The former prime minister argues that we need a real engagement with democracy, not the meaningless platitudes around which politics now operatesby John Major / November 8, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
As a boy, in the 1950s, encouraged by close friends, I cut my teeth as a public speaker on a soapbox in Brixton Market. Even in a crowded and busy market, some took time to stop and listen or question. No one seemed to resent me or my views. No one was hostile, although many must have disagreed with what I said. Today—as politics has become more rancorous—I have often thought back to that time, and wondered how we lost that tolerance of opposing views.
Certainly, tolerance was missing from the EU Referendum Campaign, when honest and thoughtful political debate was abandoned in favour of exaggeration, half-truths and untruths. No one seemed ashamed or embarrassed by this. Indeed, some revelled in it, which suggests that mendacity is acceptable if it panders to a popular prejudice. Then it is sanctioned by many who know it to be untrue, and welcomed by others whose prejudices are supported by it. And, if delivered with wit and panache, it may even be believed. Some of the media reported what was said—even when they must have known it to be improbable (at best) or untrue (at worst). In this way, the Referendum showcased a deterioration in both the conduct and reporting of our politics.