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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April 2005, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
UK voters' panel: Leigh Webber

MEET THE PANEL
Leigh Webber
Name: Leigh Webber
Age: 22
Lives: Leeds
Works: Student
Current voting intention: Conservative
In 10 words or less:
"Community-minded final year politics student at Leeds Uni"

The issues that matter to me concern day to day life.

There is no single major issue, such as war, affecting us Britons today, so the party that will get my vote is the one that will improve my standard of living.

With the economy performing well over the last few years, due mainly to the Tories' legacy, the main issue that affects my life is crime.

For this reason, I want to see a tough approach to destroy crime.

Unfortunately, a culture of tolerance has emerged with regard to antisocial behaviour, and the prevailing attitude is that there are more serious things to worry about.

I want to see the parties concentrating on this scourge of society so that everybody feels safe to walk in their neighbourhood.

VOTERS' PANEL
In addition, I feel that the greatest challenge of the 21st century is that of international development, and this is something I want to see tackled head-on by the parties.

We have a moral duty to help those who are in poverty and lack basic human rights and, moreover, it is for our benefit to do so, since these poorer countries can then contribute to the global economy.


Your comments:

I am sure the Tories did some good things, I just can't think of any! Crime went up and Howard cut police numbers. Maybe Mr. Webber is joking.
Gary Gatter, UK

I am glad I study economics and politics as Leigh seems to be confused about the Tories history in terms of the economy. Not that it takes a degree to see the effects of boom and bust economic cycles, high interest rates and negative equity!
Colin, Bath, UK

Whilst Ken Clarke was taking a hands-off approach to the economy it improved, but the ERM fiasco was due to the Tories entering at the wrong exchange rate. They are not likely to leave things alone if they get back in and as such can not be trusted with the economy in general.
Trevor, Twickenham, UK

Whilst it would be hard to deny the massive benefits and stroke of genius that Gordon Brown took when he gave the Bank of England independence, for me this was the only policy he took that helped the economy. Also, I find it very annoying when people talk about how the Tories "ruined" the economy. When people talk about the destruction of the British manufacturing industries by Thatcher they are clearly too ignorant to realise that these industries were ruined because with the "beer and sandwiches" meetings, and massive increase in trade-union power, they had become stagnant, unproductive and uncompetitive with foreign industries. The governments preceding Thatcher had been too weak willed to stand up to the unions and we are seeing this weakness re-appear under Blair.
James Thomas, London

The comments Leigh makes about voting for the party which will improve his standard of living only serve to highlight the problems which are prevalent in society today as a result of the Tory years. The "me, me, me" culture. It will take a few more Labour terms in office for that train of thought to filter out.
Ray, Kent

I find it very worrying that a politics student reckons current economic strength is largely due to previous Tory policy. Does Black Wednesday only get taught to postgraduates? I accept that there was growth in the economy for a few years before 1997 (lets face it, almost anything would be an upturn from September 1992), but Gordon Brown's achievement has been to sustain it, which none of the Tory chancellors could manage. Gordon Brown's management of the economy is one of the very few positive things left about this Labour government.
Jon G, Huddersfield, UK

Michael Howard is the last person on earth to deal with crime effectively. I would like to point out that it was this man who brought the prison service to its knees, and almost brought about a police strike. Someone should remind him of the Derek Lewis debacle. At 22, all the reading and studying will never replace the real experience of us older people who truly suffered under Thatcher. I am very pleased that you are going to vote as many young people aren't but if you think that Howard is going to be tough on crime and improve your standard of living then you are seriously deluded. Immigration is a problem but not as massive as made out. The Tories always appeal to the nastier side of people's natures - greed, selfishness and worse - fear of anything 'different' to themselves. I was not going to vote but after hearing Blair today and the childish rant of a response of Howard, I will be voting Labour.
Barry, Suffolk

Leigh makes some excellent points. Mr Brown inherited a very strong economic base from previous Conservative governments. It was the Conservative Party which risked serious electoral unpopularity by making the inevitable transition from a large manufacturing base to a service economy. Labour seems obsessed with talking about the Tory record. The record of the last Labour government to 1979 is not something Blair will be talking about this election. But times have changed and new Labour has very quietly built upon Thatcher's legacy. I wonder if the Tories can differentiate themselves enough from Blairism? The most recent survey suggests 70% of people think the immigration system is out of control, and Tories are right to exploit this unashamedly. Fair play to Mr Howard for tapping into voters opinions. I thought that's what elections were about.
Andy D, Canada

