BARRY Sheerman is not quite as much a part of the furniture of Huddersfield as the railway station or Castle Hill, but he’s not far off it.
The Labour man has been an MP for 31 years – first for Huddersfield East and then for Huddersfield – since 1979.
Just a few months short of 70 and seeking re-election for the seventh time, Mr Sheerman is now classed as a veteran MP.
With a majority of more than 8,000 over the Lib Dems in 2005, the Labour man has a fairly safe seat.
He hopes that voters in the town will pass a positive judgement on Labour’s 13 years in power.
"Our health service has improved in the last 13 years, we now have a health service which is coming up to world-class status," he said.
And Mr Sheerman believes the people of Huddersfield – heavily reliant on the public sector – will not want a Conservative government after May 6.
He said: "The big issue on the doorsteps is public services, which employ one-third of the people of Huddersfield.
"People who work in health, education and local government are worried what will happen if the Conservatives get in. David Cameron has said that public sector pensions must be changed.
"Of course there’s got to be some modification to public services but we’re committed to our spending on health and education."
Mr Sheerman emerged unscathed from the expenses scandal – but he did cause upset in the town when he told the Examiner that he thought MPs should get a substantial pay rise.
However, Mr Sheerman is happy that recent reforms mean MPs no longer vote on their own pay and conditions. He said: "I always said that MPs should be paid fairly and it shouldn’t be a case of us voting for our own pay."
The Lib Dems came second in Huddersfield in 2005, winning 22.9% of the vote.
The party will be represented this time by James Blanchard.
"If there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that people in the town are not warming to the Conservatives. A lot of people will be coming to us this time," he said.
Mr Blanchard said the main issue on the doorsteps is the economy – an issue close to his heart. He was out of work for four months last year after being made redundant as a press officer at Collective Enterprises Limited in Glossop.
He said: "I know how people are feeling because I lost my job at the start of the recession. Everyone is really concerned about the economy and a lot of people I speak to have lost their jobs or know someone who has.
"The problem for some local companies is that they have orders on their books but they have to let people go because they can’t get credit from the banks. Lib Dem policy is to sack the boards of banks, which we own, if they refuse to lend money to small businesses."
Mr Blanchard added: "If I’m elected I will be a hard-working MP and will publish my expenses every month. I certainly don’t agree with Barry Sheerman that MPs should have a pay rise."
The Conservatives took third place in Huddersfield at the last election, finishing just 300 votes behind the Lib Dems.
Tory candidate Karen Tweed is confident of a good performance this time. "There could be quite a large national swing towards the Conservatives and I also think a lot of disillusioned Labour voters will stay at home. People are very pleased to see the Conservatives out and about in Huddersfield," she said.
Mrs Tweed thinks crime is the biggest concern for people in Huddersfield. She said: "I’m hearing that there are areas of Huddersfield which the police won’t go into.
"We would get the police back on the streets and get rid of a lot of the paperwork they have to deal with."
Mrs Tweed added that she would publish her expenses claims if elected. She said: "My expenses would be very open, I’ve been very clear about that. It’s a shame that everyone has been tarred by this scandal."
The Greens will be hoping to improve on their 2005 performance, when the party came fourth winning 4.7% of the vote.
Clr Andrew Cooper, who represents Newsome on Kirklees Council, is his party’s candidate this time round.
"We’re getting a good reaction on the doorsteps and I think we’re going to do well," he said. "The Tories and the Lib Dems are spending most of their time in the Colne Valley. The people actually fighting this election are ourselves and Labour."
Clr Cooper added that the economy was voters’ biggest concern.
"The big issue is how we’re going to ensure public services are protected. We want to see greater investment in green technology, both manufacturing and installation."
Clr Cooper added: "I would publish all my expenses in the Examiner. I don’t agree with Barry Sheerman that there should be a huge increase in MPs’ pay. It should only rise at the rate of inflation."
Paul Cooney is standing for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, a new left-wing grouping which is running candidates across the country.
Mr Cooney is a former member of the both Labour and the Greens. He said: "The big issue is public spending. People don’t see why services should be cut because of the failures of the gambling bankers. We believe we should be taxing the bankers and protecting public services."
Mr Cooney hopes to win at least 5% of the vote.
He said: "I hope we get enough votes to save our deposit. The public is fed up with the mainstream parties but I wouldn’t want to second guess how people will vote."
Mr Cooney added that, if elected, he would only take half of the MPs’ salary of £64,000 a year.
MAX DUBOIS, 19, part-time stall worker, lives in Marsh
"I will be voting but I haven’t decided yet who I’ll be voting for. It will either be Labour or the Conservatives. It’s quite possible it’ll be Labour. But, to be honest, I don’t think it makes a huge difference who wins.
"It’s not that I’m not interested in the election, it’s just that I’m sick of getting all these lies every day, and the lies get more concerted during the campaign. I think of the election like a huge popularity contest where the winner gets to run the country.
"I’m starting university this year but I haven’t looked at the different parties’ policies on tuition fees."
JASMINDER SINGH, 44, stallholder Queensgate Market, lives in town centre
"I’ll probably be voting for Labour. I’ve been voting for them more or less from the start. I think education is more important than anything else, having good schools and colleges.
"I haven’t looked at anyone’s policies, I’ve been staying away from the election because, day in day out, all you hear is about voting.
"I’ve been running my stall for three years and the economy seems to be going downhill fast since I started. Costs like rent and electricity have gone up and more and more people are leaving the market."
HARRY WADSWORTH, 72, retired, lives in Paddock
"It’s no good saying anything about this election. It’s got to the point where you don’t know who to vote for or what to do.
"I have voted for the Conservatives in the past but I doubt I will vote this time. I don’t really think there’s anything that would make me vote. The politicians are saying they will do this and they will do that. But Labour has been in all this time, for 13 years, and they’ve made things worse."
NICOLA RYDER, 34, accountant, mother, of eight-month-old Jaden, lives in Marsh
"I will be voting for Labour as I have done in the past. I was brought up in the 1980s when the Conservatives were in power and I saw them wreck the education system which I was part of.
"I hoped Labour would be a change for the better. The last 13 years haven’t been perfect but I still think Labour remains the most credible party.
"I want someone I can trust on the economy and the bits I’ve been hearing about the Conservatives are that they will take away the child care vouchers, which will have an immediate impact on my finances.
"I want a party that will protect health and education and I have a long-held mistrust of the Conservatives."
MARGARET PICKUP, 61, retired care worker, lives in Almondbury
"I haven’t made up my mind who I’ll be voting for yet. It will be either the Lib Dems or Labour. I have voted in the past, usually for Labour because I know Barry Sheerman.
"The big issue for me is the fact that the bankers have pinched all our money. I think it’s too late to act now, but something should have been done to the bankers. I think they should have received prison sentences for what they did to the country."