Politicians are Liars – Right?

With the Chancellor, George Osborne set to announce the Autumn Statement this week, which will include government plans to guarantee bank loans to small and medium businesses at a cost of £20bn, I find myself asking where did this extra money come from and what happened to the austerity measures set out by the Coalition Government? Many political and economic commentators have made the point that the Coalition Government is now borrowing an extra £46bn and that their current plan differs from that of the Labour Party by only 0.7%. With this in mind I am again left wondering how we got to a place where the economic policies of HM Government and HM Opposition differ by only a whisker when during the election campaigns we were told that the policies of the main political parties were extremely different.

Throughout the various television appearances made by politicians such as the televised debates and the BBC’s Question Time, in the presence of public audiences, the public always claimed that they wanted all politicians to be open and honest about the level of government debt. They constantly requested that politicians treat them as adults and outline the situation as they were grown up enough to accept that cuts were needed in order for the nation’s finances to be straightened out.  Such points made by members of these audiences were often met with rousing applause. However, at the same time members of these audiences were also asking or in some cases demanding that politicians guarantee that their particular interest or section of public spending be protected from government cuts. Whether it was the NHS and nurses, teachers, students, or pensioners everyone wanted their service/s protected. This of course given the state of public funds is and was impossible. As a result politicians had only one option to ensure that they were elected – claim that they were the party for a particular section of the country and would therefore protect that section’s particular interests. The most headline grabbing example of this is the Liberal Democrats manifesto claim to vote against any rise in tuition fees and if elected to abolish them.

In addition to openness and honesty, the public also demanded that politicians respected their decision to elect a coalition government. Many agreed time and time again that a coalition might indeed be a better alternative to a majority government. It was felt that politicians would be better held to account and that they would represent a larger cross section of the electorate, despite the Conservative Party’s claims that a coalition would led to weaker government in which no one was happy and could not be properly held accountable as it would implement a coalition agreement instead of any one party’s manifesto.

Now that the public has been granted what it voted for and in some cases argued for, we constantly hear from television audiences that the Coalition Government is implementing policies and introducing cuts that no one voted for. With this sudden turnaround and lack of support when things do not go the way the public expects, it is no wonder that politicians often appear to say one thing in their manifestos and do another thing in government.

Having said this I do not believe that the public is solely to blame for the lack of integrity of our politicians. It is often the case that politicians do not consistently hold the same position. Take for example the recent vote on the EU referendum in the House of Commons. The Conservative MPs who voted with the Government claimed they did so because they were not willing to vote for legislation that had not been included in their party manifesto at the last General Election. However, Liberal Democrat MPs who voted with the Coalition to increase tuition fees despite their manifesto pledges did so because of the Coalition Agreement. Thus public has received mixed messages. Are they to hold the Coalition to account using the Coalition Agreement or the party manifestos? How will they determine whether the Government has delivered what it promised if they are not sure what it has exactly promised? As a result of this inconsistency, the public feels it has no choice but to mistrust the words of politicians and has therefore become disillusioned with the whole political system.

So where does this leave us? I think that in order for politicians to function the way we expect them to function that is as trustworthy individuals whom we can hold to account at an election, we as a nation need to be more consistent in our opinions and more realistic about what politicians can actually deliver whilst in office. We need to also consider the bigger picture; namely what works best for the whole nation not just our small section or our own particular personal interests. Politicians need to stand their ground and not pander to what we want but rather take the necessary action needed to stabilise the country without feeling the pressure of a looming election or a Question Time audience.

Posted on November 30, 2011, in Coalition Government, Conservative Party, Liberal Democrat Party, Looking Forward, Party Politics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. It seems the problem is the difference between what politicians say to get our votes and what they do. I don’t think any of the main parties is better at being true to their word (which is a shame) but at least some stick with their unequitable decisions!

    But yes I agree, less Pandering and more courageous (lion-heart?) integrity is needed. Where have the days gone when we were inspired by how our leaders dealt with the problems of the nation e.g. William Churchill and WW II. Compare Churchill’s reassuring ‘St Paul’s is still standing’ and ‘Keep calm, carry on’ with Cameron’s ‘We’re all in this together’.

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