Iím often surprised how many people feel they know the absolute truth about very complex issues, like our relationship with the European Union, or the merits of maintaining a nuclear deterrent.
To me these important issues are hugely difficult and it is only after careful thought that I have decided where I stand on them. And even then, new facts could always change my mind. For the record, I am in favour of our membership of the EU, but we must fight our corner within it, and I support the replacement of the Trident missile system with a successor, while yearning for a world in which it was not necessary.

People who find these difficult issues simple may or may not be right Ė but what does disappoint me is the anger they often use to express themselves if you dare to disagree with them. CND campaigners who oppose my views on the nuclear deterrent, and UKIP supports who think Iím wrong about Europe have a perfect right to express themselves, forcefully if necessary, but the aggression they and others often show does sadden me.

Iíve been an MP in Worcestershire now for nearly twenty years and one of the chief joys of representing the county in Parliament is the thoughtful way most local people express themselves. But recently Iíve seen an increase in anger in the emails I receive. Is it the format (even gentle people can sound very angry in an email Iíve discovered) or is there a real increase in anger in society?

I suspect itís a bit of both Ė and that worries me. Our democracy depends not on who shouts loudest winning, but who makes the best argument. National newspapers, often showing scant regard for the truth, seem more and more determined to stir up wrath rather than common sense. Campaigning groups like 38 Degrees, a new web-based organisation, seem to believe that stridency is the best weapon. I donít agree. Their ill-tempered circular emails impress no one, but many people are persuaded to send them in mass campaigns. Often I discover that by writing back, putting the other side of the argument, I prompt emails of apology for having fallen for the propaganda of 38 Degrees

My hope for the New Year Ė and itís going to be a difficult one for the world, for Europe and for the UK Ė is that calm, rational argument will prevail over anger and prejudice. I wonder.


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