December 12, 2019 by Paul Goldsmith
Until voters are prepared to hear the unvarnished truth, politicians would be irrational to give it to them.
We will soon rake over the coals of what to many has been a lacklustre campaign, in which repeating soundbites has replaced proper debate and our electoral system has forced many voters to a false choice of ‘least worst’.
As we do that, we might note that the word ‘trust’ has been thrown around on all sides. Can we trust anything Boris Johnson says? Can we trust this Labour leadership to deliver on its highly ambitious promises? We would benefit from thinking about why trust has become such an issue in politics.
I had been wondering about this and couldn’t put my finger on it until I came across a thought provoking article in the Times by Robert Crampton. He believes it’s because the electorate has stopped wanting to the truth. They may claim they do, but when you run a country at some point politics ends and economics begins. Economics isn’t called the dismal science for nothing. It’s a bit like the ‘Cassandra’ of politics – constantly and boringly pointing out the realities and consequences of certain decisions, being ignored until what it says comes true.
Politicians are not all liars. But if they don’t lie at least a little bit they won’t get elected into Parliament, let alone Government. Don’t believe me? Try these questions on someone:
1. Will you personally pay more tax in order to increase public spending that might keep you safer, healthier and your children better educated?
2. Will you personally have a wind farm installed at the end of your garden to help increase renewable energy?
3. Will you personally give up your inheritance to pay for the social care from the state that would allow you to avoid having to personally care for them?
4. Will you personally retire later in order to make sure the country can afford to take proper care of you when you live the longer life you are probably going to live?
5. Will you allow HS2 to be built at the end of your garden in order to improve rail transport around the country?
6. Will you personally agree to take a lower income and massively change your lifestyle in order to accommodate the impact of climate change policies that involve measuring living standards on quality of air and environment more than Gross Domestic Product?
7. Will you personally work picking vegetables from fields or portering in a hospital or wiping backsides in a care home so the country doesn’t need to encourage immigrants to come here to do those jobs instead?
8. Will you personally stop eating junk food, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol to save huge amounts of money on the NHS OR pay for treatment for any illness caused by those things?
9. Are you prepared to bump MPs salaries up to a much higher level so that people with experience in the medical professions or law or even teaching who could make great MPs aren’t taking a pay cut to become one?
10) Will you personally give up your civil liberties in order to make it easier for the intelligence services to monitor possible terrorists?
I could go on and on and on with these. But instead I will leave you with these two thoughts…imagine if Boris Johnson told millions of Leave voters the exact risks of both his deal and a possible No Deal Brexit over the next few years…imagine if Jeremy Corbyn told voters that it is very possible that people other than the top 5% of income earners would have to pay more tax, or future generations pay off more debt, to afford his policies…would they win elections? No.
We know this because the one time this was tried..by Theresa May in 2017, who, thinking she would win a massive majority, attempted to address some serious issues such as social care and tried to remove the ‘triple lock’ on pensions and refused to promise no tax rises. She lost the Conservatives’ majority.
Politicians lie because voters don’t want to hear the truth, and until we wake up to our responsibility for that, we deserve the politicians we get.
* I would like to thank Robert Crampton from the Times for really making me think about this.Read here