Lies, damned lies, and politics

By Guy Brandon, 29 April 2015

The saying, attributed by Mark Twain to 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (falsely, appropriately enough), goes that there are ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’. Being economical with the truth is nothing new for politicians, but even Twain might have raised an eyebrow at some of the positioning that’s going on now, just eight days away from what promises to be the messiest General Election in a century.


As we career closer to the finish line, it seems that the parties are struggling to outdo themselves with more and more outlandish promises. That there will be no increase in income tax, VAT or national insurance before 2020 (something that surely relies on the economy remaining relatively stable for that time). That energy bills will be capped (which depends on the price of oil remaining the same, amongst other things). That both Labour and the Conservatives really can win a majority, despite the fact that the polls have barely moved in months and both the major parties look set to lose seats.

Read Votewise 2015: making a difference at the ballot box and beyond

One of the reasons it’s easy to make policy promises is that no one will need to keep them. A coalition or minority government of some form is practically a certainty, so any flagship policies stand to be diluted or forgotten in the course of the negotiations that will inevitably follow the election. Yet even here, parties are swearing – unconvincingly – that they will not work with each other. The SNP say they will ‘lock David Cameron out of Downing Street’ by voting down a confidence vote in the event of a Conservative win, but Labour say they are ruling out any kind of deal with the SNP too. The Lib Dems will happily work with either Labour or the Conservatives, but say they will not be a part of any government that includes UKIP or the SNP. Clearly, if all of these hold to their word, there is very little chance of a stable government of any form.

On May 8th, barring a sea change in the polls that have remained static since before the beginning of the year, someone is practically guaranteed to have to swallow their words and back down – doing what they have promised before the electorate not to do.

One of the reasons for the fragmentation of the political landscape over the past 10 years has been widespread disillusionment over the lies and spin of mainstream politics, leading to the rise of the protest vote. To reference another famous quote – this one, falsely attributed to Einstein, ‘You don’t solve a problem by using the same thinking that got you into it.’

Or, as the Bible says, ‘nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light’ (Luke 8:17) and ‘Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, “Yes, yes” or “No, no”; anything beyond these is of evil.’ (Matthew 5:36-37).

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Category: Blogs

April, 2015

Comments (3)

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  1. Justin says:

    There are two sorts of deals, coalition or ‘confidence and supply.’ Firstly, just one quibble, the Lib Dems would also not work with Labour if they did a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the SNP, in other words, they’ll both support aspects of each others policies, but no positions of government for the junior partner. Other than that, I think Brandon’s analysis is decent.

    Secondly, I also think ukip will be shut out because ukip do well in by-elections when they can focus all their resources in one seat, but spread out over 650 seats they will struggle and disappoint their supporters with perhaps 3-4 seats at the most! And I wouldn’t be surprised if they only retain their 2 seats. That hardly puts them in a position to talk about coalition talks with the conservatives.

    On yesterday’s hustings, given that Lib Dems and Conservatives are talking about a federal UK, I am surprised Julian Huppert (he tells me he is a republican by the way) does not understand how are federal republic would work??? If that is correct, he not only disagrees with his party on keeping the monarchy, he does not agree with his party on federalism??? By the way, firstly, I only mentioned that to put the Tories encouragement of English nationalism on the spot and secondly, under pressure of being ‘succinct’ I forgot to mention the federalism part should be *voluntary*, and not imposed from above.

    Daniel Zeichner’s response was also curious, apparently a federal republic would cause the break up of the UK, talk about a strawman argument, I don’t advocate the break up of Britain at all! I opposed people cheering on a potentially independent Scotland. I believe in a united Britain, but on a republican basis and to calm any national grievances, allow for more devolution powers, (federalism) if need be. That is an approach that will *not* lead to the break up of Britain, but help *avoid* a breakup of Britain!!!

    And the green member response, ‘I don’t understand,'(and in private, the independent candidate did not understand either). I find the candidates (and Green member’s poor political education) lack of understanding my question or Fernando’s unsurprising dismissive ‘no’ (to be fair, Fernando likely understood) depressing, and that is why I have no choice but to spoil my ballot.

    • JubileeCentre says:

      Thank you, Justin.
      To be fair, the Green representative, Kate Honey, was not the prospective MP. She was standing in for Rupert Read.
      And you always have a choice.

      • Justin says:

        I understand that Kate Honey was not a prospective MP, but it says something about the poor political education within the Green party when she said, ‘I don’t understand.’ I firmly believe that a party should raise the political education to the same level as leading members. Also, the Green party has not bothered to inform people that there was a internal vote in Brighton for councillors to oppose *all* cuts on the council, this was not reported by the Green party, therefore, such contempt for democracy disqualifies them for my vote.

        Only the Green Left reported the internal votes by the way – An EGM motion that was amended got 73 votes for to 55 against, the amendment read – “Should the 5.9% budget fail at Budget Council we request that Green Party Councilors adopt a “No Cuts” policy by voting against all other budget options”. Yet the Green councillors ignored this!

        And an Irish green left the party 3 years ago, as Joseph Healy put it,

        ‘How can the Greens seriously challenge the corporate sector, the global corporations, climate change in the Arctic and the prospect of resource wars and famines, if they fall down at the first puff of wind from Eric Pickles and the Department for Communities and Local Government?’

        Exactly. And you are right, I do have a choice, I will spoil my ballot by writing ‘democratic socialism’ on it. 😀

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