Within weeks a new generation of political hopefuls will be taking their first steps towards power. Which of them will make it to the top? Over the next five pages, we predict possible members of the Cabinet for the year 2020
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In a few weeks' time some of the nation's most familiar faces will leave the House Commons for the last time, the remnants of their parliamentary careers in a few cardboard boxes. Some will not take this change of status well. Clement Freud, on losing the Isle of Ely seat in 1987, described the experience in extreme terms: "The difference between dying and losing your seat," he wrote, "is that in the latter case you are around to read the obituaries."

An essential law of politics, however, is that for every loser there is a winner, and the coming general election will be no exception. Whatever its outcome, perhaps a quarter of our 651 MPs (rising to 659 in the new Parliament) will retire or be replaced, making 1997 a year of opportunity for the new political generation. Parliament will look different when it reconvenes. There are likely to be many more women MPs (Labour in particular having gone out of its way to put up more women in winnable seats) and there will be fewer grey heads.

So who are the new guard? Actually, not all of them will be new. We will see the return of a few ex-MPs who lost their seats in 1992 ("retreads" in the Commons jargon). But most newcomers will be younger; many of them part of a generation which was taking its A levels when the last Labour prime minister lost power. For this article we have scouted the highways and byways of politics to find the young politicos judged by their peers and by commentators as those most likely to succeed. Allowing for the usual limitations of such an exercise, we have, over the next four pages, created two Cabinets for the year 2020, one Labour, one Conservative. Also, on pages nine and 11, are half a dozen up-and- coming Liberal Democrats who - should coalition governments be the future, as some psephologists predict - would be likely to join the others around Number 10's famous elliptical table .

While it is true that if we were to go back 23 years instead of forwards, it is unlikely that anyone conducting a similar exercise would have spread their net wide enough to include the business development department at Standard Chartered Bank, where one John Major found his fulfilment, these days the task is a little easier. This election more than ever will mark the rise of the professional politician: the former Commons researcher or think-tank worker, the special adviser to a minister or trade union apparatchik. The pathways to power are now clearer than ever, and many members of future Cabinets will have been giving detailed thought to planning and realising their ambitions while their college contemporaries were worrying about the freshers' disco.

On the Labour side there are graduates of the National Union of Students, which helped put people like Lorna Fitzsimmons on the political map. This is a well-beaten path: the current shadow Home Secretary Jack Straw was president from 1969 to 71. The Conservative equivalent is a career in a rather more ideological grouping. John Bercow was chair of the Federation of Conservative Students, an organisation which specialised in embarrassing the party leadership through its extreme right-wingery.

But routes other than student politics have opened up as well. At Westminster there has been an explosion of researcher or assistant posts, allowing the young, would-be MP to get a little first-hand experience of the Commons before mounting his or her own challenge. For the Conservatives, this is a much more comfortable existence. A coveted job as a special adviser to a minister gets a young politico on to a civil-service pay spine, their salary determined by their previous earnings. (That means those with some experience in the City or law can be pulling in sizeable quantities of tax-payers' money.) The money is rather poorer for researchers for the opposition, between pounds 15,000 and pounds 20,000 a year. But more important than pay is the political experience and the web of contacts that can be made. Tim Collins, for example, was special adviser to Michael Howard at the now-defunct Department of Employment. As a Major-loyalist he was made director of communications at Conservative Central Office after the election, then joined the Downing Street policy unit before landing a safe seat. All this by the age of 32.

The media is another way in, partly because the political parties now prize presentational experience higher than ever before, partly because a more opinionated media gives journalists more chance to write polemic. The 1980s and 1990s have also seen the growth of think tanks which provide an opportunity to work on policy from outside party ranks. Local government experience is also helpful - if nothing else it proves your commitment. Then there is lobbying and PR. For many young hopefuls, this burgeoning sector has at least provided a stop-gap in their political careers. And it keeps you networking.

