We live in an age obsessed with fame, wealth and power. Isn't it time we celebrated those who contribute to society in deeper, more beneficial ways? Welcome to the 'Independent' Good List 2006. Some of these 50 people are household names, some are not. What they share is a commitment to improving lives and changing attitudes. Paul Vallely explains how the list was drawn up - and what it really means to be good
What does it mean to be good? Two thousand years ago Plato asked the question in one of the earliest pieces of philosophy still available to humankind. In it he depicts the father of Western thought, Socrates, meeting a young man named Euthyphro, who is on his way to court to prosecute his own father.
The youth seeks to defend his action on religious grounds. Socrates is unimpressed and raises questions about the relationship between good, piety, sacrifice and justice. It will come as no surprise to learn that young Euthyphro turns out to be self-righteous, pompous, confused and not very good at all.
So how are we to be good? Every age answers that question with significant differences. But Socrates' method of discernment holds good. He suggests that conclusions are best arrived at through scrutinising the behaviour of individuals. Which is exactly what we did when it came to compiling The Independent's Good List.
The mission was to come up with 50 individuals - visionaries, idealists, prophets or moral movers and shakers - whose work was making Britain a better place in which to live. Unlike a Rich List, which has the objective yardstick of being able to measure or estimate pounds in the bank, a Good List depends upon judgements of merit. So we assembled a panel of experts (see box) who brought together expertise in voluntary work at home and abroad, and on a range of areas in which individuals apply moral vision to what they do.
That meant looking beyond those who did something which benefited humanity in material terms. We wanted something that added a dimension of ethical action. So, for example, a scientist who made a breakthrough in cancer treatment would not qualify - he would just be doing his job, however excellently. But Sir John Sulston is in because he did not only map the human genome, but insisted on doing so for the public good, not private profit.
But we also wanted people - famous or working in obscurity - who pressed their moral agenda not by preaching but by inviting, cajoling or tricking us into re-engineering our views. The film-maker Ken Loach wants to change the world by re-envisioning it from the perspective of the people at the bottom of the social heap. Tom Shakespeare uses humour to make us re-imagine the world from the standpoint of the disabled, Sheila Cassidy from the viewpoint of the dying.
There are a few conventionally religious figures, but these too have special gifts. Rabbi Lionel Blue reminds us of the humanity of others. Richard Harries helps us recover our sense of moral complexity, Timothy Radcliffe our sense that truth can be transcendent. Abdul Bari, who is doing excellent work among alienated young Muslims, underscores that vision is nothing without empowerment.
Others approach that truth from a secular perspective. The novelist Philip Pullman brings home to young people that, in the end, we must each take moral responsibility for our actions, as does the dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah in a very different way. Redemption is a present possibility in our world as well, as Camilla Batmanghelidjh's work with some of Britain's most disturbed children shows. And rehabilitation is, too, as Donald Findlater demonstrates with his pioneering treatments for paedophiles.
In all of this many of our moral heroes and heroines have displayed real bravery. Bruce Kent and Peter Tatchell took on the Establishment. Tariq Ramadan, Gerry Reynolds and Ken Newell took on the prejudices of their co-religionists. Bob Holman, the professor who have up his job to live among the poor, shrugged off the comforts that most of us strive constantly to secure. Gee Walker created something from the pain of her son's murder.
Our panel chose a good number of individuals working on the problems of the developing world, and made no apology for that - believing that global poverty is the greatest moral challenge of our age, though environmentalists figure highly, too. Some are idealists, like Martin Dent and Bill Peters, the two OAPs who had the idea of founding Jubilee 2000, the original campaign to press for the cancellation of Third World debt. But others, like Ann Pettifor who made that dream a reality, are pragmatists.
Some, indeed, may seem unlikely figures. Mark Malloch Brown has shown that it is possible to retain some moral vision even inside the shady compromises of the UN. Niall Fitzgerald was the head of one of the world's biggest multinationals and yet retained the admiration of a man like Nelson Mandela. Shirley Williams and Chris Patten show it is possible to maintain some moral clarity in the murky world of politics.
