Friday, 12 June 2009

Hain Lied Again! - Are the Politicians Getting It?

Interesting Questiontime last night - it's a bellwether!

In the wake of the Expenses scandal MP's really aren't getting it.

The scandal wasn't underlyingly about expenses. As Daniel Finkelstein pointed out here, it was simply a 'gotcha' moment. It was the moment at which there was irrefutable proof that MPs are liars and cheats. (or at least some of them are - not that many people recognise the differences).

Politicians should now realise that after this scandal it simply is not possible to carry on lying and expect to gain any degree of respectability - if they lie to people now, after the scandal, then they just hammer more nails into their political coffins.

The thing that made Questiontime interesting last night was when a questioner asked the panel if the govt was proposing to increase spending in 'real terms'. Peter Hain lied - he said they were. Caroline Spellman tried not to lie and not to use inflamatory language - i.e. the filthy word 'cuts' and just about got away with it.

After the panel had answered it went back to the questioner and he said that he had voted Labour at the last 3 elections but that Hain's answer had just lost his vote at the next one. The point the questioner was making was that it wasn't the content of Hain's answer that counted it was simply that he had lied - and on that basis he could not possibly vote for Labour.

Politicians need to get the message - The time has passed when politicians could go on national TV, tell lies and expect to be electable. You can't hide behind 'collective responsibility' or decide that for the sake of party unity that you have to chant the party line.

What a terrible shock this must be - to think that any politician could actually appear on TV and answer a straight question with a straight answer. But what if their straight answer was at odds with party policy - wouldn't that just drive a wedge into every argument?

Short answer no. Politicians who hope to form a government are going to have get used to the fact that people will no longer accept liars.

So instead, Conservative politicians will have to use' The Ken Clarke template'. When they disagree with an element of party policy they can use the magic phrase 'The settled will of the party is... but my position is.....'

Time to wake up and grow up and start treating the electorate like adults. If you try and tell the electorate that Conservative politicians are identikit Conservatives who all share the same thoughts and ideas you will just 1) Insult their intelligence 2) Lie to them 3) Be unelectable.

Of course you could just try and lie a little bit less than everyone else and hope that you get voted in on that basis.

But is that leadership? Should Conservatives want to be elected in to Government as the 'least worst choice' available? Is that a foundation upon which to take tough decisions and have to make complex arguments to the electorate about how Britain must be governed to return us to prosperity in the future? No it would a floundering, lame duck government who would have to fight every inch of every argument before it could do anything much at all.

What the Conservatives must do right now is make a simple decision to tell the truth - not bendy truth - real simple straight answers truth. The truth may hurt a bit to start of with as Conservative politicians struggle to get used to using a new powerful tool, but in no time at all they will master it and as a result will win people to their cause - which means that when it comes to government they will have the will and support of the people required to push thro the tough measures needed.

That is leadership.


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