The central problem facing would-be politicans remains the traditional one: getting a seat. You need persistence, presentational skill and a bit of luck to succeed. Some of those listed here will have fought a difficult or hopeless seat in 1992 as a type of political apprenticeship. For example, John Healey, head of campaigns and communications at the TUC, fought Ryedale in the last election - and duly lost. This time, however, he will fight the safer Labour seat of Wentworth, for which he was selected just before Christmas.

Except at times when by-elections are being called, the parties at national level have little power to impose candidates on constituency parties which guard their independence fiercely. For an outsider the politics of the local party may be complex, with ideological considerations, vested interests (such as, in Labour's case, local unions) and almost always a local candidate anxious to fight the seat.

The same is as true for the Tories as it is for Labour. Although there is an authorised list of candidates issued by Conservative Central Office, the local party is at liberty to ignore it. Once on a short-list, would- be MPs face tough questioning. Those down to the last 20 can expect a tough grilling from a selection committee made up of political and business high-fliers as well as street-wise local candidates. "The questioning," said one who went through it in Kensington and Chelsea last year, "is vicious. There are some very clever people there and they simply machine- gunned the hopeless candidates." Those who make it to the last six or seven can expect their record in politics, business or anything else to come under minute scrutiny in front of up to 800 party members.

Many of those shown here have at least got on to the first, very difficult rung of the political process by securing a winnable constituency. Others are having their first bite at the cherry but should be seasoned campaigners in plenty of time to make it to the Cabinet in 2020. Still others are not standing this time, but are collecting political credentials that will take them straight into the fast track. All of them are young, talented and could end up running our lives. Whether they do so or not depends, at least in part on whether their luck holds. Politics is an unpredictable trade - as many clearing their desks in the spring will confirm.



The prospective candidate for the safe-ish Labour City of York seat is writing a doctoral thesis on ethical socialism. Aligning himself firmly with Labour's modernisers, Carter, aged 24, cites four election defeats and Thatcherism as catalysts for his decision to pursue a political career. Displaying a precocious gift for sloganising he describes his hero Tony Crosland as "an early Labour moderniser totally focused on the values needed in a New Britain". Carter would like to see greater "openness and consensual politics" in the next 25 years so that "politics isn't always about disagreement but about trying to solve collective problems".


Welch, 27, is general election events and fundraising officer with the Labour party in Wales. She got a taste for the adversarial nature of British politics early on, disagreeing with her "very Conservative, Daily Mail- reading family". Her interest in "opportunities for life-long learning" could lead her into education and training, while her desire to see the removal of the "unaccountable quango culture which dominates in Wales" has the Welsh Office in its sights. If nothing else she knows about realpolitik: she cites The Blair Revolution by Peter Mandelson as an influence on her thinking.


A useful potential addition in Labour's courtship of the City, Adams, 27, is an analyst at the Bank of England and a member of the Labour finance and industry group where he advises on financial regulation. Prospective candidate for Worthing West, he is unlikely to make much headway in this Conservative stronghold, but if he proves his mettle, he should be a useful addition to the Labour benches in the 21st century.


At 24, Ward has kept a pretty steady focus since joining the Labour Party and the TGWU when she was 15. She is a trainee solicitor with a firm specialising in trade union representation, a councillor and Mayor of Elstree and Boreham- wood. She served on the party's national executive for three years, working to establish Young Labour as a "vibrant, mass-membership campaigning organisation". She is parliamentary candidate for Watford where she needs a 7.1 per cent swing to Labour to win. The New Labour Guide (an electronic publication from DPR Publishing, London, pounds 195) believes the seat is winnable, but a general election fought and lost is still good experience for a young politico on her way up.


Very much a member of Labour's new model army, 29-year-old Fitzsimmons is a political lobbyist for the Rowland Company - a subsidiary of Saatchi & Saatchi. She is likely to give Liberal Democrat Liz Lynne a run for her money in Rochdale. (The constituency boundaries have been re-drawn giving Lynne a notional majority of just 128.) She was president of the National Union of Students between 1992 and 94, and was both pilloried (principally for dressing smartly) and praised for her professionalism - introducing a students' charter for example. "We opted for being unconventional and threw the traditional image of '68 out the window," she said at the time.