Where the panel was polarised on a particular individual we left them off. It was a relief to do so. Contrary to what might be supposed in a world where the news headlines are constantly grim and bleak, our panel came up with a list of almost 200 nominees, all of whom are helping to revitalise the moral vision of British society. Whittling the list down was no easy task, with the final stages involving some fairly fierce hand-to-hand disputation.
What the process revealed, however, was that, as a nation, we can rejoice in the fact that there is a lot more good being done - much of it quietly, even anonymously, out of the gaze of the media spotlight - than might generally be supposed. And that is good news all round.
The Good List Judges 2006
Paddy Coulter, director of the Reuters Foundation university fellowship programme at Green College, Oxford. A former director of the International Broadcasting Trust and head of communications for Oxfam, he is a leading authority on overseas charities.
Caroline Diehl, chief executive of the Media Trust, which works with the media and communications industry to help the voluntary sector communicate. Last year she worked with 5,000 charities. Few people know more about the domestic charity scene.
Fiona Fox, director of the Science Media Centre, was previously with the Equal Opportunities Commission, the National Council for One Parent Families, and the aid agency Cafod. She has wide experience in the voluntary sector in Britain.
Geoffrey Lean, environment editor of The Independent on Sunday and editor of the UN's Environment Programme magazine Our Planet.
Paul Vallely The panel was chaired by Paul Vallely, associate editor of The Independent, who has worked with several leading development charities and co-authored the report of the Commission | for Africa.
1. Camilla Batmanghelidjh, Founder Of Kids Company
Batmanghelidjh works with disturbed and brutalised children in some of London's most deprived areas. Her vocation is surprising considering her background - she was born in Iran into a very wealthy family and received round-the-clock protection by police drivers before coming to an English boarding school at the age of 12. A trained psychotherapist, she founded her first children's charity in her early 20s, re-mortgaging her house to finance it. Kids Company offers a comprehensive package of care to 500 children each year. A woman of exemplary patience.
2. Abdul Bari, Muslim Leader
Young British Muslims - disenchanted with white Britain over exclusion and racism - also complain that their own community leaders fail to represent them. An exception is Muhammad Abdul Bari, 52, a behavioural specialist with a doctorate from King's College London. Chair of the East London mosque, he was recently elected secretary general of the umbrella Muslim Council of Britain. A crucial voice in helping Muslims navigate between the conflicting social and religious pressures of our time.
3. Andrew Linzey, Animal Rights Moralist
In an emotionally charged world, Andrew Linzey is Britain's most thoughtful advocate of animal rights. Linzey argues that centuries of callous indifference to animals is rooted in Christianity and Judaism, and that modern secular attitudes have grown unknowingly from this philosophical base. Linzey, an Anglican priest, holds the world's first academic post in ethics, theology and animal welfare (at Oxford). He has fought a courageous battle that has brought him into conflict with both his church and his university.
4. Anne Owers, Hm Inspector Of Prisons
Owers has a tough task trying to keep Britain's prisons civilised. She came to the task as an outsider with a hugely impressive track record as a human rights lobbyist. She worked in race relations and immigrant welfare before becoming director of the law reform group Justice, which now has 300 judges among its members. As official prison watchdog she has introduced four key tests - that detainees should be safe, treated with respect, allowed purposeful activity and be better prepared for release - which have now been adopted outside the UK. An outspoken champion of those society wants to forget.
5. Benjamin Zephaniah, Poet
Zephaniah's writing inspires and widens the horizons of people across society. As a poet for people who don't read books but among whom the oral tradition is still strong, he initially spoke to black people about the "sus" laws, high unemployment, homelessness and the National Front. The boy who left school at 13 now advises the Government on the national curriculum. His writings go to the heart of contemporary racial and cultural issues, with serious intent but often humorous style. He is an unrelenting optimist who tirelessly uses his fame to change lives.
6. Bob Geldof, Global Activist
Love him or loathe him, there is no disputing the impact of Geldof in popularising the cause of the poor of Africa. Live Aid in 1985 and Live8 in 2005 were both watched by more than half the world's population. At Gleneagles he was key in persuading the G8 to pledge the equivalent of a million times the amount raised by Live Aid. His work has changed countless lives in the Third World and inspired millions of activists. Extraordinary for acting where others lament, for being uncowed by presidents and prime ministers, he speaks truth to power.
