Election `97: I simply don't believe the Conservatives

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The Independent Online
How will you be voting



The main reason I joined the Labour Party was because I believed the gap between the rich and the poor was too great. When I joined, I myself was very poor, and now I'm not, and I just feel the gap is too great.

I also have a fundamental belief that, if we're talking in terms of trust, I don't trust the Conservative Party. I simply don't believe that they are concerned about society in general. I look upon the Conservatives as looking after their own, looking after people with money and the elite in the country. On the other hand, I do trust the Labour Party - including new Labour - and I do think they have a genuine concern for the less well- off. My hope is that once they are in charge of the books and have had a look at them, they will find ways of putting more money into the system.

What issues are important to you?

Tony Blair has said that he is concerned about "education, education, education" and that for one thing is something I feel very strongly about. As rector of Glasgow University, I'm also made aware the whole time of the hardships students are suffering. Although the Conservatives are constantly crowing about the fact that there are more people going to university, I'm also aware that a lot of those students are finding it very difficult to make ends meet, and many of them are going to end up with large debts. And now they're now talking about putting fees on to learning - in addition to the cost of subsistance.

I believe that as many people should be able to get to university as possible, and I just see them becoming more and more elitist. There is also a chronic shortage of books and equipment in schools and universities. I'm constantly being asked to send things for auctions at these places, to raise some money because the buildings themselves are falling down.

I've just come back from the Philippines, where I've been helping Voluntary Services Overseas, for which I am an ambassador. My politics make me feel that we should be responsible not only for our own people, but also people in the Third World. When you see the poverty in places like the Philippines, it's rather daunting.

Do you think you should have to pay more taxes?

I am prepared to pay more taxes, and I think that there are many like me who should.

Which politicians do you admire?

I have to say that the Labour front bench looks very promising, and whatever happens they deserve a shot. I admire Tony Blair's courage in trying to turn around the party. I think Gordon Brown knows his onions - all in all it is a very Scottish line-up, of which I approve. Glenda Jackson is my MP in Hampstead, where she's doing a very good job. I'm also a supporter of Claire Short, and agree with her maverick qualities.

Having said that, I wouldn't like to do their jobs. I'm often asked whether or not I would like to be a politician, and the answer is no. When I look at the almost Gestapo-like questioning of the front bench, it frightens the wits out of me. I don't consider myself an expert, but I am interested in politics, as we all should be.