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2 May 2005updated 07 Sep 2021 5:53am

How our writers will vote

Never have NS contributors been in such agony. Labour, the Lib Dems and the Undecideds jostle for th

By Staff Blogger

I am undecided because. . .

Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times critic

I would vote for total reform of the NHS and the police, our two most comprehensively collapsed public institutions. But nobody is offering this. So it doesn’t matter whether Tony Brown, Michael Kennedy or Charles Howard gets it: the quality of life will continue to deteriorate at much the same rate. But thanks to the virtual world created by Gordon Blair, we won’t feel a thing.

Wendy Buonaventura, dancer and choreographer

I was always a Labour supporter, but will very probably vote Lib Dem for the first time. I find Blair increasingly autocratic and out of touch. I don’t think a big Labour majority will be a good thing.

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Geoffrey Wheatcroft, author

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This is the most depressing election in memory, with many of us utterly repelled by Blair’s mendacity, Howard’s demagoguery and Kennedy’s buffoonery, and simply disenchanted with politics and politicians. I might just vote, if I can find a candidate who is opposed to the Iraq war and identity cards, and in favour of hunting and top-up fees.

Sam Blake, lawyer

I would vote Labour on a “get Brown”/keep the Tories out ticket. I live in Islington and would have voted Labour had Chris Smith not been standing down. But the war and the personalities put me off. I might vote Lib Dem, but I am not sure I like their policies. If I can’t bring myself to vote Labour I’ll vote Green.

Rachel Cooke, journalist

Tribally, I am Labour, but I am not sure I can bring myself to vote for them this time. Too gruesome (the war, the general bullshit). But our local candidate is Jeremy Corbyn, who has voted against the government on all the key issues. I can’t vote Lib Dem just for the sake of making a protest. Ridiculous. So I may not vote at all – unless I wimp out at the last minute and go for Labour.

Richard Dowden, Africa expert

I vote on impulse – when I get there. I have never voted for either of the main parties and this time find them more obnoxious than usual. I live in a solid Labour seat, so my vote does not affect anything anyway. So I will vote for a dream – Green, maybe – or register a spoiled ballot.

Janet Bush, journalist

I am a member of the Labour Party in East Devon but do not want to vote Labour because: a) I want to protest against Tony Blair (if Brown was in charge, there would be no doubt at all); b) my candidate is a Blairite who is 100 per cent pro-Iraq, etc; and c) my candidate is 21 and lives in London, and therefore cannot possibly be a good person for my constituency. I will not vote Conservative or Ukip: although I am a Eurosceptic, I do not like Ukip’s anti-immigration policy. I don’t really want to vote Lib Dem, because I am opposed to the party’s policy on Europe (pro-euro and pro-constitution), but I will probably vote Lib Dem because: a) I like some of their other policies; b) their candidate seems OK; c) they are second to the Conservatives in my constituency and therefore have the best chance of winning. I will vote for someone because I believe that I owe it to the suffragettes, but I have thought seriously about spoiling my ballot paper, too.

Joanna Briscoe, novelist

I feel deeply saddened that there is now no true Labour Party to vote for. The moment new Labour truly lost me was when they invaded Afghanistan for no clear or thought-out reason following 9/11. The appalling and murderous invasion of Iraq only confirmed my horror. But I won’t vote Respect, though I admire their firm anti-war message, largely because I suspect them of what amounts to anti-Semitism. I won’t vote Lib Dem because their stance on the war was hardly one of opposition and their policies aren’t sufficiently clear. I haven’t yet decided whether to throw my vote away on the Green Party or whether to spoil my ballot as a deliberate gesture of protest.

Viv Groskop, journalist

Although I told the Conservative doorstepper yesterday that I’m voting Labour – just to irritate him – I had a romantic dream of a Lib Dem protest vote. But it’s fading fast. My Labour-held constituency (Putney) is extremely marginal: it would take only 2,800 votes to go Tory. I am torn. Bring on proportional representation.