7. Bob Holman, Community Worker
Thirty years ago, Holman gave up his job as a university professor and went to live on a council estate. Ever since he has waged a war on the indifferent attitude of the authorities towards the poor. His relentless advocacy has raised around £500,000 for self-help groups. He rails like an Old Testament prophet against everyone except the poor, for whom he has apparently limitless patience. A Christian socialist and humanist who practises what he preaches.
8. Bruce Kent, Anti-War Activist
A former officer in the Royal Tank Regiment and then a Catholic priest, Monsignor Kent came to prominence in 1967 when he questioned the morality of nuclear deterrence. Throughout the Cold War he was the leading voice in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Since then he has campaigned for peace, run a war-zone refugee hospital, campaigned on child soldiers, and worked for the freedom of hostages Mordecai Vanunu and Norman Kember. When his church objected he resigned from the priesthood. His latest campaign is against the updating of Britain's Trident nuclear missile system.
9. Chris Patten, Politician
Patten is proof that you can paddle around in the murky world of politics and still do good. As Conservative Party chairman he may have run a fairly dirty general election campaign and been the minister responsible for the disastrous Poll Tax, but the good far outweighs the ill in his career. He was an excellent Minister for Overseas Development in the days when it was a job nobody wanted. As the final British Governor of Hong Kong he introduced reforms to make the colony more democratic before its handover. In Northern Ireland he made policing fairer. As a European Commissioner he pushed for the EU to be more accountable. As Chancellor of Oxford University he has championed academic freedom. His is a career which reminds us that the title of "public servant" can still be an honourable calling.
10. Clive Stafford Smith, Death Row Lawyer
Few have done more to fight the death penalty in the US than this British lawyer. Stafford Smith has spent 25 years representing people on death row, losing just four of the 300 cases he has taken on. He came to the work after writing a school essay on capital punishment - he thought he was writing history and was appalled to find it still in use. Thinking he would become a journalist, he spent a summer meeting death-row inmates but decided he could help more as a lawyer. So he trained in the US and set up his own legal practice. Since 2002 he has also acted as a lawyer for Guantanamo Bay detainees. He campaigned for Saddam Hussein to be tried in the US under normal criminal law and prepared a 50-page defence brief for him. He is a man who would rather be right than popular.
11. Donald Findlater, Pioneer In Paedophile Treatment
Findlater was manager of the Wolvercote Clinic - the only residential treatment centre in England for paedophiles. Despite treating 305 men over seven years with high rates of success, it closed two years ago after pressure from residents. Undeterred, he launched the Stop it Now! campaign to prevent child abuse by increasing public awareness. Police have implemented his proposals for an amnesty for pornographers to hand in their hard disks after he showed that child abuse can be prevented in some cases. He is also pioneering "Circles of Support and Accountability" to monitor and support sex offenders after their release.
12. Gareth Pierce, Solicitor
As a lawyer to unpopular causes, Gareth Pierce is without parallel. After years of worthy but anonymous work representing unattractive underdogs she took on the case of the Guildford Four, who had spent 14 years behind bars. In 1989, after a long campaign insisting their convictions were a miscarriage of justice, she saw her clients walk free. Subsequent clients have included the Birmingham Six, the victims of the Marchioness disaster, the MI5 man David Shayler, the terror suspect Abu Qatada, the family of Jean Charles de Menezes and several British detainees from Guantanamo Bay. She is a formidable opponent with a reputation for shrewd intelligence and extraordinary tenacity.
13. Gordon Conway, Applied Ecologist
Professor Sir Gordon Conway set up the UK's first masters degree in environmental technology at Imperial College, launching the careers of 2,000 ecologists whose work is underpinned by rigorous science and technology. He pioneered work on sustainable agriculture and eco-friendly pest control in Asia, and as president of the Rockefeller Foundation he redirected its huge philanthropic funds to fighting poverty, launching a major programme to feed the world through biotechnology. .Conway has just become chief scientific adviser to the Department for International Development, which champions the right of the Third World to have access to the best science available.
