February 13: Time to end gutter politics

AS the country’s political classes struggle to fire the enthusiasm of voters ahead of the most unpredictable general election for a generation, a clear contradiction has already emerged.

Many voters bemoan the absence of conviction politicians in the mould of Margaret Thatcher – they contend that today’s leaders do not compare favourably to previous generations when major political figures of all persuasions were listened to with respect.

Yet a significant number of people also want politics to become more consensual – they’re becoming switched off by the constant trading of insults which they liken, rightly, to gutter politics.

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This viewpoint has added significance because of the continuing likelihood of a hung Parliament and the need for a second coalition to be formed. It is a process that could be fraught with pitfalls – there will not be the economic urgency which so focused negotiations in 2010, and the minor parties are aware that the Lib Dems, and Nick Clegg in particular, were damaged by the volte-face on student tuition fees.

However, some perspective is required. Mr Clegg was not in a position to honour his pledge because the Lib Dems did not win the election – they became a junior partner to the Tories and tuition fees was one of the compromises that had to be made in order to bring about the stable government that was needed five years ago.

It is a point that should not be forgotten as the focus switches not only onto David Cameron and Ed Miliband’s leadership qualities, but the priorities of the Lib Dems, Greens, Ukip and Scottish Nationalists who all hope to hold the balance of power.

Voters have a right to know the negotiating positions of the parties and this state of flux is a reminder to politicians to be more civilised, even to their fiercest opponents. After all, they may be expected to form some unlikely alliances after polling day.

Policing Twitter

Callous trolls must be stopped

WHAT DOES it say about contemporary society when there is no straight-forward process for the police to be able to take action against those sick people who use Twitter, and the anonymity that this social media phenomenon offers, to post vile and insensitive abuse?

The latest victim is Leeds mother Sophie Hoult who set up a Twitter account to chart the progress of her young cancer-stricken son Riley as he undergoes lifesaving chemotherapy treatment. She had hoped that his fight for life would raise wider awareness about the neuroblastoma which has afflicted the tragic 23-month-old boy.

While many of the messages were uplifting, and represented the best of humanity, the account had to be closed down because a tiny minority sent callous tweets which were symptomatic of the very worst in society. Unlike those thoughtless people who have tormented the rape victim at the centre of the case involving disgraced footballer Ched Evans, and whose right to anonymity is protected by the courts, it is unclear whether any criminal law has been broken in this instance – it is very difficult for legislation to cover a moronic minority who think, to quote them, that “cancer is funny because people die”.

But this should not preclude organisations like Twitter and Facebook from having a far more constructive working relationship with the

Home Office and individual police forces. At the moment, details are only disclosed if a threat to life is posed – parameters which clearly need to be reviewed in light of the heartbreaking distress caused to Sophie Hoult

and her family.

Pride in the poppy

Royal British Legion’s landmark

THAT the generosity of this newspaper’s readers helped the Royal British Legion’s annual poppy appeal raise a record £3m plus in Yorkshire is testament to this county’s proud association with the Armed Forces, and the public’s enduring respect for those tasked with defending the realm.

Yet, while 2014 was a poignant year because of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the commemorative events which surrounded these landmark dates in history played a vital role in raising awareness about the sacrifices made by former generations. This momentum must be maintained. For, as time catches up with survivors of the Second World War, the country has a moral duty to ensure that these veterans, all heroes in the truest sense of the word, are treated with dignity. As such, the Legion’s motto “Live On – To the memory of the fallen and the future of the living” has never been more important.