As economic policy adviser to Gordon Brown, Balls is a notable example of a "Blair babe", those who have spent their 20s in behind-the-scenes policy-making, laying the foundations for a brilliant political career. A former Kennedy scholar at Harvard, Balls, now 29, worked as a leader writer for the Financial Times, edited the 1995 World Bank annual development report, and deploys abstruse economic jargon, such as "neo-endogenous growth theory", with ease - a trait he has disarmingly identified as "an economist's need to conceal simple ideas behind long words". He is not standing in '97, but should have no difficulty slipping into the fast track if and when he does decide to seek political office. Only thing that could hold him back is his name.


Politically active since the age of seven, when she forced a local councillor to back down on a decision prohibiting school children from cycling on the pavement, Smith, now 34, has an impressive political CV. She teaches economics and business studies, is a councillor, school governor and has been heavily involved in Labour politics since acting as secretary of the National Organisation of Labour Students. Now candidate for the newly created seat of Redditch (with a notional 3,000+ Tory majority and therefore winnable), Jacqui would like to see "the decentralisation of power to a more local level".


Hakim is not standing in this election, but is perfectly placed to gain all the experience she needs for 2002: she is currently heading an election strategy unit, Labour's nerve-centre of election planning. Hakim, 27, has held a number of political positions including that of secretary of the NUS, vice-chair of Scottish Anti-Racism Movement, and Labour's National Ethnic Minorities Development Officer. Influences on her political thinking include her family - "watching my father work seven days a week as a child so that he could give us a better life" - Ain't I a Woman by Bell Hooks, and the anti-poll-tax campaign.


Richards, 29, press officer for the Association of County Councils, has tended his political ambitions well. He has spent the last 10 years involved in Labour Party activity, including spells as researcher for Ann Taylor MP, as party press officer and as regular contributor to Tribune. He has the attention-seeking qualities necessary for the job: last year he wrote a pamphlet for the Fabian Society questioning the future of the monarchy. He is in for a lively, high-profile election, standing against Teresa Gorman in Billericay. He won't unseat her, but should be a seasoned campaigner in 2002.


Barrister, writer, lecturer and special adviser to Paul Boateng, Hudson, 28, has all the makings of a thoroughbred politician. This time he is standing in ultra-conservative Beaconsfield (majority 20,000+) but he is sure to make a convincing case against the "new danger" posed by Blair's New Labour. He wants his generation to "wake up and realise how politics works". His interest in constitutional matters and law could see him in a new Ministry of Justice in Cabinet 2020.


The 29-year-old general secretary of the Fabian Society should rise to the challenge of fighting Michael Portillo for his Enfield, Southgate seat. Stephen has been politically active since joining the Labour Party at 15. He has worked as a political lobbyist, served as president of the National Union of Students, was deputy leader of Islington council - a training ground for young Blairites - and was head of fellow Islingtonee, Margaret Hodge's parliamentary office.


In the battle for power, Lawson, 33, has been right inside the enemy camp. He is deputy managing director at Lowe Bell Political, the political arm of Lowe Bell Communications, headed by Sir Tim Bell, the Tories' PR guru. He is also co-founder of Nexus, an academic network for centre-left thought and a former adviser to Gordon Brown. Law-son's political values are based on "the belief that people's exceptional abilities can only be fully realised through cooperation not competition". As a student, organised the "soft-left" against Militant in his local party. He is not standing in '97, but with his many political assets, will be on the fast track to power as soon as he chooses to step on.


Already well-placed on the fast track is 36-year-old Healey. He was recently selected as the candidate for Went-worth, a Labour stronghold in South Yorkshire. He is currently campaigns director for the TUC, collaborating with John Monks to "re-establish the relevance of modern unions", neatly bridging the Old and New Labour divide. He gained his political experience as a campaigner for disability rights. Like his formidable namesake, Healey may not make it to the top job, but he is on course for high office.