14. Indarjit Singh, Sikh Leader
Britain's best-known Sikh is also one of its greatest advocates of ethnic and religious tolerance. A popular contributor to Radio 4's Thought for the Day, his voice is one of unswerving reason with its calls for tolerance and multiculturalism. He was the first non-Christian to be awarded the £1m Templeton Prize for the furtherance of spiritual and ethical understanding.
15. Jill Pitkeathley, Carers' Champion
It was Jill Pitkeathley who first put carers on the map of public and political consciousness. Often they have sole responsibility for a chronically ill parent, spouse, sibling or a child with a long-term disability - a task which is often shouldered unassisted, without respite. Baroness Pitkeathley, as she became in 1997, pushed through legal recognition of the status of carers, which is now enshrined in three acts of Parliament. Thanks to her, many of Britain's six million carers have finally seen some relief in the relentless burden they carry.
16. John Bell, Peace Activist And Hymn-Writer
John Bell is the best-known member of the Iona Community, which takes strong stances on global justice, the arms trade, nuclear weapons, racism, the environment and gender and sexuality issues. His mission is to make religion relevant in a disturbed world, both by engaging in the most troubled issues of the day, but also by re-casting church services in "the language of the living room". One of the most important figures in contemporary Christianity.
17. John Harris, Bioethicist
Harris is a controversial figure. He is in favour of designer babies (on health grounds), animal-to-human transplants and is a defender of human cloning. But his arguments are always characterised by an uncompromising intellectual honesty. A member of both the Human Genetics Commission and the Ethics Committee of the British Medical Association, he is a key player in the shaping of the moral debates around human fertility and bio-ethics. Critics claim he strives for a world without imperfection but Harris' motivation is that we have a duty to make the world a better place.
18. John Houghton, Meteorologist
Sir John Houghton has done more than almost anyone to bring climate change to the forefront of public and political consciousness, first as head of the Met Office, and then as lynchpin of the UN's intergovernmental panel on climate change. As chair of the Royal Commission of Environmental Pollution in the 1990s, he effectively scuppered the Conservative government's massive road-building programme and told Margaret Thatcher that religious people like her had been put on the earth to look after it. More recently this quiet Christian has done much to persuade hostile US evangelicals to take up the climate change cause.
19. Jon Snow, Broadcaster
The main presenter of Channel 4 News since 1989, Snow has a slew of awards for reporting in Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and El Salvador. What is less well known is that he works tirelessly for dozens of charities, many of them small and little-known. He is still chair of New Horizon Youth Centre, a day centre for young drug addicts in central London, where he worked after leaving school. He is heavily committed to the Third World after spending a VSO year, aged 18, teaching in Uganda. He has been chair of the Prison Reform Trust and much else. Snow has a massive extra-curricular commitment to voluntary agencies of all sizes.
20. Jonathon Porritt, Eco Activist
Now an elder statesman of the eco-movement, Porritt has, over the years, played a key role in building its institutions - first the Ecology (now Green) Party, then the pressure group Friends of the Earth, now working with businesses and government to bring about real change. Porritt lost patience with the Green Party because it wouldn't compromise its purism. He built FoE into one of the most powerful lobbying and research organisations in the country but then decided that, "after 20 years of being against things", he wanted to effect positive change. His latest charity, Forum for the Future, has helped shift the policies and performance of dozens of global companies. He became the chair of Tony Blair's Sustainable Development Commission, then used the position as a platform to attack New Labour's half-hearted environmentalism. Wise, visionary yet self-deprecatory, Porritt talks to the establishment in its own language, but is not afraid to rock the boat.
21. Justin Forsyth, Poverty Strategist
Forsyth was with Oxfam for 10 years, latterly as director of policy and campaigns. Expert at the interface of international policy, lobbying, media management and global campaigning, he is a serious strategist. Behind his soft manners he is a hard-nosed performer, brutal in negotiations with the IMF and World Bank, tackling them on substantive policy issues rather than hurling moral condemnations. Significant modifications in the conditions attached to their HIPIC debt relief scheme were down to Forsyth. He left Oxfam two years ago to work in the Downing Street Policy Unit where he has shaped Tony Blair's policy on Africa which has embraced much of the Oxfam anti-poverty agenda. A superstar of the development movement.
