100 days of Labour: how Blair's revolution has taken shape

Agnes Severin and Louise Hancock on youth's reaction to the new regime
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The Independent Online
For those who have never known anything but a Tory government, the past three months have been invigorating. Young people appreciate the more open and relaxed style of Tony Blair's government.

More importantly, the Labour government has indicated its willingness to listen to youth concerns, and take action.

As Richard Benson, editor of The Face magazine, points out: "The relative youth and informality of Blair and his government does impress young people ... He sends out the right signals."

Yet some young people think he is trying a little too hard to be all things to all people.

"We don't need a prime minister attending night-clubs," said Miranda Piercy, a 19-year-old Liberal Democrat supporter. "Tony Blair is trying to get into the youth culture but most of the time he just misses."

Mr Blair and his ministers doseem to be making a real effort to address the major needs of young people in education, unemployment, and housing.

Diana McMahon, of the Prince's Trust, said: "Even before the election, senior Labour figures were holding discussion forums with youth organisations: they really want to take advantage of our grass- roots knowledge of the current problems in society."

The result has been a number of innovative, though as yet unproven, changes in policy aimed at improving the situation facing today's youth.

In education, David Blunkett's White Paper on Excellence in Schools seeks to improve teaching standards in schools.

Next January the Government, in conjunction with youth-training organisations such as the Prince's Trust, is to introduce its "New Deal", a programme aimed at young people who have been out of work for six months or more, or who have never held a permanent job.

The housing charity Shelter is delighted that Mr Blair has honoured his election pledge to release the Capital Receipts from the Tories' Right- to-Buy housing scheme; it will mean an extra pounds 135m over two years for local authorities to use in housing-related projects.

A spokesman for Shelter, which provides support for the young homeless, said: "It is no longer a situation of them against us, but them and us."

The Government has, however, been criticised by those who claim that Labour is simply undoing some of the damage inflicted by the Tory cuts, without really tackling the fundamental issues.

Gabriella Civico, chair of the British Youth Council, believes that "without such moves as major job creation and new affordable housing, anything that Labour does will simply be cosmetic".

More seriously, some issues are already causing dissent between the Government and youth organisations.

While the National Union of Students acknowledges that Labour did not initiate the Dearing Review and have, in fact, moderated much of its conclusions, it is bitterly protesting against the proposed introduction of tuition fees.

Good intentions win street cred

Stewart Fallconer, 17, bank clerk: "He is passing a lot of new laws, but he will calm down very soon."

Christophe Desmoulin, French photographer, 26: "He seems to be less of a technocrat than John Major, and a more humane person too."

Julian May, 23, teacher: "He seems false sometimes because he is smiling all the time. But he has good intentions. Anyway anything is better than the Conservatives."

Michael Pickes, 23, equity research analyst: "An energetic 100 days, but lacks substance. Some policies were not run first by the public, such as the independence of the Bank of England and the changes to the party conference."

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