A false impression that it’s the ‘shouters’ who care the most

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn
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While Jeremy Corbyn’s successful Labour leadership campaign was a surprise to many, it is also part of a wider tendency for politicians from beyond the mainstream to come to prominence – first in relatively new continental democracies and now even in mature democracies such as Britain and America where the hardliners Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump lead the race to become respectively the Democratic and Republican Presidential nominees.

It is dangerous to think that those who shout loudest and longest care most

These political developments remind me of the wise words of one of my heroes – the great politician and philosopher Edmund Burke – who wrote that ‘It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be most anxious for its welfare’.

It is dangerous to think that those who shout loudest and longest care most. Yet this false impression is now spread by internet users and the distorting mirror of social media – such as Facebook and Twitter, where users associate and communicate with like-minded people. In the real world governments have to make tough decisions – they have to balance the books, manage public services and ensure that our nation is safe from attack. In the virtual world of the internet these fundamental priorities can be ignored – social media resembles an echo chamber where misconceptions and falsehoods are reinforced rather than challenged. In this way truth itself is relegated, ignored or even denied.

It is a mistake to conclude that only those who hold extreme views have convictions. The poet Cecil Day-Lewis wrote in the 1930s: ‘why do 
we all, seeing a communist, feel small’. Yet Day-Lewis, a communist himself in his youth, lived to see what a terrible destructive force this seductively simple dogma proved to be.

I am a politician inspired and driven by convictions. Yet I know that politics has to be credible if it’s to make a difference to people’s lives. My abiding conviction is to be fierce in defence of the gentle; to stand up for all the people of South Holland and the Deepings, not just those with the loudest voices.


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