Election '97 : HOW I WILL VOTE: NICHOLAS PARSONS

'Ashdown has been very fair in not entering this slanging match'
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The Independent Online
How will you vote?

Liberal Democrat

Why?

Well, I've been a Liberal all my life, since my university days. I've stuck throughout my life to the Liberal cause and Liberal party and now am a Liberal Democrat.

I think that Paddy Ashdown and the leading liberals [are] the most straightforward and honest of all the politicians. They're not engaging in the party political slanging match that's going on, and trying to go into a personality tirade against each other.

What issues are important to you?

I think the most important thing is education. I was rector of St Andrews University for three years, and I became very involved in the academic and educational world. I recognise the value of education and that's why I admire very much Paddy Ashdown's pledge to put a penny on income tax in order to make sure that the educational standards are improved. I think every young person should be given all available opportunities, and I'm sure every parent would agree to put a penny on their income tax without hesitation to safeguard their children's future. I think it's sad that the other parties don't adopt similar attitudes, and instead try to bribe the electorate into voting for them.

I feel very strongly about the unfair voting system in this country. In the past the Liberal party have polled almost a third of the total votes, yet won less than a sixtieth of the available seats. On the other hand the Tory party actually polled only 43 per cent of the votes at the last election, and yet because they got a few more seats they were able to form a government. This allowed them to push through their agenda arbitrarily.

This is not the way that a democracy should work. The advantage of a third party, especially a liberal party in third place, is that it would act as a counterbalance to one of the two major parties who have been fighting it back and forth over the last 40 years. Proportional representation is the fairest way to count votes.

Which politicians do you admire?

Well at the moment I like the leading members of the Liberal Democrats. I think that Paddy Ashdown has been very fair and intelligent, in the way he has not gone in for this political slanging match. There are some very bright people in the Lib Dems, such as Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell. If there was a close finish or hung parliament, I would like to see the Liberal Democrats invited into a coalition. This would ensure the extreme policies of either party were modified and we would have consensus politics. Coalitions can work.

When did you first become interested in politics?

I was secretary of the Liberal Party at Glasgow University for three years, and took part in the debates which we used to have there. University is when most people get actively interested in politics. At Glasgow we put on parliamentary debates based on the parliamentary system. It was often outrageous and great fun as well as being very stimulating.

Interview by Sam Coates

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