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I asked a friend once to explain his personal reason in voting for a particular party in last year's general election. Suffice to say, the party he voted for won, and the party I voted for now harangues Tony Blair in the Commons every Wednesday morning, much to my delight, but the point he made was rather pertinent.

"Ask yourself this," he said, "how have you felt, in life, for the last four years, and contrast that with how you have felt before Labour came to power. I generally feel a lot better and happier about life than I did before." I was at pains to explain to him that before Labour came to power, our role in world politics and the shaping of the nation amounted to no more than deciding which superhero would outfox each other, and what was the best game on the market. Admittedly, not much has changed, but I do rather like his reference.

Rose Glasses

For you see, being a mere 26, I find it difficult to find any lasting impressions of the Thatcher/Major regime. Of course, that is quite apart from the widespread inequality, millions unemployed, communities devastated and what not, but those are details that I read about in a newspaper and heard about on television, having not actually "lived" through it, so to speak. Now, using his point of "how we feel" during an incumbency, and now being of alert mind and body to the woes and troubles of this world, I can put the theory to the test.

Let us see, then. A checklist is required, with boxes to tick; perhaps a flowchart; sales structure; management strategies and blue-sky solutions to fix the problems. A bright yellow Porsche and candy-red braces also, if you please. You see, I can be nostalgic too. But to the point; the economy, to my layman's brain, is seemingly on track. Britain is a respected player in world politics. Regeneration in communities, towns and cities is transforming the landscape of the country and an unprecedented amount is being spent on health and education. Dialogue between differing religious communities is breaking down tense barriers and encouraging a more open and tolerant society to live in. Yes, much to look back on and admire.

Yet, inevitably, we turn again to the dark side. You knew it was coming though, didn"t you? ASBO's; my one great source of anguish and despair, littering the streets with their rabid and raging intolerance, ignorance and stupidity. Unemployment, according to recent statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), is on the rise, at 5.4%. Now, while the government may trumpet this as "historically low", am I the only one who acknowledges that this seems ridiculously high? Surely, "historically low" would be 2-3%, not 5%?

Healthy and Getting A's?

As long as we"re hovering around the subject of government, let us take stock of nine years in a Labour government. Yes, massive investment in the NHS and education, but is the nation actually any healthier, or more intelligent, as a result? Look around you, dear reader, and if you see what I see, you"ll find that sadly, it is not. Obesity levels are reaching catastrophic levels and it is now revealed that the majority of NHS hospitals "benefiting" from all this extra investment are no better off than before.

Turning to education, grades and qualifications abound, with the number of students reaching the pinnacle of "A" grade work soaring to new highs, yet industry has repeatedly howled out in derision that the calibre of new candidates does not bear any semblance of common sense or business acumen. Sure, you may come out of college with five "A" grades, or finish university with a 2:1, but rarely, in truly Churchillian wording, has so much, meant so little, to so many. Explain the abundance of tailor made courses offered by employers these days engineering quite basic skills in its workforce, and I will happily show you the inefficiency of today's learning fraternity.

The Light"¦?

Now, at this point, I would like to offer my sincere apologies. Recently, there has been a theme running in this column akin to some madman preaching how the judgement day cometh, and I vowed to, perhaps, lighten up. But I can"t. Society, as I see it, is in total and utter chaos. It is no stretch of the intellect to suggest that much of today's disenfranchisement with life stems from my friends indication about "how you feel" day-to-day, and we can place a large part of the blame at the doorstep of No.10.

I know, a childish stab but bear with me on this, and you"ll see the reason for such treason. Great leaders lead with conviction. Tony Blair, admittedly, did have much of this quality. Great leaders lead with heart, passion and soul. Again, he bore much of this in his first term but is now dwindling quite publicly and quite embarrassingly. Great leaders lead by example. Oh dear. As the so called "cash-for-coronets" loans debacle threatens to find a path all the way into the heart of Downing Street, we have, again, another government in tatters, torn apart by sleaze, accusation, outright lying, dishonesty, deceit and corruption.

Where are the youth of today to look to for inspiration of an honest and decent campaign? Where are tomorrow's generation going to find the explicit ethos of correct moral behaviour and traditional virtuous values? Look to our government, and you will find a cesspit of unruliness, and one that reverberates cataclysmically.

As Plato remarked, unsurprisingly pertinently, in "Republic": "¦despite being guardians they"ll begin to neglect us. They"ll underrate the importance of cultural studies, and then of physical exercise, and consequently the young people of your community will become rather uncultured. As a result, the next generation of rulers to be appointed will not be particularly good at guarding"¦discrepancy and discordant incongruity will occur, and they always breed hostility and antagonism"¦"

In answer to my friends question then: No. I don"t feel very good.

Vijay Pattni

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