politics

Does it matter if our politicians lie to us?


It is a truth universally acknowledged that politicians don’t tell the truth.

They wriggle, they dodge, they say “to the best of my knowledge”, and no-one seems to realise that’s the same as saying “I don’t know enough to do this job.”

The voter expects it. And we’re protected from anything worse than cynicism by the fact most politicians are clever people doing their best, and can cover their arses with their gift of the gab.

But we live in an error when politics is peopled by circus hucksters. And they have different rules.



“Rules? Where we’re going, we don’t need… rules”

During Donald Trump’s 1,460 days in office he told 30,573 untruths, according to analysis by the Washington Post. That’s an average of 21 every single day.

But wait, there’s more. In November 2017, just 10 months after taking office, the average was 6 a day. After 2 years, it was 10 a day. By last October, on the back foot due to plague and an upcoming general election, it had jumped to 50. The teams of factcheckers to which Trump had given four years of gainful employment predicted he might hit as many as 25,000 false claims, and although his emissions slowed down considerably after the the Capitol riots he still managed to exceed their worst predictions.

And this was not political slyness, not verbal sleight-of-hand to get re-elected. They were flat lies, unless you want to claim he is so deluded he doesn’t recognise reality, in which case he should never have been given 5,800 nuclear warheads to play with. And the lies got more frequent, as the older ones came home to roost and fresh ones had to be told to cover them.

They were lies that killed. They undermined faith in the civil institutions of a superpower. Joe Biden now has the same job as the Founding Fathers, which is to build a nation from the ground up.



“Rather him than us, eh what?”

The UK voted for a flawed personality cult a year before the US, but they’ve shucked theirs sooner. But while Boris Johnson has more of a survival instinct, “Britain Trump” has likewise a long record of uttering falsehoods.

There have been insane promises – back to normal by Christmas, take back control of our fish, £350m a week for the NHS – which turned into lies later. Then there utterances that were untrue from birth – there will be no customs checks, we have tackled the debt and the deficit, I’ve never heard of Marcus Rashford’s school meals campaign until today.

These were lies that did not need to be told. There were cleverer, truer words available that would have got him in less trouble. He did not reach for them, and as a result whenever his government speaks we reach for something to throw at the telly.

When they abandon standard spin and opt instead to tear the fabric of reality, it means that when they do say something useful – you’ll be fined £800 for a house party, for example, or the rolling average of Covid-19 deaths has been worse, every day for the past week, than it was on the single worst day in April – we don’t listen. There’s no belief left, and no bandwidth, either.

Both men have reduced their once-respected political parties to a survivalist siege. There is little to choose between the disciples of Trump, still screaming in Congress about the election being stolen, and the Branch Davidians tooling up in the name of a mad messiah at Waco.

Even Comical Ali, the Iraqi press spokesman who declared victory even as the Allies were at the gates of Baghdad, wouldn’t have the brass neck of Priti Patel telling Radio 4 listeners that the government followed scientific advice “from day one of this pandemic”. Stick a hallelujah and a tambourine on it, why don’t you.

Johnson and Trump are showmen who lied that they were politicians. They lied to get the job, and lied to hold on to it. But someone who really was a politician would know that means electoral defeat eventually – not because of the untruths, perhaps, but because the lies of a leader undermine a nation, and when that happens the government always takes a beating.

Joe Biden’s landslide was a welcome surprise for many, but he had the benefit of a tightly-written constitution which still forms a spine for the American body politic. In Britain, we have instead a bone-deep need for an underdog to win: that’s why Brexit happened, at its root.

But we are stuck with an Opposition party trying to be a competent alternative to chaos. It’s not selling. Biden is hardly a fresh face, but his safe pair of hands were holding a new approach to recent problems. Labour needs to find the same – common sense policies delivered by an underdog in whose story people can believe in.

Until they do, we’re led by a liar who gives us only disillusionment. The question is who, and what, can survive another four years of him.





READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more