I'm listening to views outside the Westminster bubble - and the parties won't like what I've heard

In the lead-up to this General Election, the ITV Evening News got out around the country, talking to people, listening to opinions away from the much-discussed Westminster bubble.

I’ve visited places with an interesting story to tell, to get some sense of what is influencing voters far from Politics Central.

Here's what I discovered...

Part 1: North East Fife

Our road trip started in North East Fife - the UK’s most marginal constituency - won in 2017 by the SNP by just 2 votes.

How might things work out this time, where every vote will count and there’s all to play for?

There was some support for Boris Johnson in North East Fife. Credit: ITV News

I wish I could report a compelling trend, but I found little appetite for another ballot - those I spoke to seemed weary with all politics: Brexit, Indy Ref 2, another General Election.... most were fed up with it all.

They didn’t like or much trust their politicians - Leave or Remain, pro- or anti-independence. The one thing they shared was disillusionment.

It wasn’t a scientific poll - more a series of chats - but the disenchantment was striking.

A group of mums in Scotland echoed doubts about the state of politics in 2019. Credit: ITV News

Part 2: Manchester

In Manchester, ahead of the ITV Leaders Debate, what did people hope to hear from Corbyn and Johnson?

I spent the morning with students at Salford Uni - several of them first time voters.

First time voters at Salford University were engaged but cynical to the party messages. Credit: ITV News

Here they were passionately engaged with the electoral process - determined to make their voices heard, having missed out on the 2016 Brexit referendum.

But as to whether they actually believed the right issues would be properly discussed? Not so much.

Students wanted to hear clear policy details over soundbite politics. Credit: ITV News

They complained of soundbite politics and short-term clickbait.

They badly wanted to hear details about public spending, education, the environment; but expected to be disappointed.

Filming in the city centre around Canal Street we drew a small crowd of young men.... larking around for the cameras.

Trust was a key issue for young voters around Canal Street in Manchester. Credit: ITV News

When I tried to talk to them they scattered - joking that they didn’t want to be recognised on TV.

But eventually a couple of them offered their views.

Superficially, the contrast with the politics-savvy students might have been striking - but the underlying message much the same; politicians didn’t connect with them, they didn’t discuss the important issues, they couldn’t be trusted.

An LGBT group in a nearby cafe-bar told me of their despair at the short term nature of political engagement.

Among the LGBT group was criticism of 'empty statements' from the leaders. Credit: ITV News

Where was the nuanced discussion of inclusion, equality, harmony, the environment? They shrugged.

So far so cynical.

Next stop Northern Ireland.

Will I strike a rich seam of bright-eyed voters, ready to embrace the coming election with vigour and optimism?

The signs aren’t good - but I’ll keep trying.

Part 3: Belfast

If I was seeking a shot of seasonal cheer, Belfast was probably not the place to find it.

Chatting to fellow caffeine addicts in a city centre cafe I got my first bitter taste of voter exasperation.

Northern Ireland has been mired in political inertia for more than two years, since Stormont’s power-sharing agreement broke down - and the people are heartily sick of it.

Again and again I heard the same complaint: politicians do nothing... they only attempt to connect with voters at election time... they’re lazy, dishonest, pointless... still exploiting the old tribal divisions... a waste of time and public money.

Cafegoers said voters in Northern Ireland often give their support to parties they don't believe in. Credit: ITV News

This city has made huge strides since the Troubles. The evidence of the new Belfast is everywhere (much of it funded by EU grants).

I visited the Ormeau Baths - an ornate red brick Victorian bath house - now reborn as a stylish and inclusive co-working space.

Voters at the modernised Ormeau Baths said political uncertainty is worrying for the future. Credit: ITV News

Self employed workers here told me of the desperate need for proper, targeted investment in Northern Ireland’s infrastructure: roads, rail, utilities.

They know what’s needed, but they don’t trust anyone on the ballot paper to deliver.

Amidst the fairy lights and canned carols in the city’s Christmas market the talk is of education and mental health. One shopper told me the NHS "is hanging by a thread".

Young voters at the Christmas market said it was time for divisions to heal. Credit: ITV News

Voters here face the same worries as the rest of us - unemployment, health, crime, the economy and, inevitably, where Brexit could take the UK.

But here there is added uncertainty of a possible customs border, with all that could imply. This nation is all too familiar with walls and borders.

The iconic Titanic Belfast museum delivered the backdrop for Evening News. Credit: ITV News

Northern Ireland’s former divisions may no longer be visible to the naked eye but some fear the stirrings of the old enmities amidst the political stalemate.

They worry that this vacuum makes their nation especially vulnerable.

They desperately hope for something positive from their politicians this Christmas. But they expect to be disappointed.

Part 4: Wrexham

It took five weeks and a tour of the UK to get the most succinct take on the main party leaders: “Jo Swinson, she’s too wet behind the ears – needs more experience.

"Jeremy Corbyn’s on another planet, and Boris Johnson’s a clown," so declared chief brewer Vaughan, at Wrexham Lager, when I asked who’d get his vote.

Vaughan is not enamoured with any of the political parties' leaders. Credit: ITV News

He shrugged and rolled his eyes.

It’s a look I’ve seen many times on my travels: Scotland, Northern Ireland, Northern England and finally Wales.

A look that says voters see what’s on offer – and frankly, they’re not impressed.

Wrexham’s been staunchly Labour since 1935.

Mary takes the political temperature at the Wrexham brewery. Credit: ITV News

But the last 10 years have not been kind to this town; it struggled to recover from the last recession, the once thriving town centre now a sorry mix of vacant shops and fast food outlets.

The opening of the Eagles Meadow shopping centre in 2008 helped trigger the decline of the high street, but even that’s now reeling after several retailers pulled out.

Local people told me of feeling under-funded and left behind.

They say money’s desperately needed for education, health and social care.

A recent poll suggests Labour may lose out to the Tories in Wales, but I can’t say I saw any clear indication of that.

Vicky doesn’t believe any of the political promises on offer. Credit: ITV News

Founder of Woof Walkies doggy day care centre, Vicky, described her dilemma; as a business owner she needs to maintain profits and protect her employees, but she’s desperately worried about the state of her local community – and wants to do the right thing for Wrexham.

She can’t see a voting option that achieves both.

Filming with the Woof Walkies doggy day care centre. Credit: ITV News

She doesn’t believe any of the political promises on offer.

Dads entertaining their toddlers at the Techniquest Science Learning Centre spoke of their hopes for a better future for the next generation.

Were they hearing what they needed to hear from politicians?

That look and that shrug again.

So what to conclude after my lightening tour of the home nations?

In every corner of the UK I found discontent and disillusionment.

Again and again I heard the same complaint: we’ve had enough.

As for Brexit – don’t even go there.

Mary found discontent and disillusionment from the electorate, but warm affection from the non-voters. Credit: ITV News

Remain or Leave, the weariness I witnessed crossed every divide.

The shrug, the eye roll – and a fair few expletives too.

Voters are clued-up about the political questions.

They just don’t like any of the answers on offer.