22. Ken Loach, Film-Maker
Politically controversial over 40 years in TV and cinema, Loach is unfailingly on the side of human beings who suffer but struggle. His film Cathy Come Home, the most significant British television event of the 1960s, was a harrowing study of homelessness and bureaucracy which invented a new art form - using documentary techniques to tell fictional stories - and sparking a national debate that spurred the founding of the charity Shelter. His subjects have included abortion, teenage delinquency, union politics, arranged marriage and the British presence in Ireland. He may sometimes be simplistic in his sense of cause and effect, but he has created a powerful platform for society's marginalised voices.
23. Ken Newell and Gerry Reynolds, Northern Ireland Peace Activists
These Protestant and Catholic clergymen courageously founded the Fitzroy/Clonard Fellowship, one of the first - if not the first - inter-church groups in Northern Ireland. The Rev Ken Newell, previously a strongly anti-Catholic chaplain in the Orange Order, was changed by his work as a missionary in Indonesia in the 1970s. On his return to Ireland he built an alliance with Fr Gerry Reynolds of Clonnard Monastery. The pair risked the opprobrium of their churches with joint activities - visiting the families of those murdered by paramilitaries, attending the funerals of RUC officers and meeting the Orange Order, Apprentice Boys and Catholic residents groups. During the tense years leading up to the 1994 IRA cease-fire, the pair engaged in secret discussions with the leaders of both IRA and Loyalist paramilitary organisations, laying the ground for the eventual the peace process.
24. Kevin Watkins, Anti-Poverty Researcher
The leading thinker on Third World development among British aid agencies. As head of research at Oxfam he did the major analysis that first won it a reputation as a serious policy player. He inspired a UN initiative that raised $75m for Third World schools. He was the first to make the case for multilateral debt cancellation, delivered at Gleneagles 20 years later. He was brave in following the evidence of what was best for the poorest people, moving serious NGO thinkers away from an ethic of redistribution to a realisation of the importance of economic growth and trade. Now with the UN, he remains the intellectual driving force behind all serious NGO campaigning in the last 15 years.
25. Laurie Pycroft, Animal-Testing Campaigner
The 16-year-old Swindon schoolboy was sitting in a coffee shop in Oxford one day in January when an animal rights demo passed, demanding a halt to work on the university's new biomedical animal-research facility. Pycroft - who had done neurology and neurochemistry courses on a Government initiative to nurture bright pupils - scrawled an impromptu placard and went out to chant "build the lab". He was shouted down but blogged the incident on his website and was soon receiving 300 hits an hour. Out of them he launched the Pro-Test movement in support of "science, reasoned debate and animal testing crucially necessary to benefit humanity". This teenager's solo act of defiance against animal rights intimidation shamed his elders - including Tony Blair - into standing up to be counted.
26. Lionel Blue, Rabbi
Britain's first openly gay rabbi, Lionel Blue has courageously paraded his human frailty with routine references to his epilepsy, depression, cancer and his prickly relationship with his mother. His religion is about doubt and reaching out rather than division and dogmatic certainty. In his whimsical style he reminds the nation, as it starts its day, to that those we encounter are people with the same needs and weaknesses as we have.
27. Mark Malloch Brown, UN Official
Malloch Brown demonstrates that it is possible to do good even within a unwieldy international bureaucracy. Originally a journalist, he gave up a job with The Economist to help oust the corrupt Marcos regime in the Philippines, becoming an advisor to Cory Aquino when she stood against Ferdinand Marcos as President. He then ran UN refugees camps in the Horn of Africa and Central America. From there he secured another lucrative job with a leading Washington consultancy but left to work for the World Bank and the UN where has risen to become Kofi Anan's deputy. He has repeatedly chosen the side of the angels, most recently voicing criticism, unprecedented within the UN, of the tactics of the Bush administration over Iraq.
