St Bride's: News

All this new technology, and Mr Osborne, too!

Down the ages, St Bride's has been the venue for many an important preacher, or journalist, even an Archbishop of Canterbury, and not to mention cathedral Deans from time to time! On November 14, the Wren church welcomed another famous visitor. Well, sort of.

osborne.jpgBecoming Shadow Chancellor for the Conservatives after only five years in politics is a pretty rapid rise, but if George Osborne does make the top financial job in the Government, would he be able to spare the time to return to St Bride's, one wonders. If it happens, then he would become an addition to that famous list. We'll have to see.

Standing on the steps leading to the high altar, looking trim in a dark suit, white shirt and (amazingly) a red tie. with a backdrop of colourful stage-type reflective light visions decorating the trompe-l'oeil east end wall, Mr Osborne looked and seemed at home when delivering the annual Tom Olsen Memorial Lecture: this was the 14th.

This event is firmly fixed in the St Bride's busy calendar - and what a splendid occasion it always is! There's a fine glass or two of claret before the start and one or two top personalities chatting in groups at the west end. If this year's event did not draw quite the large numbers of last year, when the journalist and broadcaster Andrew Marr was the visitor, then this could not have possibly been because of George Osborne, but the mere fact that he is a politician.

In a sense, it was somewhat surprising that the whole lecture did not have a political theme, because one felt that if ever there was a chance to get over a future government's message about the economy and the state of the nation before an intelligent audience, then this was it.

To his credit, Mr Osborne steered clear of this, and instead, chose as his subject Politics and the Media in the Internet Age. Mind you, true to a politician's norm, he had a few digs at the Government and his opposite buddy on the other side of the house, 'Gordon' to whom he referred on a couple of occasions.

Within 15 minutes or so, Mr Osborne, with the air of a bon viveur, got into his stride.

"In politics and in the media, we've both assumed that we do the talking and the people listen," he growled. "But now, with all this technology, the people are talking back."

He went on (his voice rising as if he was standing over the dispatch box): "It's exciting, liberating, challenging and frightening too." Most of the faces in the audience remained transfixed. Perhaps this was because some of them were hearing for the first time, all those new words and phrases which are racing their way into the dictionary these days. Like: downloading, MySpace, Google homepage, Popbitch emails and blog owners.

This new technology amazes Mr Osborne as much as it did his listeners. "It's a step forward to be able to submit your tax forms online, but why is it not possible to find out where that money is being spent," he queried.

His grasp of all this modern stuff is masterly which the speaker shows when he declares that there is certainly a public appetite for greater online activity. Now that really is something to chew over, don't you think?

Later in his quite splendid peroration, Mr Osborne raised the first real snigger of the evening when he admitted he looked forward to seeing "webGordon."

All this technology stuff, he seemed to be saying, is a type of new democracy and that was a good thing. People are no longer prepared to sit and be spoon fed. They are spreading news and information to one another on a scale never before thought possible. They are the masters now, he cried.

Amen to that, I muttered to myself.

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