Election '97 : There's not enough vision in Blair's New Labour

HOW I WILL VOTE: ART MALIK
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The Independent Online
How will you vote?

Labour

Why?

I've been a lifelong Labour supporter, so of course I'm pleased that we are probably on the verge of a Labour victory. I've waited too long for a change of government. And yet I'm uneasy. I don't think a Labour government is going to solve all our problems. The flaws of British society are far too fundamental. This is partly because the public's perception of politicians is so low: the knock-on effect of the recent scandals mean that politicians, regardless of party, appear as tainted as each other. This results in a distressing level of apathy.

People think things are going to get instantly better; that the gap between the haves and have-nots will be bridged. But this is not quite the case. I think change will happen, but it will be gradual. I believe that the British public are inherently conservative. But I believe that a positive attitude towards our society means having a socialist attitude.

What issues are important to you?

We all want, and deserve, a Utopia for our future generations. If we go by what the manifestos are saying, education is the number one priority. It is vital that we educate the next generation properly, and that they are brought up with the support of a good National Health Service. But I don't think there is enough a vision to Tony Blair's New Labour for the inequalities in society, in education and health services, to be corrected, in the short term at least.

I'm in favour of rethinking the constitutional system and the possibilities of Proportional Representation. After all, the last government was voted in by only approximately 40 per cent of the vote. But the entire system needs to be fundamentally rethought. The voting system seems an anachronism. When your MP hears the division bell after staying up in a bar for the vote, he is goaded, probably drunk, into the lobby, chosen by a select few leading the party.

Would you consider voting Liberal Democrat?

Under the boundary changes since the last election, I now live in the borough of Richmond. Dick Tracey is my MP, and in this staunch Conservative constituency, voting for Labour is a bit like pissing in the wind. With the Liberal Democrats firmly in second place, it would be better to vote for them to make sure that the seat did not go back to the Conservatives. But I've been committed to socialism and the Labour Party for too long to not be behind them on a national basis and see them though this election.

This encapsulates my problem with the voting system and this campaign in particular. Does it really matter how I vote at all? After all, the important thing is not how you vote, but what happens after.

Are there any politicians you admire?

I cannot think of any politician alive who I really admire. They all lack an overall vision, unlike people like Ghandi who I greatly respect. Tony Blair may claim he has a vision but I simply don't believe it. Whilst reading last week's reports of each parties manifestos, I simply couldn't see an overall structure to any of them. All we get is the work of the spin doctors with their soundbites.

When did you first become interested in politics?

When I was about 14, living in the Tory heartland of Wandsworth. I got involved with Geoffrey Robinson, who lived just over the road and was my friend's elder brother. It was the end of the Sixties and we were faced with a country in a terrible state - the miners' striking, the three-day working week, the National Front.

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