28. Martin Dent and Bill Peters, Debt Campaigners
Dent and Peters were the founders of Jubilee 2000 - a movement that Gordon Brown judges to be the most important in Britain since William Wilberforce's campaign against the slave trade. Dent, a retired politics lecturer, had the idea in an Oxford pub and in 1993, at a conference on Ethics in Economics, teamed up with Peters, a retired diplomat. The pair worked tirelessly to create a mass movement, and their idea caught the imagination of hundreds of thousands of people, forcing the Third World up the political agenda and persuading rich world governments to write off more than $100bn in debts. They show that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results.
29. Mohammed Mandini, Founder Of The Muslim Youth Helpline
This national telephone and e-mail counselling service, along with its sister project Muslimyouth.net, has, since 2001, reached out to one of the most alienated groups in the UK. Volunteers, all aged under 25, take calls on problems with family, sexuality, drugs, education, mental health, mistrust of non-Muslim institutions and the failure of older Muslim generations to recognise "identity crisis" among the young. Mandini is playing a key role in countering low self-esteem common among a young community struggling to balance their faith with life in modern Britain.
30. Niall Fitzgerald, Businessman
Niall Fitzgerald is living proof that Big Business does not have to be bad. For 30 years he worked for Unilever, ending as the organisation's chief executive. He was particularly influential in building the idea that big corporate entities have big social responsibilities. A superlative networker, Fitzgerald has played a pioneering role in involving business in development in Africa. Nelson Mandela appointed him chair of the Mandela Legacy Trust and the South African government made him president of their International Investment Board. Now chairman of Reuters he is one of the few top businessmen unafraid to speak out on issues that might effect his share price.
31. Nick Hardwick, Refugees' Champion
In the eight years that Hargreaves was chief executive of the Refugee Council, his was the voice of a voiceless at a time when the demonisation of refugees by politicians, anti-immigration lobby groups and the red-top press went almost unchallenged. Now the first chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, Hargreaves vigorously challenged lies such as those that claimed refugees were bringing diseases in to the UK. His staff described him as "utterly inspirational".
32. Ann Pettifor, Debt Campaigner
Pettifor was the genius behind the Jubilee 2000 campaign that in 1999 pressurised the rich world to write off more than $100bn of the world's 42 poorest nations' debts. Using her background as a commercial lobbyist in the energy and retail sectors, she built an anti-debt coalition of 90 organisations in 50 countries. It was not her idea (see Dent & Peters above) and she left most of the detailed policy work to Adrian Lovett (now of Oxfam), but it was Pettifor who had the communication skills and tireless energy to transform a good idea into political reality. She created the first worldwide petition, with 24 million signatures, and built a "big tent" coalition including Bill Clinton, Gerhard Schröder, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Mohammed Ali, Bono and thousands of international policy makers. She forced big changes.
33. Phil Sumner, Community Worker
After working in Manchester's Moss Side for 25 years, Sumner - the Catholic priest who buried many of the young blacks killed in the Manchester gun wars in the 1980s - was moved to Oldham after the Northern mill town's riots. He arrived in his new home among the Muslim community on 11 September 2001. Applying lessons he learned among the Afro-Caribbean community, he has been a major influence in reducing social tensions in Oldham. He has built coalitions across the religious and ethnic divides and used the school curriculum to nurture ethnic identity and increase self-esteem among children of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and African descent. An inspirational, highly-energising leader.
34. Philip Pullman, Children's Writer
The author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, and many other fine books, Pullman creates worlds in which children see good as a matter of choices that are within their control. Pullman wants children to realise they are the inheritors of philosophical, artistic, scientific and literary riches. So potent is the vision of this campaigning atheist that even the Archbishop of Canterbury wants his novels taught as part of religious education in schools.
35. Richard Adams, Father Of The Fairtrade Movement
In 1974 Adams began importing handicrafts from farming communities in Bangladesh - an initiative which grew into Traidcraft, Britain's first fair trade plc. That spawned a wider movement to give guaranteed prices to small farmers in the Third World. Today goods with the Fairtrade mark are to be found in all Britain's major supermarkets, as well as free-standing fair trade brands like Cafédirect. Total sales in the UK alone were £195m last year. Adams invented the idea that shopping can be ethical - and that every time we spend we cast an economic vote that can make the world a better place in which to live.
