25 April 2023
Our first 180th anniversary lecture of the summer term was a fascinating look at “Changing Times” by Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP. Mr Hinds, Minister of State at Ministry of Justice, and a former Secretary of State for Education, focused in particular on how technology affects the way politics works today.
Mr Hinds set the scene by admitting that, while politicians aren’t always the most popular of people, without a representative legislature we wouldn’t have freedom and democracy. Our students, he explained, will come across the principle of “someone’s got to do it” as they go through life. Someone has to be a politician, a journalist, the person who asks difficult questions, runs the parish council or a local charity, or is on the PTA. “We can’t all wait for someone else to do it,” Mr Hinds reasoned.
Mr Hinds told the audience that his political career has coincided with some enormous changes, including the rise of populist governments across Europe, Brexit and Covid. However, he believes the single biggest change in that time is the effect of technology on media and communication, which in turn affects politics. History shows us that this has already happened, with the arrival of the printing press, telegraph, radio and TV. The big difference now is the rapidity of change.
Among many thought-provoking aspects of his in-depth exploration of the topic, Mr Hinds looked at how online engagement in politics tend to get “shouty, sometimes offensive, and most of all tends to emphasise the differences we have rather than the things we can agree on”. He highlighted how news is also arriving with us far faster than it used to, forcing politicians – and others - to react to things extremely quickly, which “means you don’t have time to think about it, so you end up making policy positions and responses before anyone’s really had any time to deliberate.”
Mr Hinds’ talk elicited plenty of questions and everyone in the audience left with a great deal of food for thought.