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Last Updated: Friday, 8 April 2005, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
UK voters' panel: Vanessa Walters

MEET THE PANEL
Vanessa Walters
Name: Vanessa Walters
Age: 27
Lives: Walthamstow, London
Works: Writer
Current voting intention: Labour
In 10 words or less:
"Single city dweller into art and people"

I am voting for Labour but with little enthusiasm.

I would ideally like to vote for a party which opposed Bush's stance on the Middle East.

At the same time I would like to vote for a party which has good ideas about social reform, environmental issues and the economy.

No party at present lives up to my ideal however, and Labour is the closest fit.

Although actions taken by this government in response to the 11 September 2001 attacks have been unforgivable, Labour has, through the New Deal and other initiatives, improved social advancement in the UK.

I am still concerned that many of the social reforms proposed by Labour have stalled or not been implemented satisfactorily.

I would like to see better provisions for the elderly, mentally ill and children at risk, in care, or in prison.

VOTERS' PANEL INTRODUCTIONS
I would also like to see the public transport system across Britain transformed.

I doubt that a Labour victory will lead to life-changing improvements.

However, while Labour is in power, there is still hope.


Your comments:

You are right to vote Labour. The realistic choice is between a Labour or Conservative government. The Tories have let this country down before. Despite the ups and downs Labour have delivered a strong economy, and reduced unemployment meaning many of people on lower incomes now have a better quality of life.
Martin Rawson, Derby

Ask the million manufacturing workers that lost their jobs under Labour. Ask the 80% of the fisheries sector that lost their business under Labour. Ask about the hundreds of thousands of farmers no longer in business. Labour is running the country on public debt, loans and credit cards, and very soon we are going to see taxes rise even further to pay for Labour's mismanagement of the economy. A country that lost its shipyards, its automotive industry, and that is gulping for air. I am 47 years of age and know enough to say that debts will have to be paid and sooner than later the Labour bubble of debt and deceit, of MRSA and growing violence and disillusion will burst.
Carlos Cortiglia, London, UK

Respect are the natural alternative to New Labour, with 5/7 Respect councillors being ex-Labour. Even the Greens, who don't come from the same movement as Respect or Labour, are seemingly more in tune with you views than Labour Vanessa.
Hanif, Newcastle

Whilst Labour is in power I despair of higher taxes, interfering big government, bureaucracy that strangles the wealth creating sectors of the economy, failed ideology interfering with the education of our children, an unreformed profligate and inefficient health service. The sooner this regime is dismissed the better off we will be.
Steve Willis, Milton Keynes, UK

I can understand a desire to punish Tony Blair for Iraq etc. But please don't punish the whole of Britain at the same time by inflicting Michael Howard and the Conservatives on us. The war was wrong, but many positive things have happened domestically.
Stephen Cook, Cambridge

If the deaths of 1700 allied soldiers and 18000 Iraqis are not a good enough reason not to vote Labour then I don't know what is. You may not lose your house under a Labour government, but anyone living in an oil rich state can't bank on keeping their lives!
Nic Blockley, Beeston, UK

With me it's Labour every time. You cannot just dismiss the evils of the Conservatives. They want to give people choices. Ask the miners, ask the nurses, ask the elderly, ask the unemployed, ask the families who lost their homes, ask the business men who lost everything. What choices did they give them? Whatever mistakes the Labour party has made fade into insignificance with the crimes of the Tories. At least with Labour people feel they have a chance, the only chance they have with the Tories is no chance. People forget how bad life was under the Tories and if people don't get out and vote they'll find out what it's like again!!!
Guy Greenland, Lancashire

Vanessa, I admire your ideals however where have you been for the past 8 years? Tony Blair has had a massive majority and enormous goodwill and he has wasted that on spin, ego trips such as the dome and playing at being a global leader by supporting Bush. How do you reconcile Gordon Brown's destruction of people's future by undermining private sector pensions? I would suggest that while Labour is in power there is no hope. If you cannot stomach the Tories, vote Liberal Democrat, they at least believe in hope.
Chris Parker, Bucks

I can't see why you're not voting for the Lib Dems or the Greens if those issues are important to you.
Rob, Cardiff

