I learned twenty five years or so ago that it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time. I was opening my post on a Saturday (no emails then). First a letter from a constituency vet: do not allow the docking of dog tails! Very next letter from a constituency vet: please vote for docking of dog tails!
Fortunately, we are not elected to slavishly follow the opinions of our constituents. We are elected to exercise our own judgement and if the majority don’t like it, they can eject us at a general election – and often do. That is how our democracy works.
And it is just as well. Every day now my office receives emails on Covid from all sides of the arguments. Some argue passionately that we should just let the virus rip and just protect the elderly (even though that is impossible). Some rage that we should introduce a total further lockdown immediately, irrespective of the economic damage.
The national media huff and puff and sensationalise everything. Many of us believe in lockdown, our media was appalling in its tone and performance. A similar broad range of views, many of them crazy, can be seen commenting on any article posted online, whether on my Facebook page or elsewhere.
What is to be done? How to make decisions in such a swirling maelstrom? Policy makers must be guided by three key principles:
First, never forget the silent majority. The vast majority of people do not email their MPs or comment on online articles. They are getting on with their lives and broadly recognise the difficult decisions that have to be made and support them. The common sense of the silent majority is what makes our country resilient and great.
Secondly, policy makers must decide which experts they are going to listen to, weigh all relevant arguments and make decisions in the national interest. There will always be an outlier scientist or expert with a different view. There will always be the academic who pontificates from an ivory tower. But we are elected to make decisions, based on the very best advice we can receive.
Finally, we must recognise that we can only do our best. Policy makers are human beings. Mistakes will be made. When we do, lessons need to be quickly learned.
In this way, we will get through this nasty virus. Everybody is doing their best in unprecedented circumstances. Let’s dig deep. If we can walk the right path from now until early 2021, next Easter could well be brimming over with Hope.