Posts Tagged ‘honesty’

If MPs privately oppose Brexit, they should show some public leadership and make the case against it

31/10/2017, 11:03:14 PM

by Jonathan Todd

To begin with a confession, when I heard that Douglas Ross, the Conservative MP for Highlands and Islands, was running the line in a Champions League match in the Nou Camp, I thought, “wow, how impressive and exciting”. While the hinterland – to use Denis Healey’s term – of too many MPs seems offensively and dangerously shallow, this is elite, non-political activity.

The generally negative reaction to Ross, including the oh-so-funny brandishing of a red card by SNP MP John McNally in PMQs, has felt to me curmudgeonly and small-minded. It reminded me of Roy Jenkins’ autobiography:

“I am strongly against the current fashion for full-time MPs … Being a full-time backbench MP is not in my view a satisfactory occupation … Excessive attendance at the House of Commons, with the too many hours spent hanging around in tearoom or smoking room which this implies, either atrophies the brain or obsesses it with the minutiae of political gossip and intrigue.”

These words have become heresy in the not quite three decades since written. We’d rather atrophy Ross’ brain than test it alongside Lionel Messi.

Yet we need MPs with brains more than ever. We need them, too, to have the courage, reinforced by a confidence that, if necessary, they’d prosper in careers outside of politics, to use them.

Shackling MPs to the tearoom limits their horizons. It makes them more likely to feel that their financial well-being can only be maintained by securing re-election, heightening the probability that their only instinct will be to follow constituency opinion. If this is all MPs are, we might as well have a legislature composed of 650 local sentiment algorithms.

Political life is a vocation or nothing. There’s scant point to any of it without animating purpose. There’s no socially democratic aim served by Brexit. Thus, social democratic MPs ought not to accept Brexit, or to only secretly hope that public opinion turns against it; they should, instead, stand for their pro-EU convictions and seek to move opinion with them.


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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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