Trust aims to fill moral vacuum

17th January 1997 at 00:00
The People's Trust, a new cross-party pressure group backed by Frances Lawrence, widow of murdered headteacher Philip Lawrence, will call on the next government to include lessons in morality and civic responsibility in the national curriculum.

Christopher Graffius, the director, said that the classroom culture of moral relativism had left young people floundering in an ethical vacuum. "The notion held by the education establishment that you cannot teach values, only a series of choices, must be challenged."

The primary aim of the fledgling organisation, which will be formally launched at the end of this month, is to purge British politics of sleaze and corruption by urging the next government to impose tougher standards on MPs. It plans to begin by asking every parliamentary candidate in the next election to promise not to accept paid consultancies if they win the seat, shaming those who refuse by publishing their names and parties.

But Mr Graffius, a former researcher for the Lib Dem MP David Alton, said that the group would have a broad agenda, aiming to transform what he calls the "social ecology" of the country as well.

He was keen to stress that the publicity the group had received earlier this week was "premature" and that as yet he was the only member, but the donation of Pounds 1 million from Mohamed Fayed, the owner of Harrods, and the involvement of Frances Lawrence, should ensure that it attracts publicity in the run-up to the election. Since Mrs Lawrence launched her "moral manifesto" last year after the conviction of teenager Learco Chindamo for stabbing her husband, politicians of all parties have been falling over themselves to be seen to support her.

On education, Mr Graffius said that he was shocked by the number of young people alienated by the whole system. "They come out of school with the notion that politics is nothing to do with them, that they can have no impact and that the whole thing is a corrupt mess. It's a disaster that so many young people, who should be idealistic, have become so cynical." The proof of this will be seen, he said, at the election when large numbers of young people will not bother to vote. "I'm not saying that schools encourage this attitude, but they are not countering it ... we should be emphasising young people's responsibilities and rights as citizens, persuading them that they can change things."

The genesis of the People's Trust is unclear, but Mr Graffius said that Frances Lawrence, Mr Alton and himself had held several meetings over the past few months. MPs had offered support, he said, but the group had not approached any political party leaders. Mrs Lawrence will be writing for the group, but does not intend to hold any official position.

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