I was brought up, as I’m sure most of you were, to believe that lying is wrong. It should be even worse when people in positions of power and influence deliberately lie to those they are responsible to, but I’m beginning to feel that, wrong or not, lying in public office is a very effective technique.
For maximum effect, it should be a very big lie, like Jeremy Hunt’s assertion that the new junior doctor contract has anything to do with providing a 7-day service (whatever that means – it seems to vary from day to day), although a relentless flow of little lies can also be a viable technique, as witnessed by Boris’s deranged allegations concerning straight bananas, recycling of teabags and the ban on children blowing up balloons.
Then of course, there’s the Brexiteers’ claim that the subs we currently pay to Europe would be instantly diverted to fund the NHS, with no recognition of the cash that flows in the other direction, and which would be lost in the event of exit.
The remain camp’s apocalyptic claims concerning the dire effects of exit on family incomes or GDP, while not clearly lies, are at least very dodgy, statistically.
And no discussion of lying in politics would be complete without mention of Donald Trump who is as familiar with the concept of the truth as King Herod was with the principles of childcare – he really is the gift that keeps on giving.
That politicians lie is hardly a revelation, but what bothers me about all this is the fact that the public seem so ready to accept those lies uncritically, even when they are exposed in all their falsity.
Admittedly, the Hunt lie concerning 7-day working did require some minimal understanding of data analysis and the difference between association and causation. This could easily have been explained by engaged journalists, but unfortunately the latter, like honest politicians, seem to be a threatened species, even if you exclude those working for the Murdoch press.
But if we come back to Boris, he seems to prosper despite the fact that his lies, like those of young children, are so easy to expose for what they are. He repeats the same untruths about the EU, despite the wide publication of the true state of affairs, and is still tipped as the most likely successor to Cameron.
That’s still true after his disastrous appearance before the Treasury Select Committee. As the committee chairman said, after Boris had ranted on for a while, ‘This is all very interesting, Boris, except none of it is really true, is it?’.
Time after time, his lies had been exposed for what they were, but he just doesn’t care – he doesn’t have to, because he knows that the public think he is a breath of fresh air on the political scene, and they thought he did a good job of chairing ‘Have I Got News for You’.
Now, it may seem as if I’m accusing the public of being stupid, but then, some of them are, a bit, aren’t they?
We see the same tendency to accept attractively-packaged nonsense in the field of complementary medicine (mind you, Hunt is an apologist for homeopathy – mendacious and stupid; I can see him going right to the top in the Tory party).
I’m not sure what we can do about this. It’s good that people like Professor Edzard Ernst do their best to combat the more inane claims of the complementary therapists, but only a small percentage of the population will ever be exposed to his writings, and the same is true of tireless campaigners like Simon Singh.
We ought to be able to rely on journalists to redress the balance, but since the majority of the population read newspapers which value a good headline over rigorous analysis, that’s just not going to happen.
I suppose all we can do is keep plugging away and hoping that sense will prevail, but I’ll not be holding my breath. And in the meantime, if Hilary Clinton’s campaign continues to stumble as her email indiscretions emerge, we can look forward to Boris and Donald getting together to sort out Anglo-American relations in the not too distant future.
And as if that’s not bad enough, the Tories will have sold the NHS off to Boots and assorted US ‘health care providers’.
Ah well, I’ve had a good life.