Amanda Craig, novelist

I’m strongly tempted to vote Lib Dem for the first time, because they now appear to be the genuine left and the only party that’s honest about the need to raise taxes on the rich – but I think Kennedy’s a wuss. I like Brown more than I like Blair, but think Labour has messed up on too many fronts to be trusted again. The last tiny straw for me, as for many writers, was making it financially impossible to make films of our novels in Britain. So I’ll probably vote Green again.

Neil McKenna, author

I’ve always voted Labour, but in this election I’m not sure I want to. It’s nothing to do with the war in Iraq. Oscar Wilde wrote that a cynic was a man who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. I think Labour has become cynical in this Wildean sense – obsessed with management, money and power. I want the party I vote for to have fundamental beliefs, visions, and an emotional connection with the people it seeks to serve. New Labour is increasingly bureaucratic, arrogant and distanced from ordinary people.

Peter Stanford, former editor, Catholic Herald

I live in Brent East, which went Lib Dem in the by-election last year. Our local Labour branch – of which I’m a member – tried to gerrymander the defeated candidate, Robert Evans, into being our candidate again, but thankfully failed. That whole episode put me off voting Labour. As does the war. As does Sarah Teather’s excellent work as a constituency MP. But I see the fight as being between the Tories and Labour, and every time I see Michael Howard’s face I remember why I was so keen for 18 years to see them kicked out of office. So the logic is, I should vote Labour. Working on it!

David Nicholson-Lord, lecturer and journalist (above)

I can’t remember when there were so many bad choices. I am very concerned about UK quality of life and overcrowding but nobody is addressing this issue. The Greens have gone AWOL, the Lib Dems have lurched to the right, and the Tories and Labour are in the pockets of the corporate kleptocrats. The world is lurching doomwards and everyone is looking the other way. It’s an election that makes you despair of human intelligence.

Carole Woddis, theatre critic

I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when new Labour got in

after 18 years of Thatcher-induced

clinical depression, but Blair has forfeited so much goodwill. After Iraq, I don’t see how a Labour vote is possible. On the other hand, anything to stop M Howard and cohorts. I might well vote Lib Dem: I have before.

Annalisa Barbieri, fashion and fishing writer

I can’t see a clear alternative to Labour, but the one thing that stops me is Blair. If we were to find out that Brown would take over as leader, I’d vote Labour for definite – they’re the best of a miserable bunch. I’d vote Lib Dem, but everyone tells me I’d be wasting my vote. What I really want is for Vittorio Radice to run for prime minister.

Andrew Billen, TV critic

Having read the editor’s demolition job on the Lib Dems in the NS (18 April) and seen Jeremy Paxman’s similar

assassination of Charles Kennedy

on telly, I can’t vote for them or him now. In any case, they ran third last time in Battersea, where I live. But after Iraq and Hutton, I truly fear a third Blair term backed by a big majority. So can I hold my nose and vote for the second-placed Tory? Well, can I?

Joe Moran, university lecturer

I said I would not vote Labour again while Blair was leader (Iraq), but seeing Howard on TV every day is making me think about Labour again. I may end up deciding on polling day.

Richard Cork, art critic

As a lifelong Labour voter, I shocked myself by voting for the Lib Dem Sarah Teather in the Brent East by-election. And I may well do so again. I still feel very offended by Blair’s behaviour over Iraq, and I agree with Lib Dem policies on tax, hospitals and tuition fees. But deep down I’m still a Labour man, and Charles Kennedy doesn’t fire me up one bit.

I will vote Liberal Democrat because. . .

Colin Tudge, science writer

We (humanity) cannot afford to allow people like Blair and Howard such power, lacking as they are in understanding and in morality, yet ruthless with it. I’ll vote Lib Dem, as a man grasping at straws, because they promise “a new kind of government”.

Sejal Mandalia, author

I couldn’t possibly vote for Blair because of the Iraq war and his unwavering support for Bush.

