‘Nearly 62 years have passed since I wrote my first newspaper column.
Admittedly, I had marginally fewer readers (three thousand on the Penarth Times as opposed to more than three million on the Saturday Mail), plus pimples and black hair instead of wrinkles and white hair.
A few other things have changed, too. The Today programme on Radio 4 was a stripling — just five years old — which had only just ventured into the tricky world of current affairs from the safe territory of ‘topical talks’.
We didn’t even have a word for what we now call ‘the media’. This vast agglomeration of individuals and organisations clamouring for our attention, desperate to sell us their views or just sell themselves, simply did not exist. Let alone ‘social media’.
The internet made it all possible. And we have gained a lot. Many thoughtful people with sensible things to say have been given a pulpit. But I reckon we’ve lost even more.
What might have become a great global symphony of voices, rich and varied, has been drowned by the shrill and the judgmental and sometimes the downright threatening.
There is a case for saying people in the public eye who can’t stand the heat should simply get out of the kitchen — I’ve never sent a tweet — but there’s a stronger case for making our public discourse reasonably civil. Because there is something much more worrying going on here.’