, deaf, dying dog there,” she said, pointing to a dog curled up in a bed at her feet. “I think she would run the country better than the muppets they've put there.”

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer on their respective visits to Bury over the last few daysRishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer on their respective visits to Bury over the last few days
Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer on their respective visits to Bury over the last few days | Getty

Immigration is one of her most pressing issues, which is why she would not vote for Labour, given Keir Starmer’s background in immigration law. Her opinion of the Conservative leader is not much better. 

She said: “And Sunak, well he can just bugger off to America for all I care. He's not our Prime Minister. I don't see him as Prime Minister. We didn't elect him. We elected Boris Johnson. I went out and voted – because I was allowed to vote then – for Boris Johnson because we needed someone who was a complete and utter lunatic. But, I think sometimes you need a lunatic that's going to stand behind what he says he's going to do.

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“Does [Sunak] even know what the real world is like? He walked through the market one time and the amount of security. I thought: Yeah, because you're probably frightened. You've come out in public, someone's going to egg you. And I wouldn't have blamed them if someone had because he's just an idiot. I don't trust him.”

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