Julian Stallabrass, art critic

It’s the only prospect of removing the Tory incumbent in my area.

Grant Gibson, architecture journalist

In my area, the Lib Dems need only 861 votes to get rid of the Tories and that party’s stomach-turning obsession with immigration. If I wasn’t voting tactically, I’d put my cross against

new Labour. The sheen has peeled

away, but they’re still our best bet.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Independent columnist

Because the two issues that matter to me most are asylum and the war on Iraq. I also approve of their tax plans.

Margaret Cook, former NHS consultant (left)

To protest against the Iraq war-supporting parties, as well as oppose right-wing policies generally, especially public-private partnerships. But I do not want to waste my vote on a minority party, like the Greens, though I have sympathy. One can best use one’s vote against, rather than for, a person or party. A hung parliament is to be desired, as it buffers the extremes of zeal.

Stuart Weir, former NS editor

Too late to claim a vote in Cambridge (where I could have made a difference, since Labour’s anti-war Anne Campbell is

neck-and-neck with the Lib Dems)

I shall have to vote Lib Dem in Somerset, where I also live – but the odious Liam Fox will walk it.

Lauren Booth, columnist

I want to get the horrible Barbara Roche out of Hornsey. I’ve become a tactical voter. If there was no Lib Dem with a chance, I’d vote Green, which I did last time. Certainly not Labour.

Decca Aitkenhead, journalist


I opposed the war, and until Blair is no longer in charge of the Labour Party, I won’t vote for it.

Sandra Barwick, journalist

Because of Iraq and because detainment without trial is evil. Charlie Kennedy got it right on both, and I think, even if he ain’t terribly on top of the detail and he isn’t consistently sober, he may have fundamental integrity. Definitely the others haven’t.

David Hare, playwright (right, with wife, Nicole Farhi)

I agree with an American marine, Sean Huze, who was in the first wave of Operation Iraqi Freedom and who now says: “As long as we on the left are talking about anything other than Iraq, the right is winning.” You can deduce my vote from that.

Brian Cathcart, lecturer and journalist

I have had enough of Blair’s habitual dishonesty, his contempt for civil liberties and international law, and his preference for any value but a Labour value. Why vote Labour when what you get is another Thatcher?

Christina Zaba, journalist

They are the only mainstream party that unequivocally opposes ID cards and the Iraq war. And also my MP is Liam Fox. Labour here hasn’t a hope, but the Lib Dems might just topple him.

Peter Dunn, journalist

Because Blair is quite mad. You can tell by the way his speech clicks on and off that he’s listening to voices. I don’t want him to apologise for Stalinising the public services, or for terrorising travellers on the London Tube. I don’t want, ever again, to see him swaggering around NHS premises with his pan-stick make-up and the simian walk he’s copied from George Bush. I just want him to go.

Jenny Diski, novelist

I’ve just joined them. I’ve never joined a political party in my life, nor has it ever occurred to me to vote for any party but Labour, but I’m so angry about Blair’s shifty, evasive, distorted Labour government, about Iraq, student fees, education and the NHS, that I signed up.

Richard Gott, historian

The Labour Party consists of a bunch of war criminals. The Lib Dems are singularly unimpressive, but at least they voted against the war. The most positive result of this election would be a hung parliament that ensured the departure of Tony Blair to an ignominious retirement in the cell next to Slobodan Milosevic.

Ziauddin Sardar, author

They clearly opposed the war, and are the only party to stand against detention without charge or trial, degrading treatment and violations of human rights. Their policies on things that matter to ordinary folk, such as education and the NHS, are sensible and pragmatic. They are, I would argue, the natural constituency for Muslims. Moreover, there is something humane and humble about Charles Kennedy that I like.

Marcelle d’Argy Smith, ex-editor, Cosmopolitan

I cannot vote for a man who’s such a barefaced liar. I am appalled that the public can for one second contemplate electing such a man as their PM. He lied through his teeth and nothing happens. I feel I’m living in some mad African dictatorship. I’ve been a socialist all my life, but I’m with the Lib Dems. Kennedy is uninspiring, but they’re decent.

