Is Lack of Faith in Politicians Justified – Do they Lie or Just Mislead?
Having sat through last nights Northampton Borough Council Budget meeting at which a number of the Conservative Councillors made statements that I’m sure even they didn’t believe the members of the public who attended must wonder “do they lie or just mislead us”.
It is the same when you read comments to stories published in the Chronicle and Echo or hear on Local BBC radio phone in programmes where the public believe that most politicians are self-serving individuals who are either avoiding the question or simply not telling the truth.
Unfortunately and understandably it all comes back to the increase in spin, smoke and mirrors with politicians preferring to blame those who oppose them and especially the public by claiming that it is down to a misunderstanding of what they’ve actually said and promised.
This is based on the politician’s unfailing ability to re-write history followed by a re-evaluation and explanation of what they really meant usually it has to be said following advice from political advisors.
So let’s take the question head on,
Do Politicians Lie?
It’s a difficult question to answer without tarring everyone with the same brush which would be unfair to those who are honest and would rather apologise and admit to an error or mistake rather than try to cover it up.
Between politicians of course accusations of having lied just doesn’t happen and instead are hidden behind polite words from all sides who if they think an opponent has not been “honest and open about the facts” (that’s one way of accusing someone of telling a lie) they accuse them of being “disingenuous”, of being “intentionally misleading”, “of being short on the accuracy of their statement” or “the Cllr (name to be inserted) and truth are but passing strangers”.
All of course infer that the person has in fact lied.
So do politicians, your democratically elected representatives actually stand up and tell what used to be called in old parlance “a bare faced lie”.
Well in the same way that ladies don’t sweat but only gently perspire whereas only men and horses sweat they don’t.
Do you believe it?
Of course politicians don’t lie; they are only if anything guilty of stating something they know to be “misleading”, but and it is a big but, there are in politics a number of grades of being misleading.
For example when the Borough Council Conservatives claim that there is “one hour free parking” in Northampton it is “misleading” based on an optimism and real belief that they believe what they say is true.
Or do they?
They clearly know that the truth is that there is only “Up to 1 hour free parking” in the pay on foot NBC owned multi-storey car parks and the fact is that if you stay for over 1 hour and under 2 hours the cost is £1.20 so in reality you pay 60p an hour for each of the first 2 hours instead of the previous £1.60 or 80p and hour.
To be factually accurate anything over a 1 hour stay in any of the NBC owned car parks means that there is no free parking.
Then there is what can be called “unintentional unintended misleading” where there may well have been a change of mind that they don’t want to admit to.
This usually happens when politicians are frightened to admit they have changed policy for fear that they will lose control of events and be seen as weak.
Using Car Parking as an example again, the claims that all NBC car parking prices have been reduced by 25% from 80p to 60p an hour in Borough Council owned car parks is only true for the first 2 hours in every car park. If you stay over 2 hours then the cost of parking for ‘up to 3 hours’ is £2.40 which is 80p an hour the same as it was under the Liberal Democrats.
So in fact for any period over 2 hours car parking charges are the same as they were before the 2011 election.
Of course if you press them on the actual facts then you come across the most common form of misleading, that of evasion, the type that makes John Humphreys and Jeremy Paxman demand they “just answer the question – Yes or No”.
In the case of car parking it would be seen in as “you must understand this is only phase 1 and we are looking at all of the options again” delaying and evading answering by diverting attention away from the question “we are in a very difficult economic situation and didn’t realise the financial state of the Council”.
An example again is that all car park charges have been standardised reducing charges when in fact in this years budget some car parking charges have been increased from 60p to 80p an hour a 25% increase.
Finally when all other means of misleading methods have been used politicians resort to the “blatant misleading” statements that they know full well no-one believes least of all their own supporters, an example of course is the “we are wholly united with everyone supporting all of our policies” statement.
This is the stage at which political leaders are starting to get desperate in the full knowledge that an iron fist control demanding total allegiance approach is beginning to slip away as decent, honest and intelligent members of the group start to rebel against being treated as voting fodder.
It is when supporters openly question the leadership and direction the administration is going usually talking of them being out of touch, not prepared to listen and who knows accusations of being “sleazy”, “tilting at windmills” or having “lost their toolbox” that you know the behind the scenes plotting has started..
This is the final intentional – informed – misleading method illustrated most clearly by Edwina Reizer’s famous nursery rhyme,
LIAR, LIAR PANTS ON FIRE
Liar, liar we see the fire
coming from your mouth each day.
The fire that burns the truth
as we struggle along our way,
the fire that inflames the heart of those
that are tired of the words you speak.
So many deceptions that come our way
day after day, week after week.
Liar, liar, pants on fire
what will it take to see you on a burning pyre?
Never a trustworthy thought do you keep,
How can you close your eyes and sleep?
It has become your way of living,
You say nothing that’s worth forgiving.
For you’re a liar, liar
with your pants on fire,
So back to the question,
Do politicians lie?
You might just as well ask, do the seasons follow each other, has the pope got to be a catholic and in the next 24 hours in Northampton will day follow night.
The major question is how do elected politicians convince people they can be trusted and when will they realise that if ever there was time for telling the truth it has to be now during a period when people are faced with increasing financial pressures threatening not only their jobs but also their homes.
The problem is of course that it is the public who has to decide who is telling the truth and they are finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between those that are and those who aren’t.
I’m not sure if a lack of faith in politicians is justified but can well understand why it is on the increase and will continue to increase as those who become involved are more and more from the politically ambitious, career minded type with political and PR qualifications who see the public as no more than a tool on the way to achieving their personal aims and ambitions.
It’s perhaps just a sign of the times.