Back page: My week - Claire McMaster on changing the world

MONDAY - The party conference season is now well under way. I can't help feeling that the main political parties are lagging way behind the public and campaigners on serious issues, concentrating instead on tussling over a diminishing patch of centre ground.

This sense is increased when the big news from the Lib Dems is their plan to retract from the 50 per cent higher tax rate, further reducing the difference. Yet how long has it taken all of them to develop serious green policies - more political self-interest than principled stand, perhaps?

TUESDAY - I'm reminded of principled stands when I drop into Portcullis House on the way back from a meeting. I'm there to thank Clare Short MP for her time - she's about to conduct a master class with three of our young campaign award winners.

With the news that Clare will be stepping down at the next General Election, my sense of the increasing homogenisation of politicians and parties grows - and with it the conviction that campaigners are now more crucial than ever. I know Clare will pass on insight and inspiration.

I'm also reminded of when she spoke at a one-day conference at South Africa House. Our guest, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, gave us all an object lesson in changing the world by encouraging the Department for International Development and UK NGOs to prevent the undoing of 50 years of development investment in sub-Saharan Africa by devoting more resources to tackling HIV/Aids. I fantasise about how I could get our award-winners to South Africa.

Meanwhile, a scandal-digging reporter rings our office in the belief that one of our supporters is having an affair with a famous celebrity!

My heart briefly sinks as I envisage pushing my way through a media scrum mouthing "no comment". After a bit of background checking, it emerges that this is a case of mistaken identity - its seems the reporter got a little too enthusiastic with his search engine. I head home to Hackney relieved that we have not added the News of the World to our cuttings file.

THURSDAY - I attend the launch of the City Parochial Foundation's progressive new funding priorities for the next five years. It announces that it wants to actively fund work that is focusing on 'social justice' - a phrase some might feel is unpalatable.

Shami Chakrabarti speaks eloquently about social and natural justice, and how we must endeavour to connect the two. Bharat Mehta reminds us of the foundation's history of tackling poverty in London, which is still as relevant today as it was in 1891. I leave feeling inspired about the possibilities of creating new radical solutions to tackling injustice - but it could take some time.

- Claire McMaster is chief executive of the Sheila McKechnie Foundation.

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