After spending his teenage years in South Africa, Murphy, now 29, became politically active, determined to view the political process as a "source of opportunities, not problems". He was chair of Scottish Labour Students and later president of the National Union of Students. He is standing for Eastwood, where it would take an 11.3 per cent swing to Labour to unseat the present incumbent. However, Murphy is a fighter, believing that "there is a desperate need for a new generation of politics"; he would "focus opportunity on to the first and last third of people's lives".


After 10 years working as a campaigner and journalist in the "hard-pressed voluntary sector picking up the pieces of this Government's policies", King-ham, 33, has been selected as candidate for Gloucester (Sally Oppen- heim's former seat, though the boundaries have now changed). Although the Tory majority is more than 5,000, the seat is winnable for Labour according to the independent New Labour Guide. Should she fall at this fence, however, she is on course for a seat by 2002 and a Cabinet position by 2020. An admirer of Barbara Castle, Kingham cites overseas development and Europe as special areas of interest. She supports measures to change the House of Commons from Old Boys Club to modern workplace with creche facilities.


A Labour Party member since 1983, "driven initially by Third World poverty, unemployment and inequality", 32-year-old Reed's political career shows him to be as much a pragmatist as an idealist. He worked for five years as a Party press officer, spent a year on the regional executive, and has served as a parish and local councillor. He stood against Stephen Dorrell in Lough-borough in `92, and is having a second go. Slim chance of winning this time (though technically he only needs a 3.5 per cent swing), but a man to watch.


Director of Research at the Fabian Society, 25-year-old Corfield has made purposeful progress along the wannabe Cabinet Minister's path. He was chair of Warwick university Labour Club, president of its students' union, and then worked for David Blunkett; from there to the Fabian Society. When not pondering the implications of "whether ours will be the first generation not to witness some economic and social advancement in our lifetime", Corfield is as much New Lad as New Labour: "I play, watch, drink, eat and sleep football." He is not standing in '97, but is a likely lad thereafter.


Labour's candidate for Perth, Alexander, 29, cut his political teeth fighting the 1995 Perth and Kinross by-election, during which he was christened Mr Soundbite by The Scotsman, and feted by Tony Blair as someone "with a quite extraordinary future in British politics". Currently a trainee solicitor, Douglas developed his taste for politics at the universities of Edinburgh and Pennsylvania, where he campaigned for the Democrats. As political adviser to Gordon Brown, Alexander went on to write speeches and coin headline-winning phrases (such as "You can run but you can't hide") for Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair.


One of the band of media-literate politicos, 30-year-old Buckby is currently the Labour Party account manager at BMP advertising agency. Formerly a producer of Think Tank, the BBC current-affairs discussion programme, Buckby was also a reporter on BBC2's On the Record and a producer at LWT. He was chair of the National Labour Students Organisation, research assistant to John Prescott, and short-listed for general secretary of the Fabian Society. He is not standing in '97, but is widely tipped to be moving in on the inside, and should have recovered from his failure to get selected for a seat in '92 in time to make it to Cabinet 2020.



A barrister, aged 28, Buckland claims to be the first Conservative "in living memory" to be elected to Dyfed County Council. He is the Tory candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire, a new seat with "a notional Conservative majority of circa 600," he says. He has 10 years of local party activism behind him, serving for three years as chairman of Llanelli Conservative Association; he fought (but didn't win) the 1994 European elections in South West Wales.


A sales director for a children's clothes manufacturer and a local councillor, 29-year-old Zahawi is the candidate for Erith and Thamesmead, a new seat with a notional Labour majority of 5,630. Zahawi's parents are Kurdish and came to Britain from northern Iraq; he describes himself as "fortunate" to have gained "all the privileges of growing up in this country". He admires Margaret Thatcher for "the creation of the right economic climate that has proved so attractive to investors". He would seek to "build upon the Conservative successes in making Great Britain plc a worldbeater through the next millennium".


Macleod has a lively fight on her hands in Ross, Skye and Inverness West where the other candidates are the Liberal Democrats' puer aeternus, Charles Kennedy, and Labour's ageing rock-musician candidate, Donnie Munro, 43- year-old lead singer with Runrig. A management consultant with Andersen Consulting, specialising in "change management", Macleod believes she has "the `change' skills required to make a difference to how people live". She was a founder member of Blue Whips and the Octavian Society, set up to "encourage younger women into Parliament" and is chairman of her local Conservative Association. She survives on four hours sleep and relaxes through "continual learning" - revealing a worrying Thatcherish tendency.


