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Case study: polite politics versus Twitter twaddle

Like many who had not seen Labour’s strong election showing coming last year, I headed to conference 2017 newly-curious about the Corbyn movement. Along with two hacks from national dailies, I popped into the lefty fringe festival, “The World Transformed”, staged by Compass and Momentum. The hall was packed, ages ranged from students to pensioners, all listening to stalwart socialist academics talking intelligently but very abstractly about things like “hegemony.” Some were probably giving the same speech they’d been giving since the '70s, but suddenly—and remarkably—they now held a large audience transfixed. I took a snap and tweeted it with a joshingly mystified caption: “a packed hall at the Momentum fringe to talk about, err, hegemony.”

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In Prospect’s October issue: Rafael Behr argues that politics has been poisoned by Twitter—the platform often drives the political news agenda, encourages people to descend deeper and deeper into echo chambers and sees MPs and their families regularly abused. Meanwhile, former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger explains how Oxford picks its students and says that more needs to be done for the colleges to be more inclusive. Also, Jasmin Mujanovic outlines how Bosnia’s elections this month could tip the country back into conflict. Elsewhere in the issue: Alex Dean highlights the alarming decline in the number of students studying a foreign language at GCSE and beyond. Will Self reviews a series of new books about liberalism, arguing that “we need more than just social freedoms and the free market.” Aimee Cliff charts the story of the dying dream that London would be a 24-hour city.