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  1. Politics
18 December 1998

What they want for 1999

Politicians, novelists, broadcasters and historians confided their hopes for the last year of the mi

By Catherine Webb

Victoria Glendinning, biographer
“A thorough international review and control of the arms trade. For governments to admit that conflicts have happened and will continue to do so because the powers that be supply the arms.”

John Humphrys, broadcaster
“For the country, I’d like the government to recognise that if they really want to save our small farms and the countryside they should give proper financial support to farmers who want to convert to organic systems. For myself, I’d like a modest 10,000 acres of fields and forests to prove it could work as I know it would.”

Marcelle D’Argy Smith, former editor of Cosmopolitan
“I want Britain to be in a better mood. I’d be thrilled if we had no more recessions.”

David Lodge, novelist
“A peace in Northern Ireland finally secured.”

Tony Parsons, critic
“I’d like to see some millennial justice. I’d like to see sinners punished, for hellfire and brimstone to rain down on people like Bill Clinton and George Michael who didn’t get what they deserved in 1998.”

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Roger Scruton, philosopher
“In an ideal world the following would happen: Saddam Hussein would be overthrown; the Russian Mafia would undergo a mass-conversion to the Orthodox church; the Americans would cease litigation; the Labour Party would discover a preference for opera, farming and field sports over constitutional reform; the Tory party would discover a philosophy; and the supermarkets would all go bankrupt.”

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Bel Mooney, writer
“More than anything else, I’d like to see the peace process in Northern Ireland come to fruition.”

Matthew Parris, former Tory MP and columnist
“Tony Blair to be caught in a Chilean brothel with a spliff of marijuana and a 28cm dildo.”

Will Self, writer
“An end to the Christian millennium and to all religious hierarchies – to Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, corrupt Buddhism and Hinduism and all others. We should move on from these hangovers of the bicameral mind of ancient man in which the voice of God was literally heard and enter into a new millennium of articulated self-expression.”

Sue MacGregor, broadcaster
“1999 now looks, thank heavens, less likely than it has for decades to end with a Bang. But there’s still plenty to whimper about. Let’s end instead with a Ban, worldwide, on any person of the male sex owning any offensive weapon of any kind. Humankind would be transformed.”

Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP
“A successful euro, progress in Northern Ireland and a new bicycle.”

Simon Hoggart, columnist
“I wish that Labour MPs, most of whom I know to be thoughtful, hard-working, well-informed and reasonable people, would stop paying heed to the whips, stop grovelling, stop circling the wagons against a non-existent Tory threat, and show Mr Blair what he really needs now: a spot of constructive disloyalty. They’re the only opposition we’ve got, and they’re not doing the job. I’d also fancy a bottle of 18-year-old Islay malt.”

Auberon Waugh, journalist
“I would like to see John Prescott as Prime Minister and Lord Cranborne as leader of the Tories. That way, people would quickly get disgusted with Prime Minister Prescott and we would get a government from the Lords, which is what I have always wanted.”

Tim Rice, impresario
“More scotch eggs and the collapse of the Millennium Dome.”

Sir Stephen Tumim, former chief prison inspector
“My favourite book this year was Ignatieff’s biography of Isaiah Berlin and my favourite exhibition was 2 Cork Street, a show of Picasso. For 1999 I would like to see even more and better books and exhibitions, preferably breakfast exhibitions.”

Mark Seddon, Tribune editor and Labour Party NEC member
“I want the government to move more steadily to becoming a recognisably Labour government and to build on its good work by committing itself to progressive taxation and redistribution. I hope that in 1999 we will focus on the quarter to third of our population who live below the poverty line and are conveniently called socially excluded. I am also looking for an altruistic millionaire who will support Tribune and its fight for socialism. They used to be around but now all they seem to want is baronetcies.”

Fay Weldon, novelist
“I hope the millennium bug gets swatted.”

Carla Lane, animal rights activist
“I’d like the government to start listening to the animal people. The time has come for the animals and they have to listen. All aspects of animal cruelty, chicken farming, the way turkeys are slaughtered, all that has to stop.”

Jon Snow, broadcaster
“Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and plenty of fresh fruit salad.”

John Mortimer, novelist and barrister
“Cancellation of the millennium.”

Nigella Lawson, journalist
“My hopes for 1999 have to be personal rather than political. The only thing I really want is for my husband John’s cancer to recede.”

Tariq Ali, writer and broadcaster
“I hope new Labour gets egg on its face in Scotland.”

Claire Rayner, journalist
“I yearn for 1999 to bring us our promised freedom of information bill; real reform of the House of Lords and, of course, reform of the voting system. But I expect to go to bed on 31 December 1999 a disappointed yearner.”

Paddy Ashdown, Lib Dem leader
“That we hold the first nationwide election (for Europe) on the basis of fair votes and prepare the way for a referendum, on a modern parliament for the new century, in the year 2000.”

John Monks, TUC leader
“This is not a wish but a message. 1999 will provide a hard lesson for Britain on the costs of staying outside the single currency. We will start the year with interest rates around twice those in the euro-zone and can look forward to a year in which there are huge dangers of being marginalised from European decision-making. On the union front we are looking forward to Fairness at Work turning from white paper to legislation. Unions have embraced the partnership agenda. The test will be whether the new laws ensure employers tango, too.”

Neil Hamilton, former Tory MP, and Christine Hamilton
“What we want most of all is to win our libel case against Mohamed Fayed and get ourselves a life again.”

Michael Howard, shadow foreign secretary
“A recovery in the fortunes of Liverpool Football Club and the Conservative Party.”

Ann Widdecombe, shadow health secretary
“Peace in Northern Ireland and a debate on the health service.”

David Starkey, historian and broadcaster
“My main wish for 1999 is not to be rung up by journalists asking me all sorts of nonsense and not paying me for it.”