Letter: The environment is much more than a single issue

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article, 'A touch of envy is in order' (19 January), and the letter from Dr Norman Moore defending single-issue groups, published on the same day, reflect two sides of the same coin. The remarkable growth of these groups, particularly over the past decade, is an indication not only of their effectiveness in tackling problems with a speed and precision that others cannot match, but also of the now almost wholesale disenchantment - as you rightly describe it - with the existing political scene.

It is a disenchantment not only with an obstinate and incompetent government with patchy moral standards, but with an unrepresentative political system that shows itself incapable of tackling problems - whether of the environment, poverty or other social disadvantage - in a way acceptable to many, possibly the majority, of its citizens.

Single-issue groups may well - like journalists - exaggerate to make their point. They may, as Chris Patten pointed out in his 1990 Goodman Lecture, lead to an undesirable distortion of policy because of the effectiveness of their campaigning. But the solution lies not with these groups tempering their efforts, but with a greater willingness on the part of government to listen before it has to be shouted at and to provide a far greater degree of information than it is currently willing to do.

It is no surprise that democratic expression finds its outlet today through membership of single-issue groups rather than of political parties. It is a healthy expression of pluralist democracy in a political context that otherwise tends to suppress this. Perhaps one of the most valuable contributions that these groups can ultimately make will lie in their collective impact upon the political structure.

Long may they flourish.

Yours faithfully,


London, SE10

20 January