Labour are a victim of their own electoral success. Go to Peter Snow's swingometer, the Lab-Lib version, and see for yourselves that you can swing all the way to the Lib Dems, reduce Labour's majority and still not let the Tories in. I would like to hear how Vanessa can justify voting for a leader whose aggression has resulted in the loss of an extra 100,000 Iraqi lives, whether legal or not, whether he lied or not. What can possibly balance such an act?
Themos Tsikas, Oxford

Full employment and good economy is the main plank of a viable and prosperous society. Unemployment is worse than MRSA. Economic stagnation is an epidemic. It would be sheer madness to remove a team that has put more people to work. In an era when every other government is struggling, Labour undoubtedly merits another chance
Mark J, Crawley, UK

Your naiveté is shocking. I agree with the commentator who suggested that you take a look at the Lib Dem manifesto and another commentator who suggested the micro-party Respect. New Labour is as sclerotic and callous in power as the Tories ever were, and after eight years one would think that the social reforms you're so concerned about would have gone through, especially with such a parliamentary majority. You're New Labour's dream voter: uncritical of the party even when it commits, as you say, "unforgivable" acts, and wedded to the idea of Labour as a cuddly and benevolent party of endless hope. Dream on.
Jon K. Williams, New York City, USA

Labour are going to get a wee bit of a electoral thumping from the Lib Dems primarily. The Tories will probably pick up some seats as well.
Christopher Wheatley, London

Vanessa I would ask you to see that this new Labour government is a highly centralised unit. It is run on the basis of a corporation / patronage. The back benchers are the middle management, dominated by opinionless individuals determined to be promoted to the cabinet (board of directors). There is little room for descent in this new Labour party, even with its sizable majority. As the MP's only represent furthering their own interests they are almost devotional in towing the line. The ease with which this government is able to pass vast tracts of radical legislation without any stiff opposition is obscene. Without debate and meaningful opposition there is no democracy. The Labour government's abandonment of fundamental principles is quickly becoming the stuff of legend. Where is the opposition? Where are the backbenchers that speak out instead of nodding their heads gratefully at the feet of their leader? I will not validate their mandate by voting for them and I am surprised at you Vanessa for doing so
Menelik, London

I'm baffled by you, Ms Walters. You're not saying it, but the text in your views yells "I hate the Tories even more than I detest Labour, but I don't want to admit liking the Lib Dems".
Steve Brereton, York, UK

I would agree with much of what Vanessa says. None of the parties fit with my ideals, but Labour still comes the closest. If I could vote for a Labour / Liberal Democrat hybrid, or even a "Labour but not Tony Blair" option, then I would probably do so. But, as these options will not be available, I can see no alternative but to vote for Labour, but with a somewhat heavy heart. Apart from the war in Iraq, which I am very unhappy about, I can see little to be seriously angry about with Labour. There have been many disappointments, plenty of annoyances and many things I wish had been done differently. But on the big things - health care, education, the economy etc. there have been many improvements. Things may not have improved as quickly as I would have liked but they are at least heading in the right direction. Tony Blair and George Bush may have messed up Iraq, but this does not mean we should let Michael Howard mess up Britain.
Stephen Cook, Cambridge

If you ask me, Respect is the party to vote for where possible. Rewarding a Labour government which has taken us into a criminal war is a disastrous decision. I'd vote Respect because it: opposes the war and occupation of Iraq, wants to tax the well off to pay for welfare for pensioners and the poor, and wants to end the scapegoating of asylum seekers and Muslims. I voted Labour in 1997, but can only stomach so much.
Richard Seymour, London, England

An anti-war, pro-environment, social reforming party? Have you read the Lib Dem manifesto?
Em, Newcastle, UK

I don't understand how you are willing to put your faith in the Labour government for a third term. You have concerns over issues which they have implemented incorrectly or not at all. I don't see how we can rely on or believe any of Tony Blair's promises after he has proven he isn't to be trusted (WMD etc). He has let the country down in the past on various issues and I personally feel that this has to stop. Give someone else the chance, it has to be better than the current situation.
Liz Wigley, Manchester, UK

