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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 January, 2005, 15:39 GMT
What the election should really be about?
Here is the second part of our look at how leading pressure groups plan to grab the politicians' ear in the run up to a general election.

Fathers 4 Justice

Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child

Friends of the Earth


Amnesty International

Fathers 4 Justice parliamentary co-ordinator Gary Burch

Fathers 4 Justice campaigner
Fathers 4 Justice have fought a high profile campaign

What's the issue?

Our campaign is all about achieving equality in the family courts. Essential to that is the legal presumption that when parents split they continue to share in the care and upbringing of the child.

How will you get it on the election agenda?

We have 100 children every day losing contact with their parents. It is essential we embarrass politicians to explain why that's the situation in this country. For example there was a politician, Margaret Hodge, who we "arrested". People may agree or disagree with that as a tactic but it does force that politician to confront the issue. This minister advised her backbenchers to vote against a planned Tory reform. So these stunts are a way of embarrassing the politicians. We will make sure politicians put the family at the top of the political agenda for the next election and where we see candidates refusing to engage in the debate - we will consider running candidates against them.

Will you succeed?

There has been a degree of success in this department because the Conservative Party have already included in their manifesto measures that go some of the way towards achieving that. We will go to the lengths required to get this in the public arena and we are pretty confident that this will be an election issue.

Friends of the Earth, director Tony Juniper

Friends of the Earth demonstrator
Tony Juniper says it is time for politicians to take climate change seriously

What's the issue?

The one issue that we will be raising this general election is climate change and global warming. We will be working hard to make sure that whoever finishes up in government after the general election is committed to reducing this country's carbon emissions and tackling climate change. That's about setting targets and introducing policies that go much further than previous governments have.

How will you make it an election issue?

We will publish research and material related to the government's record over the years. We will look particularly at the target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2010. It was a firm promise and we need that promise to be honoured. We also spend a great deal of time talking to politicians from all parties. We always reserve the right to stage protests when we feel the times is right and the situation demands it. Although there is nothing specific on the cards right now we are quite concerned about the proposals to expand airports and roads. They might encourage people to stage protests.

Will you succeed?

This time around with all the other things going on we expect it will be quite difficult to get the environment into campaigns and in the debate.

Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child national director John Smeaton.

Society for the Protection of Unborn Child
The society fears euthanasia by neglect

What's the issue?

We want the government not to proceed with the Mental Capacity Bill. It will greatly advance the cause of voluntary euthanasia by establishing in law euthanasia by neglect.

How will you make it an election issue?

We will be very, very concerned about the way in which MPs vote on the Mental Capacity Bill. We are telling people how their MPs are voting on this and we are urging people to contact their MPs to find out. We find that the most effective way of getting our case in the public domain is going out to the public directly with leaflets and publications. The media tend to be rather confused on issues of euthanasia and abortion. You are more likely to get the views of the editor rather than the society's view.

Will you succeed?

The majority of people vote on issues which are much more to do with themselves, like whether or not they feel prosperous or secure. We would not expect voting patterns to alter but what we can do is influence a significant minority that can have an impact in a tight situation.

Outrage spokesman David Allison

Gay marriage
Gay rights campaigners have already won significant advances

What's the issue?

Gay marriage. We feel that the current legislation going through Parliament on gay partnerships should extend to gay marriage. It is silly for the government to say that they will give us the same rights as married couples but to stop short of marriage itself.

How will you make it an election issue?

By talking to the media mainly. The Church will obviously rattle their chains in horror. But when you listen to some of the Church of England evangelicals - they really are living in the past. Also by tackling the politicians, lobbying them privately to get their support within the government and parliament. It's not just gay politicians, straight MPs, too, can be fairly gay friendly.

Will you succeed?

It is hard to say. So far we have been fairly successful in persuading the government to get rid of the homophobic legislation that was brought in by the Thatcher and other governments but whether they are prepared to proceed in giving gay marriage rights to gay couples depends on how anxious they are to get the gay vote. Politicians exist to serve and having been in office for seven or eight years they will be reluctant to give up the good life.

Forest director Simon Clark

Forest says it wants to protect freedom of choice

What's the issue?

Freedom of choice. Because choice is one of those words that politicians like to bandy about. When it comes to smoking a lot of politicians are very quick to remove people's freedom of choice. We are particularly concerned with the government's White Paper (which bans smoking in all public places, bars and restaurants which serve food).

How will you make it an election issue?

We will be trying to get the message across that smokers will have a chance to stand up for themselves and be heard like anybody else. We would write to every prospective parliamentary candidate and invite them to tell us what their views are. We will be letting them know the results of opinion polls and talking to them about issues like passive smoking. We will also be setting up a new organisation called Free Society. It's very clear that there are a lot of people out there who will went less not more government interference. We want to get the point across that yes people want to be educated about health risks of smoking or eating the wrong food but we are going way beyond that.

Will you succeed?

We are not going to make smoking a major election issue - it's not an issue that is going to decide the way people vote. People are expecting Labour to win the next election quite comfortably. If their majority is reduced then issues like smoking become much more important.

Amnesty International director Kate Allen

What's the issue?

Domestic violence
One in three women suffer domestic violence, says Amnesty

We want to see protection for women made an election priority. Why focus on this? Because violence against women is endemic. Last year there were 14,000 recorded rapes in Britain (and only 20% of rapes are even reported). More than 1.5m incidents of domestic violence occur annually and the emergency services receive a call every minute. On average two women are killed each week. Meanwhile, forced marriages and 'honour' killings are blighting and taking lives.

How would you make it an election issue?

All MPs and prospective members of parliament will be pressed to ensure their party's election manifesto includes a commitment to ending violence against women through a comprehensive UK-wide strategy. Our 'Stop Violence Against Women' campaign will push ahead with this at Westminster, in the constituencies and on the airwaves.

Will you succeed?

One in three women in the world suffers violence in their lifetime - a complete disgrace. In Britain there have been important legislative advances - most recently the Domestic Violence Act. Yet too many women still fall through the gaps. Combating violence against women requires policy and local provision being properly joined up. The longer haul is changing attitudes.

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