New Labour is old at heart. It's no place for the young

Youth culture is full of new ideas for reshaping Britain. But the Blairites are deaf to innovation
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The Independent Online
AS THE phrases "Re-branding Britain" and "Cool Britannia" become consigned to the scrap heap of spent jargon, I'm haunted by the sense of a chance wasted.

Welfare to work, tuition fees and failure to attack the creativity brain drain of young designers away from Britain have led me to speak out against a Government which was voted in with fervour by a disillusioned youth and has now turned against those same young people with a cynicism we had come to expect only from the Tories.

It wouldn't seem so bad if Tony Blair and the rest of his smug ensemble didn't keep telling us how fashionable and connected to Young Britain they feel. But they milk their association with youth culture, so we have every right to test their credentials.

The Conservative government gifts to British culture - the Criminal Justice Bill, Clause 28 and the Poll Tax made a Labour victory inevitable. But within their first year in office, New Labour is in danger of causing more damage than 20 years of a Conservative government. Mr Blair may genuinely believe that British youth culture is a valuable national resource, but rather than use this for misguided photo opportunities, he needs people around him who are intimate with it its needs and its potential.

The Creative Task Force is a step in the right direction. But getting business people together on an irregular basis is a poor substitute for representing the millions of young people aged 14 to 31 who will form the youth vote at the next election. We need them active in politics on a daily basis.

Immediately after the election in May, Labour spin doctors called the press to photo graph young MP's and sent them round the TV circuit in the vain hope that we would identify with them. I have to tell Alastair Campbell that these 24 year olds were better than a dose of HRT for this 37 year old. We now have politicians with full heads of hair, flat stomachs - but with thoroughly middle aged values.

The alternative nation does not have a voice. Youth culture is full of bright, free thinking and creative individuals who are aware that the entry route to politics is not there for them. Local party selection committees are unreceptive to new ideas. Full of jaded party members, they brook no challenge to their prejudices.

So bright young people become low-paid assistants in the music, tv and creative arts industries. All this energy and ability to challenge accepted values, outdated ways of thinking and make a real difference to the lives of young people could be harnessed. But then again, what would be the point? It would only be quashed again once they reached in the stuffy Houses of Parliament. When I watch the proceedings, I see dull people making middle-aged, debating society digs at one another. A lot of them are the very twenty and thirty-somethings the spin-doctors sold to us as Young Britain. They blend seamlessly into the stale world of Westminster.

Tony Blair, you have told us you love Blur and Oasis, you have told us that you believe British creativity is valued by this government. Go on then: create a party in which youthful free thinking can thrive. The last thing I or any of my contemporaries wanted to do when we went to college was to become an MP. When we see what you are doing in taking away our right to free education, perhaps we were misguided.

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