Posts Tagged ‘certainty’

Time for politicians to be straight with the voters

10/05/2012, 07:00:10 AM

by Peter Watt

Real life is full of doubt and ambiguity; shades of grey dominate and we are rightly suspicious of people who peddle certainty.

But when it comes to politics it seems that certainty is still the preferred currency, or at least that is the perceived wisdom.  Politicians cannot express uncertainty, only 100% assurance, because to allow for anything else is to invite a charge of weakness and ridicule.

Much of the time we are all complicit in this nonsense.  Can you imagine if Ed Miliband, or any of the other candidates in the leadership contest, had said ‘I think I will make a good leader – but I’m not sure’?  Or if David Cameron had stood at the despatch box yesterday and after being excoriated by Ed Miliband, angrily asserted he was ‘reasonably certain’ that Ed was wrong!

Yet the truth is that most political decisions are subjective involving the weighing up of evidence and options and then making a decision that is hopefully right.  It’s not surprising that the public are increasingly sceptical about politician’s ability to tell the truth.  They just do not believe that politicians can or will deliver.

Remember how polls said that Ken’s fares policy was popular?  Well the same polls often showed that the public also did not believe that Ken could make this happen.  So for all Ken’s façade of certainty over his policy, including a promise to resign if he failed, the public were unmoved.

Politicians are caught between a rock and a hard place.  They must appear certain at all times or they will be seen as weak.  But this certainty does not mean that they are believed and in fact feeds a sense amongt voters of politicians as liars who do not, or cannot, deliver.


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