The first question asked to candidates standing for the Blackley and Broughton seat at last night's Question Time style event at St Paul's Church, Kersal, was why they thought the constituency had one of the lowest election turnouts in the country.
Graham Stringer, current Labour MP, was the first to answer in his anti-charismatic muttering that was enough to put the audience in a coma before the thing had even begun... "People don't vote because they think voting doesn't change anything...but it matters" he mumbled in a kind of disinterested way...
...Although not quite as disinterested as the Tory candidate, Michelle Tanfield-Johnson, who couldn't be arsed coming down from Cambridge to engage with voters, and sent her agent instead, probably because she's got absolutely no chance of getting elected in this solidly safe Labour seat.
Those with an equally fat chance of stuffing Stringer added their views... "People are disillusioned with politics and politicians because they don't feel we can help them" said the LibDem, Richard Gadsden; "a lack of choice up until now...and an unfair voting system" said the Green Party's David Jones, while UKIP candidate, Martin Power, decided it was because Salford is a "one party state".
They were then asked what they thought was the main issue in the election and, as expected, the UKIP bloke waffled on about immigration and how everything from schooling to food banks was caused by immigration. The LibDem talked about how his party had held the Tories in check and then asked `How do we improve public services without taxing everyone?'...without giving any answers. The Labour MP trotted out the party line about fairer distribution of `prosperity' in the country and protecting the NHS, while the Green argued that "the biggest scandal is austerity" and how people in Broughton were paying the price for the "champagne lifestyles of the rich which brought the country and global economy to its knees".
Someone, obviously hot from watching the news, asked Graham Stringer his views on a minority Labour Government getting into bed with the `single issue, fifth columnist' Scottish Nationalist Party. Stringer almost became animated... "The Labour Party shouldn't have an agreement with the SNP, their fundamental objective is to break up the country" he replied, explaining how the `Barnett formula' favoured the Scots by more than £149 a head when there's equal deprivation in this country... "My party is in favour of the Barnett formula; this candidate isn't...If you want politicians who don't vote with their conscience, don't vote for me".
Indeed, while towing the Labour Party line on the economy, Stringer went out of his way to point out that he was against Trident, in favour of an EU referendum and against sending troops into foreign countries. And then it came to fracking - nowhere to be seen on the national political agenda - and it was back to the party line... "It needs safeguards but I'm in favour", as it helped with energy security, it was affordable and produced less CO2.
For the Greens, David Jones, who had been at the Barton Moss protests, compared fracking to "sucking the marrow out of the bones of the earth", adding that climate change will give those being born today "the biggest problems ever...We're acting like dinosaurs..." The Lib Dem opposed fracking, and the UKIP candidate ducked his own party policy, saying he `understood people's concerns and that "more research is needed".
Next up was a question on how the education system could impact on social mobility... "Scrap tuition fees" said the Green; "More grammar schools" said UKIP; "More money into schools in deprived areas" said the LibDem; while the Labour MP talked of thousands of unqualified teachers being put into schools who shouldn't be there.
There was a question on the wearing of burkas and Sharia law, hardly the most pressing issue in Salford. For the record, UKIP said the burka should be banned from public buildings, while the Green, LibDem and Labour said we should respect religious freedoms, apart from some of the more `brutal' aspects of Sharia Law.
And there was another question on the treatment of refugees – with UKIP saying "We should do everything we can to show the hand of friendship", the Green explaining how we have a "moral and legal duty to look after them"; the Lib Dem getting a bit confused, and Labour arguing that the system which keeps people in "perpetual appeals" needs to be made more efficient... "We also need to stop intervening in Middle Eastern and Eastern Muslim countries which leads to more people seeking asylum".
Asked about foreign affairs, Graham Stringer's views are noted above - no trident, no troops and EU referendum: UKIP garbled on about leaving the EU; the LibDem said the EU wasn't an issue; and the Green gave a well received essay on the perils of global climate change which will affect half the world's population.
Next up was virtually the only really local question, about an integrated transport system and bus services being axed from Littleton Road... Re-nationalisation of the railways and buses, with reduced fairs, and no HS2 argued the Green; hold a referendum, said UKIP; re-regulate the buses said the LibDem and Labour, with the Labour MP bigging up the "hugely beneficial" aspects of HS2.
Finally the candidates were asked about their vision for Salford. The LibDem candidate Richard Gadsden started talking about Manchester, UKIP's Martin Power said he didn't have to follow the party line; the Green's David Jones said he was from Broughton and offered the "politics of hope"; and Graham Stringer acknowledged that he was the only MP who represented two cities, Manchester and Salford, and recognised the difference... "I look at issues individually and make my own decisions on what is right by my conscience" he murmured, looking slightly pleased that the whole thing was over and that he didn't have to face the public again for another five years.
So there you have it, Broughton's only chance to grill the General Election candidates. And, to be honest, it wasn't much of a grilling, audience questions mostly following the agenda of the national media, rather than big issues that affect Salford, like planning scandals, social housing, sanctions, homelessness, devolution, crap jobs and cuts. We learnt very little about the candidates, other than the fact that Graham Stringer still hasn't attended a charisma course.
Dull, dull, dull...
And Blackley and Broughton remains one of the lowest voter turnout constituencies in the country...
• The Conservative Party election agent of the candidate was allowed to give his views on various questions but we've left them out because if the candidate can't be bothered turning up, we can't be bothered reporting what she didn't say.
See also previous Salford Star article - The Alternative Salford Election - click here