Labour are lacking in the area they were traditionally specialists in - social responsibility
Mark S, Briton in USA
As someone who emigrated due to the Tories, I find Leigh Webbers' conclusion about the economy absolutely laughable. The economy is clearly functioning well because of the excellent economic policies of the Labour Party, who inherited the disaster area left behind by the likes of Michael Howard. Sadly though, Labour are lacking in the area they were traditionally specialists in - social responsibility. The 'greed is good' at the expense of everything else mentality of the Tories pervades. The outrageously over-valued house prices and the general lack of values and respect for others outweighs any economic benefits that might encourage anyone to return to the UK.
Mark S, Briton in USA

One of the few things that Tony Blair got right was that the key to dealing with crime is to be tough on crime and on the causes of crime - unfortunately in his actions, and those of David Blunkett, he forgot about the second part of his statement. The trouble with the current government -and even more so the Tory proposed policies - is that all the toughness in the world will only increase crime unless something is done about the causes of crime. These include social injustice and inequality, an obsession with materialism, immorality and dishonesty from our leaders, and fear-mongering from all.
Paul, London, England

I think many replying to Leigh's intelligent analysis are allowing their own prejudices to shine through. The high unemployment and the change from industry to services were the tough decisions that provided the base for today's economy. Gordon Brown has profited from both the good foundations that were made for him, and from his own prudence in his first eight years. The problem is that he is now moving towards unsustainable borrowing which is what caused the problems in the 80s.
Tim, Herts, UK

I love it when people develop this rose-tinted blind spot for the Thatcher era. The only positive thing that happened in the 80s was the unions being brought to heel. Unfortunately it involved the decimation of entire industries, sacrificed on the alter of Thatcher's ideologies. Most of the social problems we face now are a direct result of this era.
Steve Brereton, York, UK

Labour and the Liberals argued for joining the ERM and now want to make the same mistake with the euro
Antony Morrison, Bristol, England
If you ask any economist when the British economy turned the corner for the better they will say it was after leaving the disastrous ERM and because of the careful handling of the economy by Ken Clarke with prudent plans stuck to by Brown. Black Wednesday was awful but doesn't anyone remember that both Labour and the Liberals argued for joining the ERM and now want to make the same mistake with the euro.
Antony Morrison, Bristol, England

Leigh's concerns about crime are of course valid. However we are now reaping what was sowed in the "get rich quick, grab what you can" mentality of the 1980s. No wonder there is so little respect for society and community when it was the Conservative Party which effectively dismantled our sense of community and ushered in the "yob culture". So maybe Michael Howard is not the best person to be put in charge of destroying what he helped create.
Peter Rand, Wirral, England

I'm currently taking my A-Levels at a private school and my sister is at a state school. We are immigrants. As pointed out by Trevor Phillips, the focus on immigration in this election could have detrimental longer term effects on race relations. However, I find it hilarious that Michael Howard seems to not realise that if his proposed immigration laws had been in place at the time, his own family would not have been allowed to enter the country! The Conservative Party's scaremongering tactics and unprecedented figure-twisting are going too far, and I feel any seats won in this election will be falsely gained. The biggest issue for me is education. Labour has done very well with the system, but I think more can be done, and perhaps will be done under Labour.
Paul Apenteng, Croydon, England

We do not need a re-run of Tory achievements - one boom, two busts
Paul M, Basildon, UK
We do not need a re-run of Tory achievements - one boom, two busts. How things needed to change, and thanks to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown how they have changed.
Paul M, Basildon, UK

I am not a great admirer of John Major's government. But the fact remains that it takes up to 10 years for the effects of an economic policy to be felt. Gordon Brown said in the first term he was following the "Tories' spending plans". That basically is the Tory economic policy. So the praise heaped on Brown needs to be tempered! With the country up to its eyeballs in debt and Brown and Blair encouraging this situation with more borrowing and higher taxes - what will be the economic legacy of this government? Add to that their desire to enter the euro - similarly following the Tories ERM fiasco! Watch this space - or watch your pay packet!
Dave, Swindon, UK

The economy was performing well under the Tories? I must have missed that. I can remember friends leaving school in 1994-96 and the only job they could get paid under 30 a week - is that a sign of a good economy? And the 15% interest rates that my father spent well over half his wages on - another economic masterstroke. Oh and my uncle lost a job that he'd had for 25 years - and then lost another three jobs in two years - what a great economy we had!
Iain, Glasgow, Scotland

Leigh rightly mentions the moral duty we have to the developing world. Yet Labour is the only party that has established a timetable to meet the international goal of spending 0.7% of GDP on international development: if re-elected they'll do it by 2011. On the other hand, the Conservatives promise to spend more, tax less and repay the national debt - so how someone concerned about economic literacy and international development can also claim to back the Tories is baffling.
Adam Gray, London, England

