Currently mulling over the truthfulness and not of local politicians at the moment. I had a much longer posting in my head, but I don’t think time will allow… but suffice to say that a letter that we received last week from a local politician has left me wondering if we still actually value truth any more in politics.
This might sound naive, but during 15 years of active political engagement, it’s only in the past few years I’ve come to see at first hand not just a twisting of the truth (which, lets face it, you expect) but outright lies.
The point of a local opposition party is to challenge lies and deceit when it appears, but in West Lancs I think there is a stalemate because there is no third-party to keep the others in check. The local papers don’t scrutinise – partly because you have to get someone to do the digging, which costs money.
A lack of clear responsibility for local services – caused by the split between County and District – gives space for claims and counter-claims to be made with no real authority and no clarity for the population to gauge the truthfulness.
A status quo appears to have emerged where stuff just gets said with no apparent consequence. Free swimming for the under 16’s is just one example. The Tories say that it will cost an extra £100,000 to implement it and so they’re not doing it – when there is very little justification for that statement at all. Does that make it a lie? On the face of it, probably not. If they said it just so that they have something in the local paper which puts the government in a bad light with the aim of keeping control at the District and perhaps gaining votes at the County and General Elections, then yes, that makes it a premeditated lie – but my analysis is just guesswork – so I can’t say one way or the other. I’m pretty certain, though, that I’m right.
The Skelmersdale development is said to be bringing in £350 million investment into the town centre (I may have got that figure wrong), but when questioned that £350 million was the projected _value_ of the town centre when it is completed – not the amount of investment. Is that a lie? Does it matter? It expect that it does if you’re being kicked out of your house to get the development done. Does it matter if the conclusion of the project is a new re-invigorated town centre?
If it becomes OK to mislead on the big things – for the greater good. Does it then follow that we should lie on a personal one to one basis? To gain power, or to maintain power? To avoid people finding out what one really thinks?
Personally, I think I have to go back to Philosophy 101 and Politics 101. But my gut feeling is that where we have politicians willing to be truthful with the public that they serve and who can be trusted on a one-to-one basis, then it’s not just a better functioning local democracy, but we also then will have a better chance of getting the things that the District, the towns and villages, really need.