Last week, in amongst the joy and happiness of the Christmas season, I spent a sad moment at the funeral of John Holden. John had been mayor of Stourport a few years ago and was afforded a Civic Funeral. I have known John for nearly 15 years and he had been an active member of the Conservative Party before joining UKIP, so I was aware of his contribution to the local community as a councillor. But as his eulogy was read by the current mayor, I was struck by just how long he had worked for the communities he lived in. Long before he took an active interest in politics, he served as chairman of various trade organisations within his beloved meat industry and as a magistrate. He was, in short, a man who put his community first.
But as I sat in the church listening to his eulogy, I was struck by just how many people in the congregation were also active community champions. Being a civic funeral, many were, of course, local politicians. All of them, in their own way, have dedicated their lives to serving their communities and it is worth remembering that many people are involved with public service who do it through routes other than politics – from running charities through to simple things like being active members of local clubs, helping out where they can. Yet in politics we engage in healthy debate about policy, taking differing views. And the vast majority of those in politics recognise that taking a different view from another person doesn’t mean that person is always wrong – it just means they have a different view and it is worth listening to, debating and trying to find a constructive way forward, even if you eventually come to the conclusion that the best way forward may not be their point of view. If contrary views are considered we hope that, in the hugely complex world of policy making, the best solution to an issue is found.
Yet in the world of instant social media, there seems to be an intolerance that, in many cases, is put forward by armchair activists. Public scrutiny of politicians is important, but not hateful personal attacks against politicians of all parties. The John Holdens of this world will always be remembered, admired and respected; Twitter trolls will be forgotten. John was an example to us all.