Green guru launches blueprint for change

The quality of life: Creation of new jobs, a Bill of Rights and environmental protection at centre of programme
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The Independent Online

A new political force backed by several of Britain's biggest charities and pressure groups was launched yesterday, in the hope of transforming the forthcoming general election campaign.

The Real World coalition wants pounds 1bn a year spent on job creation in deprived areas of Britain, a doubling of UK overseas aid, a 10 per cent cut in road traffic and a Bill of Rights enshrining the rights of the citizen.

The new alliance, whose 32 members include Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, Christian Aid and the World Wide Fund for Nature, has ideas about taxation as well as expenditure. It wants employers' National Insurance contributions to be replaced by charges on pollution and the use of natural resources, and higher taxes for motorists.

Jonathon Porritt, the environmentalist who played a leading part in organising the coalition, said one of its main themes was that "quality of life is more than the material standard of living".

Real World's supporters all shared concerns that societies in Britain and the rest of the world were becoming increasingly unequal, that the environment was being irreversibly damaged, that Britain's parliamentary system was undemocratic and Britons were forced to ``bow down to unaccountable market forces.''

At the 1992 General Election these linked issues "were wiped off the agenda", said Mr Porritt. The mainstream politicians and the media concentrated on the UK economy, taxation and internal party feuding. The coalition's founding statement says: "People instinctively know that British politics is not addressing the problems of the real world."

Mr Porritt, a former director of Friends of the Earth, told a press conference in London that Real World would never field candidates at an election - the charitable status of many of its members forbade that. Nor could it endorse any party or parliamentary candidate.

But it would lobby hard to influence the content of the manifestos of all of the parties, then scrutinise and comment on those manifestos when they were published.

Mr Porritt did not rule Real World out of buying advertising space in newspapers during the campaign. But he made it clear that it had nothing like the funding which Sir James Goldsmith is pumping into press advertisements for his new Referendum Party.

The coalition also launched a paperback book, The Politics of the Real World, which sets out its critique and aims, as well as a 12-point action programme for the next government.

In addition to charity giants like Save the Children, it includes well- known pressure groups like Charter 88 and Transport 2000, the anti-road protesters Alarm UK, and a dozen little-known groups such as the Media Natura Trust. Together, all 32 have more than 2 million active supporters.

Labour's environmental protection spokeswoman, Joan Ruddock, said: "I would very much support this initiative linking social inequity and the environment - the Labour Party has nothing to fear from this." The Green Party condemned Real World as a "pale green initiative". Both Mr Porritt and Sarah Parkin, another Real World founder, were once leading lights in the Green Party but became disillusioned.