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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 11:06 GMT
Away from the egos
By Amanda Platell
Former Tory spin doctor

Everybody knows that the political landscape is one of cynicism: voters simply don't trust politicians. Westminster is light years away from normal life, and Joe and Josephine Public have turned their backs on politics. Full stop.

That is, however, a long way from the picture I found across the country when I was filming a new documentary series, Bee in your Bonnet. Nothing had prepared me for the kind of people I would meet.

I had become jaded by years working in politics and the media, surrounded by massive egos and overriding self-interest.

Then I met Don, emerging from the waters of Lamlash Bay, Evelyn at the near-derelict Morecambe Winter Gardens Theatre, Richard inspecting a public lavatory in Winchester, and I knew something new and vibrant was happening.

Toilet campaign
With Richard, a campaigner against poor public toilets
It was a new, re-energised politics. "Little" people were being driven to take on the "big guys" by a desire to get something they truly believed in. When the coastline campaigners on Arran said they were fighting for their children's children, it wasn't an empty sound bite. There were no votes in it, but it was a whole way of life, their way of life, that they were trying to preserve.

The last general election saw the emergence of a large and powerful political force, the DKDC Party - Don't Know Don't Cares. Largely under 50 and belonging to what we loosely call the middle-classes, they're not so much the disaffected of British politics as the dispossessed; people who feel they have no stake in the political process.

Finding voices

But it would be wrong to call them the Apathy Party because so many care passionately about their communities, and now many of them are starting to find their voices.

It was from these humble beginnings that our series about campaigners, part of the BBC's initiative to energise the political process in areas that people really care about, emerged. In the series, I've advised campaigns on the best way they can seize some power for change and get their voices heard.

I've spent many years close to the heart of British power; with William Hague and at the head of a string of national newspapers. But the closer you get to power, the more powerless you feel - that's the irony.

It was only when I travelled to wind-swept Morecambe to see a bunch of people fighting every day of their lives to reopen the Winter Gardens theatre, that I saw at first hand real people power.

Morecambe Winter Gardens
Campaigners try to keep Morecambe's Winter Gardens open
This beautiful historical landmark had been the very heart of their community. They believed by restoring it, it would bring new life to their town. Old fashioned isn't it, but these people believe in community.

Each and every campaign made me realise that anyone can make a real difference if they have a fire in their belly and a plan in their head. But you do need both. You also need the courage to try and the belief to battle on even when every door seems to slam shut in your face.

These people gave me heart and hope; they really do have faith in the political process, because they've taken control of it themselves.

And helping them meant a great deal to me as, like a proud parent, I watched them grow over the months into fine campaigners. They didn't all win, but none of them are giving up.

Bee in Your Bonnet is broadcast on BBC Two, starting on Tuesday, 17 February, at 1930 GMT


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