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I suppose Baroness Helena Kennedy is what you would describe as 'feisty.' Small, with a shock of black hair and a m...
I suppose Baroness Helena Kennedy is what you would describe as 'feisty.' Small, with a shock of black hair and a mobile face with strong features, she is a somewhat dissident member of the Labour family, with a reputation for not mincing her words.

The words certainly come in torrents. Outlining the Power Inquiry findings to a meeting in the Commons she was less getting her retaliation in first than carpet bombing the audience.

The inquiry, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust, was jointly chaired by Baroness Kennedy and that old High Tory insider Ferdinand Mount. Members included the president of the Women's Institute and the deputy head of the Trades Union Congress, together with a clutch of community 'activists'.

It found precisely what it expected to find - disengagement and alienation and the feeling individual votes do not count. Labour have wooed the middle ground by stealing the clothes of the Tories - law and order and fiscal probity. The Tories now woo the centre by invading Labour's territory of social justice and poverty.

The remedies include lowering the vote to 16 - thereby adding to the electoral register a group of people presumably even more switched off than existing youth - and petitioning for parliamentary debates.

Meg Russell, of University College London's constitution unit, argued the problem was the culture of consumerism. People are so used to being told they can have everything all at once that they have forgotten politics is about holding the ring between competing interests. The roots of disengagement are deep and go to a denial of what politics was really for, Dr Russell pronounced.

Forgive me if I put aside the suicide note. I think politics is alive and kicking - but it is migrating from the familiar party political and institutional boxes familiar to politicians, national and local.

During last year's general election campaign the most well-attended meetings were about Make Poverty History. I suspect the brand of the future is not consumer politics, but ethical politics. Fairtrade has passed from being a woolly niche to mainstream marketing.

Food miles - the calculation of the environmental cost of getting a product onto supermarket shelves - is a notion full of ethical dilemmas. Does the cost of transporting Kenyan beans to Tesco stores outweigh the benefit to Kenyan farmers?

The environment as ethics manifests itself under the banner of sustainability. Supermarkets increasingly proclaim that their fish is drawn only from sustainable stocks. The most frequent claim made for organic farming is sustainability.

The 'new' political issues like security against terrorism, world poverty, and the environment do not lend themselves to the political 'fixes' which can be translated into manifesto commitments. And fragmented sources of information are meeting fragmenting and culturally diverse communities.

Society is more fractured, yet the new information technology permits huge mobilisation for a cause.

This is politics. Where the issues and the solutions are global, parties find it easier to claim ownership of them than to offer solutions.

If the citizen wants to change at all, he or she can change much faster than governments.

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