A director of Kleinwort Benson Securities, Hammond is a blue-chip candidate; he has impeccable Tory credentials. He is standing for North Warwickshire, a seat Labour currently holds with a majority of less than 2,000. He spent several years involved with his local Conservative Association and regional Conservative Executive, and now hopes "to be part of a Conservative government which continues to improve the living, educational and technology skills" to meet future challenges. He is a free marketeer and admires Churchill, Thatcher and Disraeli.


An investment manager for British Aerospace, Chalk is fuelled by "religious conviction" and his "passionate rejection of the dogma and dangerous idealism of a Socialist agenda". He is standing in Labour-held Durham and will probably have to put Campaign '97 down to experience. Still only 27 and having done a fair amount of political legwork, Chalk should make it next time around. Though a self-confessed workaholic, he would like the House of Commons to be subject to "a reform of hours and working practices" and believes the "tentacles of the executive" should be pruned in favour of "good debate in the Commons".


A 31-year-old solicitor, Shaw is standing in Labour stronghold Nottingham North. Last election she was constituency campaign coordinator and has been active in Young Conservatives locally and in the constituency party. An admirer of Margaret Thatcher, Shaw cites theories of "libertarianism combined with social responsibility", Hayek, Dis-raeli and her own upbringing as the influences on her political thinking. She would like to see more women in Parlia- ment - starting with herself, no doubt.


Lining up to take over Dame Jill Knight's Birmingham Edgbaston seat, Marshall, 34, has some good political form. He is a financial PR consultant and has been active in student and local party politics. Most recently he acted as treasurer for the Conservative Group for Europe, standing for Leicestershire & South Lincolnshire in the 1994 Euro elections. With a political pantheon that includes Geoffrey Howe, Chris Patten and George Orwell, as well as, more predictably, Margaret Thatcher, Marshall believes the Conser- vative Party must "remain a broad-based, pragmatic national party" - it needs to be very broad to include Orwell.


Bulmer's political education started young when she found herself "reacting against left-wing teachers at school and university". Now aged 29, she has gained from practical experience in student politics, working in the Con-servative Research Department for three years and as chairman of governors at a grant-maintained primary school. She is standing in Normanton, in West Yorkshire, which she is unlikely to win, but she is determined and focused, so one to watch in 2002.


Still in the foothills of her political career, Clare is squaring up for a bruising, unwinnable fight for Don Valley, South Yorkshire. The 27-year-old assistant to John Whittingdale MP is the youngest female candidate to be adopted by the Conservative Party for this election. Clare became politicised when Margaret Thatcher first came to power and "the strikes, power cuts and shortages disappeared". When she makes it to Westminster she will add to the Euro-sceptic wing of the party - if that is still an issue.


As Tory candidate for Pendle, 28-year-old solicitor Midgley is unlikely to make it to Westminster this time. But he's made steady progress since he joined the party aged 15 and is one to watch for 2002. He worked for a local MP while at university and has spent three years on the Conservatives' National Advisory Committee on Education. When he gets to Westminster he will swell the Euro-sceptic ranks on the Tory benches.


A Cambridge-educated 34-year-old former lawyer, Ruffley is almost certain to join the new intake of MPs, having landed the nomination for Bury St Edmunds, a constituency remodelled by the Boundary Commission and with a predicted Conservative majority of more than 10,000. Ruffley took the special adviser route to political prominence, serving as special adviser to Kenneth Clarke at the Home Office and then at the Treasury, and styling himself as the Chancellor's "right-wing conscience". Rarely at a loss for words, Ruffley prides himself on his skills as a communicator. Conservative Central Office agree, and have rewarded him with a three-day-a-week job in the press operation running up to the election.