36. Richard Curtis, Comedy Scriptwriter And Global Campaigner
Curtis - the writer of TV series such as Blackadder and films like Four Weddings and a Funeral - was the co-founder of Comic Relief ,which has raised £337m for disadvantaged people in Africa and for the UK. He then launched the Make Poverty History campaign on BBC 1 on New Year's Day 2005 with a special edition of his The Vicar of Dibley. Dedicating a year to the campaign, he made the BBC/HBO film The Girl in the Café to highlight aid, debt and trade issues. He devised the political messaging of the Live8 concerts that were seen globally, except in Britain where they were banned by the BBC. It was Curtis who gave Make Poverty History its compelling demotic voice.
37. Richard Harries, Moralist
As the Bishop of Oxford, Harries has always remained a radical within the Establishment. He led the anti-apartheid campaign against bank loans to South Africa, and later took his own church to court over its policy of investing for maximum profit rather than for ethics, scuppering his chances of ever becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. He boldly appointed as his suffragen the CofE's first gay bishop, Jeffrey John. Patrician and cerebral, this former soldier led church thinking on "the just war". The nuclear deterrent was morally acceptable, he said, as was the war in the Balkans, yet he condemned the current war in Iraq. The atheist scientist Richard Dawkins describes Harries as "my comrade-in-arms fighting the Cavemen of Creationism".
38. Robert Chambers, Anti-Poverty Guru
His views have radically transformed the approach on the ground of aid workers right across the world. An academic at Sussex University's institute for development studies, he has suggested that aid goes wrong because it is an exercise in power designed by economists from above. He developed a system of "participatory development" that targets aid on the needs of the poorest. Many of the great increases in the effectiveness of aid in the past two decades are down to him.
39. Sheila Cassidy, Palliative Care Pioneer
"The more I get to know dying patients, the more I realise that what they really want is that their carers should really care about them." Death was been Sheila Cassidy's business for 40 years as medical director of St Luke's hospice in Plymouth. A superb empathetic communicator, she finds a way of talking which is truthful, human, sane and caring. All this seems to stem from her unhappy childhood, and the experience of being tortured for treating wounded rebels as a doctor during the Pinochet regime in Chile.
40. Shirley Williams, Politician
Shirley Williams is seen by many as the leader the Labour Party never had, but on the international scene she is an elder stateswoman of stature. Once the driving force behind comprehensive education in the UK, Baroness Williams spent 12 years lecturing at Harvard, Berkeley and Princeton and became a member of the US Council on Foreign Relations, the Moscow School of Political Studies and Ted Turner's Nuclear Threat Initiative. She is a rare voice expressing alarm in the US over its policies in Iraq, and attacks Tony Blair's systematic dismantling of the NHS, his reactionary attitude to asylum-seekers and his transformation of education into "a joyless steeplechase of exams".
41. Sister Frances, Founder Of The World'S First Children'S Hospice
Sister Frances Dominica founded Helen House 20 years ago in the grounds of All Saints Convent, Oxford, where she was mother superior. It is now the 29th hospice in a nationwide chain. Sister Frances has brought comfort to countless families suffering the terminal illness and death of a child. This Anglican nun is an inspirational figure who combines a kindness with financial nous, organisational flair and the steely authority of a chief executive. On a trip to Ghana in 1989 she adopted a baby, Kojo, and stepped down as mother superior to bring him up in a house in the convent grounds. Despite her work she remains an extraordinary optimist.
42. Tariq Ramadan, Islamic Reformer
Ramadan is one of the brightest hopes for reconciliation between the Muslim community and Western cultural values. The Swiss academic, now living in Oxford since being banned from the US last year, has dedicated himself to work towards the creation of a new European style of Islam which is faithful to its religious principles but embraces intellectual culture. Muslims in the West should see themselves not as foreigners or temporary residents, he says, but as full citizens with the same rights and responsibilities as the indigenous population. He wants more imams to be trained in the West and not imported from the Islamic world. Tariq Ramadan has a big following among educated young Muslims in the West.