As a Labour voter all my life I am appalled at the current government's policies and direction. It's no wonder Blair doesn't want the European position discussed until after the election. Let down by Labour? You bet!
Terry Brown, Grimsby

If not Labour then who? The Tories will do nothing for us and the Liberals seem to be making short term promises just to sway votes. Although there have been ups and downs with Labour, I'd rather see them back in than a party whose policies probably will never come to pass.
Sam, East London

Vanessa, you're wrong! There is a party which opposed the Iraq war unequivocally from the outset; one which places issues of social, environmental and economic justice at the top of its agenda; one which would establish a citizen's income for all, provide 40% of our energy from renewables by 2020 and develop vibrant local economies to counter the devastating environmental and social consequences of economic globalisation in the developing world. It is of course the Green Party!
John Buckingham, Somerset, UK

Vanessa's comments "while there is Labour there is hope" do not really seem to make sense. In what way is this true? Certainly not for the people let down by the present government in issues such as pensions, rising crime and asylum. The politically correct notion of shouting people down as racists or bigots seem to be a particularly Labour kind of tactic to stop people voicing legitimate concerns over the future of their nation.
Stephen McCullough, Perth, Australia

I can't see why people think that voting Lib Dem or Green is a natural option for progressives. Here in Leeds, people voted for Lib Dems and Greens who promptly put in a Tory-led administration on the City Council! Their progressive policies include raising fees for the poorest families in council-run nurseries and they're cutting support for adult education classes and to voluntary groups as well. Labour seems to be the only genuinely progressive force in this election, and as someone who works in former coal-mining communities the positive changes that have been made since 1997 have been massive.
John, Leeds, England

Vanessa you say that the government's actions in Iraq are unforgivable but you are still giving them your vote. Does this mean that our leaders can do anything they want and still get elected? Vote with your heart.
Ian Robertson, Glasgow, Scotland

I share your views here Vanessa. If a government cannot manage the economy they are not fit to govern. But Labour has managed the economy well in the past eight years - consistently. Unlike the Tories who pushed millions into negative equity and unemployment. There is more that Labour could have done. But at least I have not lost my house this time around.
Philip Gnana, New Malden, Surrey

I simply don't see any alternative to Labour in a first-past-the-post system. The Liberals don't seem to have any strong policies, and all the Tories can do is rant on about nonsense. This is the first election here in the UK that I can vote in and really miss New Zealand's mixed-member proportional system. The Westminster system is undemocratic. In a decent system you can vote for a minor party and have your voice heard.
Craig , London (ex-New Zealand)

This is like burying one's head in the sand. Labour may have been once the party of social advancement but it is no more. My father and grandfather were staunch Labour supporters but this is a party in name only. Their party is dead!
Phil, Herts, UK

All Labour have to offer is more and more taxation - they are too dishonest to address the pension's crisis before the election is out of the way and too incompetent to spend money wisely rather than profligately. Here is a sobering thought that puts UK government's economic management into perspective - the Norwegians have saved up half of their North Sea oil revenues since its inception - what have we done with ours? Brown has taxed future North Sea oil revenues just to pay for his last budget's electoral bribes, like the one off £200 council tax rebate for pensioners.
Alan Tayler, Wivelsfield

I don't know, Mr Tayler, exactly what North Sea revenues have been spent on since inception. But I do know that most of those years were under Tory governments. They were probably spent on unemployment pay. There were certainly fewer people paying tax under the Tories - around three million fewer at least.
Brian, Derby

I couldn't agree more.
Jonathan Fisher, London

War is the most serious act a government can engage in. Labour have gone to war with a cavalier disregard for the lives of innocent Iraqi's and our troops. You cannot vote Labour on this ground alone. Please - anybody but Labour!
David Ash, London UK

Vanessa, with respect, there is an alternative. You say you want to vote for a party which opposes Bush's Middle East policy; which wants to transform public transport; which has good ideas about social reform and environmental issues. What about the Greens? They have coherent, detailed policies to ensure that economic activity furthers, rather than hinders, these goals.
Peter Barber, Glasgow, Scotland

I am surprised that Vanessa is not voting Liberal - I think the problem with UK politics is that people just vote for the same party out of habit rather than out of reason.
Jonathan, Leigh, Lancs





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