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Stirring up a storm in a teacup over Twitter

There’s no doubt that social media has transformed our political behaviour over the last decade or so. Very little of it has been for the better in my opinion.

There was recently a ‘Twitter storm’ over how newly appointed chancellor Rishi Sunak got himself pictured holding a particular brand of tea. Some of the language used left a particularly bad taste in many quarters.

The same could be said about the viral reaction to an intentionally provocative video clip of an audience member on BBC Question Time who demanded that UK borders should closed to all future immigration.

Let me say here that I’ve participated in a number of studio discussions over the years. What you see – even during the ‘live’ transmissions - is seldom a full account of what’s said. That includes before and after.

In one I sat through during the last Senedd elections, the audience were firmly told beforehand by the floor manager that we should not raise any unrelated (non-Welsh) issue.

Then, just before recording, a small group were quickly ushered to a row of reserved front seats. Throughout the show, they shouted out critical comments about the EU, often at the urging of the presenter.

That’s why, like many others, I seriously question the worth of political panel shows or televised ‘debates’ that inevitably reduce discussion to a partisan version of the Jeremy Kyle show.

I get it; we’re divided as a nation. If I was in any doubt about that then reading insensitive online comments about how flooded northern communities are paying the price for voting Tory clears things up for me.

We’ve always wanted politicians who are able to come up with overnight answers to insoluble problems. Now we have a government which thinks it can meet those demands – or at least likes to give that impression. Sadly however we now also have a confused media that doesn’t seem able to decide if its role is to counter-balance the prejudiced rubbish found on social media or simply join in.

It’s long been said that there’s not much difference between politics and showbiz. It strikes me that it’s probably too late now to get that show off the road.

Health is as much about prevention as cure

The writer of a slightly muddled email I received managed to misconstrue why I backed health screening in last week’s column.

What prompted my call for a greater take up of regular free health assessments is the number of reports that state the pace of life expectancy improvement in England & Wales is falling dramatically.

According to one published last year by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the risk of death among working age men and women here is now 20-40% higher than the average for 22 other high-income countries.

A more recent survey highlighted imbalances throughout the UK and blames the widening health gap on rising poverty, the closure of employment centres, education cuts, worsening housing and the so-called gig economy.

We can’t tackle those causes on our own in Wales but we do have a devolved health service that offers checks. Use it or lose it is my advice.



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