Shiv Malik, journalist

I take the long view. If Blair is returned to power without a significantly reduced majority, the historical record will show that a politician can openly deceive a country in order to get a war yet still win a landslide majority.

Hester Lacey, journalist

In North Dorset, Labour trails a poor third. The Tories’ countryside policies are good, but I don’t think they really care about the people who most need help. I would like to vote Green, but that’s a waste.

I will vote Labour because. . .

Christopher Bray, biographer

I am not yet sufficiently middle class for protest votes against the party that, for all its lily-livered faults, is the one we all know has to be in power.

Barbara Smith, former Middle East editor, the Economist

At the time of the war, and even before, I intended to change to the Lib Dems, whose ideas fit in with my own, but I cannot do something that might help bring the Conservatives to power. In a constituency where the Lib Dems might defeat a Conservative candidate, I would vote differently.

Hugo Barnacle, novelist

Because the others are the same, only worse: the Conservatives even more devoted to the business model of government, the Lib Dems even keener to make us eat our greens. I was one of the crowd who packed Richmond Crescent, N1, to shake Tony’s hand when he left for the palace that May morning in 1997. The only people who felt let down later were the idiots who thought he was going to abolish death and taxes or something.

Toby Mundy, publisher

On the home front, Gordon Brown has pursued redistributive policies with remarkable single-mindedness and there are now signs of significant improvement both in public services and in the incomes of those at the bottom. I also, somewhat unfashionably, admire Tony Blair for playing a key role in the destruction of fascist governments in the Balkans and Iraq, although I share the general disquiet over how the Iraq war was sold to us.

Donald Hirsch, economist

To preserve what is best in what Labour is doing, particularly on public spending and redistribution to poor families and pensioners. To keep out an opposition that would reverse this, as well as introducing some pernicious policies – for example, in educational selection.

Laura Tennant, editor, Food and Travel magazine

I’m not sorry we went to war in Iraq and I think the government’s domestic policies are progressive and redistributive.

Arnold Wesker, playwright

Because I can see no alternative.

Michael Coveney, theatre critic

I don’t want to waste or spoil my paper. I’m pro-Europe, pro-hunting, pro-Iraq policy, anti-Blair, anti-Ken Livingstone. I’d like to see Gordon Brown as PM, Michael Ancram as Foreign Secretary and Kirsty Wark as Home Secretary. Glenda Jackson is my MP and she’s fairly good locally, though I haven’t seen her on the bus lately.

Linda Grant, novelist

There is a Hebrew word which has its origins in Aramaic – davka – and it means both “in spite of” and “to spite”.

Will Davies, senior research fellow, IPPR

Although the Labour Party has abandoned many of its defining principles, and in some cases was wrong to do so, at the very least it remains committed to a role for government as a potential obstacle in the way of untethered markets and media empires.

Michael Leapman, journalist

Because I always have, and I vividly remember the appalling Thatcher/Major years. In Kate Hoey, Vauxhall has a feisty, independent-minded MP who opposed the Iraq adventure as well as the ban on fox-hunting.

Bee Wilson, food columnist

I had intended to spoil my ballot paper, but the spectre of Michael Howard asking if we are thinking what he is thinking is too grim. The question I care most about is school meals, where Labour has been guilty of negligence and hypocrisy. I was often told by the Department for Education that what pupils ate was not a priority for central government; that individual headteachers had the freedom to decide for themselves. It is shocking that Labour has tried to take credit for Jamie Oliver’s work when it has allowed the Smiley Faces, Speedsters, Twizzlers, etc into school kitchens, and allowed school cooks to be downgraded and demoralised. The extra £280m is nowhere near enough –

I believe there should be universal

free school meals – but it is a start. So I am voting Labour on a “vote Blair, get Brown” principle. I will be very disappointed if it turns out to be “vote Blair, get Milburn”.

