The old joke was knowing when a politician was lying by watching for any mouth movement. In recent history it’s not a joke anymore, it’s the accepted truth. It would be easy to blame it on the MPs’ expense scandal, but I think it goes further back than that.
As Peter Oborne, from a right wing perspective, is fond of pointing out, there is a lack of any sort of honour among our current crop of politicians. He places a lot of the blame on Blair and he is not totally wrong to do so, but even that is not the whole picture. Certainly truth takes a back seat with the heirs to Blair, Cameron and Clegg. They will quite happily talk about being the protectors of the NHS when we know that the US health companies have been lobbying senior Tories for years and have a lot of sway on policy. A year before the election when Osborne’s conference speech on the austerity he would impose didn’t go down too well with the electorate, it was dropped from their election platform. Let’s not even bother going into Clegg’s tuition fee pledge, the excuses are just too easy to see through.
Politicians no longer resign, or stay resigned, when caught being dishonest. Their skins have got thicker because the belief system no longer ranks personal honesty that high. Now politics is under the control of focus groups, the spin doctors and the marketing gurus. We have been gifted politics American style. Just look at the Republican Party presidential candidate race to see where honour is of no importance.
When did all this start? Well if we were honest, no matter what the far right of his party says, Cameron is no Heathite. There isn’t an ounce of ‘One Nation Tory’ in him. He may be the heir of Blair but he is definitely the son of Thatcher. The same can be said of Labour. There was nothing of Wilson in any of the New Labour leadership, they were a new breed. Yes, both parties have gone over to the Americans, lock, stock and barrel.
The neo-liberalism of Keith Joseph and Enoch Powell were only the start of Thatcher’s drift towards the new economics making headway in the US. Getting Milton Friedman’s blessing showed Thatcher her path ahead. For New Labour it was lessons of Bill Clinton. The style suited Blair perfectly. Appearance was everything, substance taking a back seat.
So now we have our two main parties and our politicians caring very little for being caught lying because it’s the sound bites that matter, not the truth. Cameron can’t even tell the truth on whether he had rode an old nag. When I heard about Blair talking with Ed Miliband my first though is that he must be lobbying for Murdoch. The danger is in us accepting that this dishonesty is the norm, that there’s no need to even pretend anymore. If we do we will end with an American political system with the government bought and paid for, whether by Wall Street, Big Oil or their British equivalents, before the voting even takes place.