Not to be confused with David Ruffley, Rutley, 35, went from fast food to fast-track political promotion. Formerly a Kentucky Fried Chicken executive he was poached by William Waldegrave to be his special adviser at the Ministry of Agriculture. He too worked at the Treasury (confusingly for colleagues at the same time as Ruffley), before being selected for St Albans. Noted for his unorthodox views on the monarchy, Rutley hamstrung Tory efforts to make political capital out of Paul Richard's Fabian Society pamphlet on the monarchy (see Labour Cabinet 2020), by quipping that the Royals should be paid per handshake. As a rock-climber, this natural risk- taker is undoubtedly the right personality-type for parliament.


Bercow, 33, hired a helicopter to whizz him between two selection interviews on the same evening, before scooping up his selection for the safe seat of Buckingham. Not new to the political fast track, Bercow has pursued his parliamentary ambition with steady determination, acting as special adviser to Jonathan Aitken and Virginia Bottomley. A noted right-winger, he was chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students - reputedly so right-wing that it compelled Norman Tebbit to close it down. A consultant with Westminster Strategy, a lobbying outfit, he has maintained a Nolan- friendly line on outside financial interests: "I intend to take a parliamentary salary and no consultancies or directorships whatsoever," he says.


This is the young woman the Conservative Party has chosen to pit against Tony Blair in Sedgefield. In contrast to some of her drier contemporaries, Pitman, formerly Lizzie Noel (her maiden name), 29, is known to be middle- ground rather than ideologically driven, and a firm supporter of John Major. The daughter of Gerard Noel, former editor of the Catholic Herald, and niece of the Earl of Gainsborough, Pitman is reputed to be touchy about her Sloany credentials. Her political background, however, is less easy to stereotype. Vice-chairman of her local Conservative Association and a school governor, she is also a volunteer counsellor for the Family Welfare Association, and has worked as a prison psychologist at Wormwood Scrubs.


As prospective candidate for the ultra-safe seat of Westmorland and Lonsdale, this 32-year-old whizz-kid and Dr Who fanatic is a former special adviser to Cabinet Ministers Michael Howard and David Hunt. He gained a formidable reputation as John Major's press secretary during the 1992 election campaign and last year's leadership battle, and was head of communications at Central Office and media consultant to the Party Chairman. Now he is masterminding the Tory campaign in the vital Wirral South by-election. It doesn't take a time-traveller to rate his chances come the general election.


Wilson is standing in Bolton North East, where the elected Tory MP defected to the Lib-Dems (though that party came third in the poll). Wilson's experience as a PR executive may come in useful as he woos voters back to the fold. Now aged 31, Wilson was president of Reading university's students' union, a councillor and vice-chairman of Reading East Conservative Association. Wilson cites Sir Keith Joseph and Enoch Powell as key influences. As for constitutional change, Wislon is content with the status quo, believing that "the present system has served us well for 300 years".


Precocious associate editor and columnist for the Daily Telegraph, 32- year-old Johnson has been called the "rising star of the write, not right". After indulging his taste for politics and intrigue as president of the Oxford Union, Boris exercised his "belief in freedom" as a journalist, Eurobashing and penning paeans to British "ordinariness". Not shy in clashing with party lines, Boris would "renegotiate EU membership so Britain stands to Europe as Canada, not Texas, stands to the USA". Pericles, state-builder and negotiator of Athenian autonomy, is his hero. He is another one of our panel who is unlikely to make it to West- minster until 2002. He is standing in Clwyd South - but he is rumoured to be learning Welsh.


With a Labour majority of just 191, Warrington South is an exciting challenge for 34-year-old Grayling. He is director of an international communications group and has been a local party activist for the last 10 years. He says that "working for the BBC and hating its bureaucracy" was a radical influence on his political thinking and admires Margaret Thatcher.


At 27, Pincher still has plenty of time to make it to Westminster in time to be part of our imagined Cabinet. This year's contest in Warley is not likely to be more than a trial run. Politicised by the miners' strike, Pincher spent a year as deputy director of Conservative students before acting as chairman of Islington North Conservative Association. He's an anti-state Con-servative, wanting to "reduce the intrusion of government in peoples' lives and its burden on their pockets". He would like to see the number of Cabinet ministers and departments cut, so maybe there won't be room for him in Cabinet 2020 after all. !