Kevin Maguire, associate editor (politics), Daily Mirror

Despite Iraq, I’d like to see what a Brown government would look like, even if that means another four years of complaining about privatisation, inadequate employment rights, erosion of civil liberties and a widening gap between the poorest and richest.

Rachel Millward, feminist

They have a good record with public services and international development, and I’m naturally politically left and can’t bear the idea of the Tories getting in – I think their racist campaign was disgusting. The Lib Dems are unlikely to have much impact, sadly, as we don’t have PR.

Carole Stone, socialite

I still believe that another Labour government offers us the best chance of achieving a fairer society with well-funded and high-quality public services.

Andrew Martin, novelist

I think Blair’s a decent person, and I’m locked into it by my background.

Ellie Levenson, ex-editor, Fabian Review

The Labour Party offers the best deal for the poorest people in society, and I agree with the party’s values of trying to ensure opportunities for all and better public services for all.

Ian Jack, editor, Granta

The candidate in my constituency (Islington North) is Jeremy Corbyn, who seems to care about the people he represents and who voted against the Iraq war.

He has at least two other attractive

qualities: he rides a bike and I once saw him reading a book in a second-hand bookshop.

Douglas Kennedy, novelist

Whatever my feelings about the WMD follies, Britain has become a more equitable society under Labour, and I can only hope that the third term will mark real progress in the resurrection of essential public services, in the re-creation of the BBC as a true public broadcaster, and in the realisation that the arts are not simply something this country does brilliantly, but that they are also a cornerstone of any progressive society. More tellingly, the Tories now strike me as a completely empty vessel – devoid of any constructive ideas – and piloted by a leader who resembles a vampiric cost accountant. All politicians (to borrow a line from e e cummings) are “an arse upon/which everyone has sat except a man”. Labour are, by far and away, the better arses.

Alice O’Keeffe, journalist

Though I couldn’t endorse Blair with a clear conscience, I have set up with some friends. It’s an e-mail petition that aims to revitalise grass-roots support for Labour and hold the leadership to better account. People sign up and pledge to join the party once Blair leaves office. Getting involved in campaigning makes me feel better about voting Labour.

Dan Hancox, music journalist

Because I can do it without having a crisis of conscience over Iraq or gung-ho privatisation. Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate for Tooting, is young, dynamic, radical and anti-war.

I will not vote Labour because. . .

Aleks Sierz, journalist

Blair heads the most right-wing Labour government in history. Like Thatcher, he will go on, and on, and on. He must be stopped.

Michela Wrong, Africa specialist

An out-of-touch leader with ballooning delusions of grandeur, a rival he loathes, and a money-hungry wife, insists on running for a third term when he should have stepped down long ago: Britain’s election bears more than a passing resemblance to the African polls I get to cover. I will be voting for whichever party looks most likely to give Labour a decent run for its money in my constituency. I’m tired of apologising to puzzled Africans for my country’s foreign policy, angry at feeling embarrassed with being British.

Philip Kerr, novelist

This Labour government has been the worst since Ramsay MacDonald. It’s not just the war, but its attitude to truth. I dislike being lied to so cynically. I will be voting tactically to get my local Labour candidate out. Blair should be punished. And so, too, should Gordon Brown for keeping his mouth shut.

I will vote Green because. . .

Nicholas Clee, ex-editor, the Bookseller

I am defecting from Labour for the first time in a general election – not just because of the Iraq war, but because of what that and many other episodes have revealed about the corruption of politics under Tony Blair.

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner (below)

Rejecting free-market economics,

only the Greens integrate policies for social justice and human rights with an agenda for tackling the dangers posed by global warming, pollution, resource depletion and species extinction.

