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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 April 2005, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
UK voters' panel: Vanessa Walters

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"

Two important issues have been missed in the election so far.

Firstly education. Young people are being denied education in a way that is damaging society.

High numbers of exclusions, particularly among black boys, often leads to young people getting into trouble and either becoming teenage parents or criminals.

In jail, many young men and women are being denied their education due to being tried as adults or due to prison facilities being stretched.

The result is a re-offending rate among young men of about 80%.

This is ridiculous. As a society we have an opportunity to do something about this - but only if our politicians take it on as an issue instead of jumping on the opposite bandwagon of criminalising young people for being rowdy.

Secondly, voter apathy. More and more people are being turned off the electoral process because they don't see how they can make a difference.

We cannot vote for our prime minister separately from our party.


We cannot affect a change in government unless we live in an area that votes the same way.

Many people can't be bothered to vote because they rightly see that in many cases it makes no difference either way.

The Iraq war showed that we almost live in a dictatorship where one man can go it alone regardless of what the public at large think.

The democratic process needs improving. Proportional representation and other alternatives need to be debated.

But because these issues aren't vote winners the government has no interest in dealing with them.

Your comments:

Not voting because these issues are being ignored won't help bring them to politicians' attention. There are parties out there who do raise issues similar to yours. Our voting system isn't perfect, but the only way to get your issues known is by voting.
Rob, Cardiff, UK

Vanessa succinctly put it. Her fears are genuine and observation germane. It is not a democracy when it is a one-man-show. Politicians world over have a way of getting their way no matter what, and if it doesn't bother them, it is not important.
Mark Dayo, Philadelphia, USA

If your vote only counts in a marginal how can you get excited about voting? Proportional representation is the only way forward.
Dimples, Stroud, Gloucestershire

Young people getting into trouble leads to exclusions surely? I behaved at school purely because I knew if I pushed it too far my parents would find out. This is not a problem that can be palmed off on government - it is a parental failing. If this is a particular problem for black boys then it is a particular problem with black parents.
Iain, Cambridge, UK

I have to agree that the election system urgently needs looking at. We are now in a position where we have two main parties indistinguishable from each other as the only real challengers. In essence we are now seeing a one-party system. I would like my vote to count but it will not as I live in a safe Labour borough. This is not true democracy.
Peter Hatherall, London

Vanessa's right. I teach 16 - 19-year-old students and in one class there are a couple of badly-behaved young men - as in they have fought in class, exhibited racism and other undesirable behaviour. After they served a suspension for the fight, I was asked if I'd take them back. I did, and they have been behaving brilliantly well... because someone was prepared to stand up and give them a chance. Too many people won't give that chance!
Megan, Cheshire, UK

I do agree with Vanessa. Young people need to be invested in and that needs a good social relationship between government and parents. Okay government cannot be responsible for everything but they can invest in education and help the poorest strata of society to invest in itself. Not all politicians are criminalising youngsters. Squaring up to them and looking in the eye (as a certain Tory says) is not the way to deal with such behaviour. Investment in mending these problems in society is long term and has been done to an extent by Labour who are promising more and I think they will do it better than any other party.
Matt, Chatham, UK

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