Tragic events that can spark change

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The Independent Online
The "manifesto for the nation" launched by Frances Lawrence, widow of the murdered head teacher Philip, has echoes of the campaign set up after Dunblane, and the women's peace movement in Ireland.

In each case an "ordinary" woman or group of women had been thrust into the public domain by tragedies impacting closely on their lives.

The success of the Snowdrop Campaign, with its narrowly focused attempt to get all handguns banned, has been marked; the legacy of the broader brush-stroked movement in Northern Ireland 20 years on is harder to gauge.

For Mrs Lawrence , who has referred to both movements, the catalyst was the stabbing to death of her husband at the gates of St George's Roman Catholic in Maida Vale, west London, last December.

Now that her husand's killer has been convicted and sentenced, she is determined to stimulate a new debate and a new movement dealing with how to "banish violence", heal society and change the "moral climate" for the better.

Mrs Lawrence claims her manifesto contains "no policies, pledges or plans of action". But in fact her campaign for "civic peace" contains a number of proposals, ranging from the concrete idea to the aspirational. One clear idea, which echoes the simplicity of the single-issue Snowdrop Campaign, is to ban knives. Though she is less specific about which type should be barred, she refers to "battlefield blades" and argues their sale be banned.

On education, Mrs Lawrence clearly draws on the views of her late husband as well as her own, and calls for good citizenship lessons to begin early in a child's school life. She wrote in The Times : "Schools should inculcate an appreciation of the civic bond, the respect we owe to others and the duties we owe to society."

Mrs Lawrence also proposes the encouragement of what she calls the three E's - effort, earnestness and excellence - and urges the discussion of moral questions behind political debate. Less precisely, she also calls for the raising in status of teachers and police, as key contact points for young people.

Her aim, she says, is that these cornerstones of her manifesto will spark a debate. "My hope is that out of the terrible violence that pierced the heart of my family ... a new ethos may be constructed in which neglected virtues are reinstated and cherished and sustained."

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