Due to the Tories' legacy? Are you serious? Can you recall the ERM fiasco, sky high interest rates and record house repossessions? Amen over international development though.
Jules, Swindon, UK

Talk about legacy! It was Margaret Thatcher who said: "There is no such thing as society." How can you encompass "anti social behaviour" when there is no such thing as society? This is the legacy of the Tories.
Lynn, East Yorkshire

It's bewildering that you are voting Conservative when the two main issues you address are crime and international development. According to the British Crime Survey, crime has fallen 30% since '97, whilst police numbers rose. In contrast, crime increased between '79 and '97 and police numbers fell. Similarly international development aid fell under the Conservatives, but has risen under Labour and will reach the UN's target of 0.7% of GDP in the near future!
Paul Sims, Bristol, UK

A prime example of "the grass is always greener on the other side"! I would hate to sound patronising but this guy is obviously too young to remember the joys of Tory Britain - unemployment at three million, the collapse of the housing market, negative equity, urban rioting, manufacturing industry going into meltdown. A fine Tory legacy!
Chris, Norfolk, UK

This government has been ruining the economy
Alex Swanson, Milton Keynes, UK
Comments that the Conservative legacy is a poor one show very selective memories. Have those posting them forgotten what life was like before 1979? And that the continuous growth Gordon Brown keeps boasting about started five years before he became chancellor in 1997? And that the current policies of low inflation and balanced budgets were originally Tory policies that Labour bitterly opposed? And if you think that Labour's record is really one of success, what about the destruction of pension provision, taken to pay for increasing bureaucracy which blights the lives of both businesses and front line service providers? What about the credit boom which is about to turn to bust? What about the collapse in savings and hence in investment? This government has been ruining the economy. It's just that it hasn't caught up with us yet - just as the problems under Thatcher were the legacy of those before her.
Alex Swanson, Milton Keynes, UK

I find it extraordinary that so many people talk about what the Tories did eight years ago as a reason to not vote for them now. I consider that as narrow-minded as it would be not to vote Labour because of Jim Callaghan's disastrous tenure in the late 70s. We should be judging the parties on their current behaviour and promises.
Russell, London

A political decision on the economy can directly affect the economy that very day. The disastrous Tory Black Wednesday is one example. However, tackling crime takes years to correct by increasing funding to combat the root causes of crime. The Tory legacy? Social injustice, no such thing as society and a greed-is-good culture. Let us not forget the unemployment and crime of the 80s and early 90s.
Chris G, Cambridge, UK

Leigh's comments on the economic legacy of the last Tory government are obviously made tongue in cheek. He certainly appears to have no idea what the true legacy of the last Tory government was. Rising inflation, rising unemployment, failing public services. All reasons why they were voted out of power by the largest margin ever.
Aidan Keightley, London

Crime is very important where I live too. Having been burgled twice, once when I was asleep, I feel it should be near the top of the agenda. But what do you mean by a tough approach Leigh?
Nathan James, Liverpool

Good analysis - as befits a politics student. The true Conservative legacy of 92-97 was Ken Clarke's outstanding chancellorship that laid the foundations for the current government. It's a pity that (a) this is overlooked and (b) Mr Brown is doing his best to undermine it through unsustainable levels of public and private sector borrowing - the very conditions that led to the recession at the end of the 80s.
Simon Hickie, Melbourne, Derbyshire

The only reason the economy is in a half decent state is because Labour in their first term stuck to Tory policies. I say half decent state of the economy because clearly things are not looking so good now due to Labour's mismanagement in its second term. In order to keep afloat the economy they allowed interest rates to fall too much creating record debt and rocketing house prices, only now are we beginning to pay the price with a flat housing market and a massive slowdown in consumer spending. To add yet more misery to hard working people, taxes are higher too. All in all, they have thrown away a golden opportunity to make this economy really dynamic.
Simon Church, Leeds, UK

How on earth can Leigh believe that the performance of our economy is down to the Tories? It's because we have an excellent chancellor and a great leader in Tony Blair.
Melanie, Telford, Shropshire

I am puzzled by Mr Webber's view that the Tories were the architects of today's thriving economy. Presumably he is too young to recall the uncontrolled boom and bust cycles, the complete mishandling of the ERM fiasco and the reckless destruction of Britain's industrial base. Are we talking about the same Britain?
Graham, Hampshire

Graham from Hampshire: I would have loved to see Labour try and tackle various situations during the 80s and 90s! Unfortunately, they were in the proverbial doldrums. I can remember a time when the Tory government did not even have an opposition to talk about.
Tanuj, London, UK





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