'Democracy's at risk from a lethal weapon - the internet'

Age of uncertainty: From the lack of care for the ever-growing elderly population to the rise of the unregulated internet, our politicians are failing to address vital issues.
Age of uncertainty: From the lack of care for the ever-growing elderly population to the rise of the unregulated internet, our politicians are failing to address vital issues.
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In his admirably frank memoirs, our former Prime Minister Gordon Brown says: “The lady’s not for tweeting but I should have been.” Oh no, he should not. Just think of President Donald Trump’s provocative habit.

That single Brown sentence tells me four things. First, how quickly time and technology move on. Margaret Thatcher was not for turning and, had tweeting existed then, would probably have regarded it as the invention of the Devil. In those days we managed without either mobile phones or computers.

Second, surely Brown must know that politicians, with the possible exception of Trump, are not yet judged by their tweets but by their actions. Brown may have earned the world’s plaudits for helping to avoid international economic meltdown in 2007-08 – and our gratitude for keeping us out of the euro – but he saddled us with a monumental budget deficit of £150bn.

That has been slashed to £50bn, but 10 years later it still constrains public spending. Chancellor Philip Hammond cannot afford to splash money around in this month’s Budget.

Third, tweeting reveals the sheer inadequacy of UK defamation law. While the Press and broadcasting respect it, the internet is a vehicle for the anonymous and malicious wrecking of careers as Harvey Weinstein-induced sexual hysteria invades our body politic.

Rape, sexual bullying and molestation must be punished, but we cannot allow Tom, Dick or Harry to indict anybody with impunity by tweeting on the basis of gossip or perhaps even invention.

And, fourth, it follows logically that the internet, via tweeting, has put a potentially lethal weapon into the hands of the unscrupulous, and not least the hard left with orchestrated attacks on their enemies on the flimsiest basis.

While I am all in favour of free speech – itself a facet of democracy endangered by political correctness – we cannot continue with one law for domestic media and another for the internet.

In short, it is time our law – and lawmakers – caught up with technology. Failure to do so could cost us not merely our democracy but our relatively civilised way of life.

This is, I know, a tall order for a distracted and fractured government with a dodgy majority. Yet, if ever there was an issue that all politicians could agree on it must be protecting our Parliamentary democracy from assault by the unknown.

Unfortunately, it is not the only inefficiency in our society. Let’s start with the NHS. My brother and his wife have both been waiting interminably for knee replacements. Now they are having to go private because Shropshire will no longer perform hip and knee surgery on the NHS. And who will operate on them? Presumably NHS surgeons as a lucrative sideline. It stinks.

Then there is care for the aged, which is of some concern to me at 85. We old codgers are only a misfortune away from having to go into a nursing home if our children cannot cope with us.

But if we can still see to read newspapers or hear broadcasts we get the impression that, leave aside the cost, it is a bit of a lottery whether you can get a place and, if you do, whether you will be treated with tender, loving care. Old age is not for weaklings. Nor does it offer a shining example of an efficiently caring society.

In education, as with the NHS, parents ambitious for their children are apparently increasingly going private if they cannot get places at “good” state schools.

State teachers should hang their heads in shame, even if they are not helped by neglectful parents. There is absolutely no reason why state schools should not be at least as effective as private schools – except a refusal to accept that the present state education system is often inefficient.

When we come to law and order, I despair.

The number of police in relation to population has nearly doubled over the last 50 years (from one for 807 to one for 462 people). To be fair, crime has soared but there has also been a vast improvement in the technology of detection.

Too much police time may well be taken by form filling because of political correctness and those parasites – accident chasing lawyers. But what is the point of a police force if it doesn’t uphold the law?

And what is the point of chief constables who decide which alleged crimes to pursue – or not bother about – and blame the Government because of “inadequate funding”?

Come on Westminster, face reality: our society desperately needs overhauling.