Charter 88 drives for pre-election mandate

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Anthony Lester QC (left), a Charter 88 trustee; Helena Kennedy QC, chair of the Charter 88 Council; the writer and broadcaster Claire Rayner; and television executive Greg Dyke at the opening of a drive yesterday to try to gain a popular mandate f or Charter 88's policies, writes Stephen Ward.

Although the "Citizens' Enquiry" has been planned for some time, Charter 88 - a non-party organisation campaigning for a Bill of Rights, devolution, reform of Parliament and a new electoral system - has seized on John Major's recent dismissive comments that constitutional change is of no interest to the man in the street. Charter 88's inquiry hopes to encourage groups of people around the country to debate the issues and contribute their views. It will begin by sending 1,000 packs of information to schools, colleges, businesses and groups such as Womens' Institutes. Over the next 15 months they will be encouraged to return their views as individuals or groups. The collective feelings will be used as the background to a constitutional convention to be held in March 1996, with the timing intended to coincide with the run-up to the next general election.

Photograph: Kalpesh Lathigra