D J Taylor, literary critic

Though I have voted Labour in every general election since 1983, here in Norwich South, I shall vote for the candidate who seems to have the best chance of unseating Charles Clarke. It’s less to do with Iraq, education, civil liberties, the environment and all the other horrors than the £5,000 that the party accepted from Richard Desmond, and which seemed not even slightly to discountenance any senior figure. But the Tory manifesto has no mention at all of environmental policies and the Lib Dem tax proposals will remove any incentive to earn the money necessary to provide for my growing family. So, Green.

George Monbiot, Guardian columnist

Because this is the most intelligible means by which I can explain to whichever party wins the policies I would like it to follow.

Marek Kohn, science writer

Here in Brighton Pavilion in 2001,

the Green candidate, Keith Taylor,

got the party’s highest share of the vote in a general election, and the Greens are now the third party on the city council. I’d like to help build on that success and send a clear message to Labour about the care of public services and the environment.

Mark Lynas, author

Increasing Green support will at the very least force the other parties to take environmental issues seriously.

Paul Kingsnorth, author

First, and tactically, I live in a constituency and a city (Oxford) where the Green presence is strong and growing. Second, the Greens are the only party prepared to challenge the dogmas of growth, consumerism and globalisation.

Mark Thomas, TV comedian

They have consistently opposed the war in Iraq and they want to take on the power of multinationals.

I will vote Conservative because. . .

Edwina Currie, ex-Tory MP

I believe in freedom, the free market, freedom of choice, the encouragement of enterprise, personal responsibility and small government. I know none of these phrases has passed Michael Howard’s lips, but none of the others gets remotely near.

Stephen Bayley, design guru

Each party is repulsive in its special way, although the Lib Dems can be dismissed first. As Tom Wolfe said, “a liberal is a conservative who has been arrested”. And Charles Kennedy is a sartorial and intellectual disgrace. Howard needs a new pair of glasses. His current pair makes him look specially sinister: he would appear more pleasingly Harvard in an elegant pair of big, round, black frames. As it is, he looks like a psychotic dentist. Blair’s fashion promiscuity externalises a fundamental pusillanimity. Howard may say unpleasant things, but he at least approaches a version of honesty, with consistency. But, really, with our politicians we are very impoverished. Rosser Reeves, a founder of modern advertising, said Churchill was unforgettable because he understood the relationship between oratory and image. He was a one-man communications system. With this memory of excellence in mind, I shall vote Conservative.

Martin Vander Weyer, business journalist

I still believe in personal responsibility, active citizenship, free enterprise and smaller government, though I wish Michael Howard would tone down the immigration rhetoric a bit. A Conservative government would kill off new Labour’s grotesque quango culture in which verbiage has become a substitute for action.

I will vote Plaid Cymru because. . .

Jan Morris, author

I hope my country can be distanced as far as possible from the squalid society that is contemporary England, and taken as soon as possible into a confederal Europe.

I will spoil my ballot because. . .

Frank Furedi, professor

As far as I can tell, the only reason

why political parties exist is to get elected. They all seem to lack a mission or even an agenda. In this election they seem to make up policies on the hop – one day it’s immigration, then child obesity and school dinners, then world peace. Probably the only issue that concerns the political class is the fear that their legitimacy will be further eroded by a low turnout – which is why they are happy to give away postal ballots or do anything that helps create the impression of real engagement.

I won’t vote because. . .

George Walden, ex-Tory MP

To do so validates a defunct party system offering spurious choice.

Brendan O’Neill, deputy editor of spiked

Tony Blair says this election offers us a “big choice”, but his dictionary must have different definitions of “big” and “choice” from mine. Compared with the choices of politics past – between tradition or progress, king or the people, reform or revolution – today’s choices on school dinners and hospital cleanliness are paltry. Even the tactical voting lobby, which aims only to give Blair a bloody nose by shrinking his majority, accommodates to the lack of choice.

Darcus Howe, columnist

I am not a pig to be fattened by a little more swill from the Treasury.

Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, ex-Sunday Telegraph editor

There is no longer any party which could properly be called Conservative, either with a big or a small “c”. Therefore, I propose, very sadly, to abstain from voting.