`Preparing for power' is a Liberal-Democrat rallying cry that has lost its potency over time. Now, however, the Lib Dems are not the only ones considering electoral reform, and the new generation may well be headed for a seat around the Cabinet table. Here are the likeliest contenders for Cabinet 2020

NLEMBIT OPIK Born to Estonian refugees and raised in Northern Ireland, Opik, 31, attributes his political involvement to "environmental conditioning". He stood in the 1992 general election and in the 1994 Euro elections, and is a city councillor. He points out that his name is an anagram of "I like to b MP" - also of "I kil to be MP", though that may not be necessary as he is standing in Liberal Dem-ocrat- held Montgomery this time.

NRACHEL TRETHEWEY This is not the first time Trethewey, 29, will have campaigned in East Devon, though last time she played a supporting role. Her mother fought (but didn't win) the same seat at a by-election while pregnant with her. The seat is Conservative-held but, in the South-west, a strong national swing against the Tories should serve her well. She has been politically active for some time, a school governor and chair of her local party branch. She would sit comfortably in a Labour-Lib Dem coalition Cabinet as her main concern is "two tierism" within the health service and education system. She favours policies which endorse "a more inclusive society" and combat the "corrosive culture of contentment" represented by "the middle-class vote". Her political hero is Barbara Castle.

NMICHAEL MOORE Another odds-on bet for victory in '97, 31-year-old Moore is defending Sir David Steel's Borders seat (slightly re-drawn in the boundary changes). He works as a chartered accountant and spent a year as a research assistant to Archy Kirkwood MP while he was Scottish Affairs Spokesman. Eight years on he is the Lib-Dem spokesman on business and employment matters. (Not all the party's spokespeople are MPs: there aren't enough.) Moore, like every aspiring Lib-Dem, is pro-constitutional reform, viewing the need for a "Scottish Parliament based on proportional representation" as a "major priority".

NCHARLES ANGLIN Standing in a new constituency which covers parts of Labour-held Leyton and Tory Wanstead, 25-year-old Anglin might be the voters' choice in '97. More likely, however, is that he will gain useful campaigning experience for the future. Joining the Labour Party aged 15, he switched to the Liberal Democrats after being "appalled by the opportunism, conservatism and lack of imagination" of Labour. His political influences range from Nelson Mandela, J S Mill and Disraeli to Sir Henry Camp-bell-Bannerman whom he sees as "the most under-rated Prime Minister this century, but the very model of a true Liberal".

NBRIDGET FOX Fox, 32, put her childhood belief that "political activity was both normal and worth-while" into practice, becoming active in student politics at uni- versity and serving as a local councillor, school governor and chair of Islington Lib Dems. She is standing against Glenda Jackson in Hampstead & Highgate, and while she is unlikely to get in this time, she should learn from the high-profile campaign.

NSTEVE WEBB Professor of Social Policy at Bath University, Webb, 31, developed his taste for politics analysing public policy as an economist at the Institute of Fiscal Studies, and has acted as adviser to the all- party House of Commons social security select committee. He is standing in the Lib-Dem target seat of Northavon. His Christian beliefs are behind his desire to challenge "the ethos of greed and selfishness which has been the hallmark of the Conser-vatives in the 1980s". Will the real Tony Blair stand up?

NEDWARD DAVEY Standing in Kingston & Surbiton, a Lib-Dem target seat, Davey's chances of election are better than they might at first appear. Within the newly drawn boundaries are parts of two former Tory seats (Norman Lamont's included) but the local councils are both Liberal Democrat. Davey became politically active as a student "discussing the minutiae of energy conservation and green economics" and conservationism is his big issue. He believes citizens should be viewed as "custodians of the environment and not just consumers". On graduating, Davey worked for four years as senior economics adviser to the Lib Dems, costed the 1992 manifesto, and was instrumental in forming the much-vaunted 1p tax to pay for education policies.