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Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Voters 'back Big Brother over elections'
Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy: Bring idealism back into politics
More people voted for the TV show Big Brother than bothered to turn out for the last European election, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has said.

Mr Kennedy - who leads the UK's third largest party - blamed voters' lack of interest in mainstream politics on everything from the "theatre" of prime minister's question time to the club-like atmosphere of parliament.

More people have been voting in Big Brother over the past few weeks than voted in the last European elections

Charles Kennedy

In his new book "The Future of Politics" Mr Kennedy talked about "reconnecting politics" and restoring "idealism" rather than caving in to populism.

"It is about politics itself, not just in this country but the political trends we see internationally," he said.

At a press launch in central London, Mr Kennedy said that British people were politically active outside party politics.

Charles Kennedy
Kennedy launches his book
He said: "More people are not engaging in the political process, not voting and not joining the political parties but are either taking direct action... or are joining single issue focus pressure groups.

"More people have been voting in Big Brother over the past few weeks than voted in the last European elections. Now that is a sobering thought indeed."

The book looks at the importance of his upbringing on a Highland croft, and his appointment as party leader a year ago.

The highpoint of the year was the Liberal Democrat victory at the Romsey by-elections where the party took one of the Conservatives' safest seats.

The Liberal Democrats are faced with the difficult task of balancing their desire to win seats like Romsey at the next election while remaining the only mainstream party pledged to increasing income tax.

Focus on social justice

In the book, which follows last weeks publication of the Liberal Democrat pre-manifesto, Mr Kennedy calls on the government to focus policy even further on social justice and on issues like the environment.

But - in what will be taken to be a nod to the "liberal" wing of his party - he also urged the government to be less involved in bureaucracy and regulation.

The Liberal Democrats remained committed to constitutional reform, Mr Kennedy insisted.

"I think we are presenting ourselves as a party which is modern, which is in touch and which is a party looking further forward in the 21st century," he said.

The Future of Politics is published by HarperCollins.

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See also:

27 Jun 00 | Entertainment
Big Brother unleashed by Channel 4
06 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Kennedy slams anti-euro campaign
21 Jun 00 | Meet the panel
Charles Kennedy
05 May 00 | UK Politics
Romsey: What the result means
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