43. Timothy Radcliffe, Dominican Friar
The man tipped to be the next English Pope, Radcliffe is the only Englishman to have been elected Master of the Dominicans since the Order was founded in 1216. One of Britain's most charismatic spiritual leaders he combines holiness with a connection to real life. He has an ability to articulate something of the mystery that so many hunger after today, and he is blunt about a church in "crisis" that needs to be more inclusive.
44. Tom Shakespeare, Disability Activist
Shakespeare has achondroplasia but happily calls himself a dwarf. After campaigning against the Centre for Life in Newcastle he ended up being offered a job as its director of bio-ethics. There he runs a programme of public debate on the ethics of genetics. He writes academic books but also journalism that uses humour to puncture stereotypes about disability. His full title is Sir Thomas William Shakespeare, third Baronet, but he styles himself a radical short-arse person, or member of the Restricted Growth Association. His advocacy makes the able-bodied see the world in a different way.
45. David Attenborough, Television Naturalist
He didn't just bring the natural world into our living rooms with an inexhaustible enthusiasm, but, in recent years, he made us understand that we have a moral responsibility to counter the threats facing it. He has become a populist advocate for action to combat global warming, which, he says, is, "The major challenge facing the world." Attenborough was voted the most trusted person in Britain by Reader's Digest recently. The soul of self-effacing decency, he has made millions fall in love with the planet.
46. Shami Chakrabarti, Civil Rights Campaigner
As director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti is Britain's strongest voice for the maintenance of traditional freedoms - trial by jury, freedom of speech - in the face of a new authoritarianism in Government. Chakrabarti has stoutly opposed ID cards, extended detention without trial for terror suspects, "extraordinary rendition", easier extradition, the exclusion of gypsies and constraints on imams' freedom of expression. A British Asian, she has locked horns with British Muslim sympathisers with terrorism.
47. Gee Walker, Mother
Anthony Walker, 18, was murdered last year in a Merseyside park. His mother sat through a trial in which she heard that a two-foot ice-axe had been driven into her son's head with such force that it penetrated 7cm into his brain. But when she left the court, after vividly expressing her grief, she took the nation by surprise by publicly forgiving his racist murderers. She has maintained this extraordinary lack of bitterness, recently saying that she would like to meet the killers. Walker has now set up a foundation in her son's name to fight racism in secondary schools.
48. Jean Vanier, Champion Of The Disabled
Britain is home to six of Vanier's L'Arche communities, where people with physical and mental disabilities live on an equal footing with the able-bodied. After the Second World War, Vanier, former officer in the Royal Navy, visited a mental institution near Paris. He was horrified by the conditions and invited two of the inmates to live with him in a house in France that he named L'Arche after Noah's Ark. Vanier, a Canadian, still lives in the house but there are now 130 L'Arche communities around the world.
49. John Sulston, Scientist
Sir John Sulston is the man who mapped the human genome for public good, not private profit. As head of the Sanger Centre he led a team of several hundred scientists who completed the sequencing of one third of the genome. He did so in a race again the US scientist Craig Venter, who wanted to patent the most lucrative genes and sell them. But Sulston defiantly kept his data in the public domain, winning a knighthood and the Nobel Prize in the process. As a result of his indefatigable work, scientists around the world can now access the genetic code that underlies all human health and disease.
50. Peter Tatchell, Gay Rights Campaigner
For more than 30 years Tatchell has campaigned against homophobia, racism and sexism. His tactics have been headline-grabbing: sit-ins; kiss-ins; jumping in front of the Prime Minister's car. He has been described as loony, scabrous, repellent, a blackmailer and a homosexual terrorist, but also as a national hero. He recently managed to simultaneously upset the Jewish and Muslim communities with a placard which read: "Israel: stop persecuting Palestine! Palestine: stop persecuting queers!" Despite being attacked, physically and verbally, he has never allowed himself to be silenced in pursuit of what he proclaims to be right.
Who have we left out? Send your nominations to: The Good List, Features Department, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.orgReuse content