Maybe Pinocchio should become a core educational text – Labour Article
Half-truths and spin characterises what a lot of our politicians say. Current trust in the government is at just 48%. Many politicians seem to have decided that it is better to lie or spin than admit to being in the wrong. I think politics, especially democracy, would improve infinitely if they could just start taking some accountability and tell the truth.
The pandemic has made it crystal clear: anything less than clarity, coherence, and the truth hampers the government’s ability to rule. This is not to say that they cannot make mistakes – anyone who is in power will make mistakes. But it is a call for them to own it when they do; apologise and work out a solution if possible.
This is also not just dedicated to our current government. All political parties in government have been making mistakes for years. The pandemic has just made it even more painstakingly obvious that they don’t own up to it and the costs it has. Peoples’ lives and livelihoods are at stake after all.
Of course, it is not easy to admit when you have made a mistake. No one likes to. And, to be an elected official you must have a bit of ego to get yourself there in the first place. But, I don’t really care. When you run a country and have control over millions of lives your priority should be transparency. Otherwise, you’re not really representing the people, are you?
The Cummings debacle is one of the best topical examples of this. He broke the rules. He didn’t apologise or admit to this. Some of his actions may have been justified but most of them weren’t.
Anecdotally, I now hear about lots of people travelling around the country and not keeping to the rules. Some of them justify their actions with reference to Cummings. Now, I’m angry at these people too but not as much as I am at a government that confused its own rules to help one unelected official. Just like I’m angry that Johnson tried to shift the blame of mass deaths in care homes to the care homes themselves. Just like I’m angry at housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, prioritising his friends over a local council.
When politicians have apologised in the past, they have been mocked (Nick Clegg’s I’m sorry song is still stuck in my head). This may be why some argue that politicians shouldn’t apologise as it makes them look weak. However, those in the public eye in general – particularly politicians – get mocked regardless. I think it is better to be mocked for owning up to a mistake than destroying a vital element of democracy just to save face.
The actual truth of many situations and whether an incident is right or wrong is often up for interpretation. So, I’m not asking for people to suddenly change their political beliefs or ideologies. This is just about basic mistakes; some things should never have happened. The government needs to recognise that.
Therefore, it’s easy and obvious to see how the truth would revitalise and improve politics. Citizens should be able to trust their governments again (or at least a bit more). Perhaps we would see more engagement or an increase in voter turnout, as people could see that the government was working for them again. We can handle a government that doesn’t get things right. An example to follow could be that of Canada’s incumbent Prime Minister. PM Justin Trudeau has apologised for many tragedies Canada has been a part of and some of his own mistakes.
Sadly, however, I don’t think this is going to happen. Certainly not under our current government and probably not under future ones. It feels like truth has been devalued at the moment with people everywhere searching for things to fit their own narrative and politicians are no different. It is easy to find echo chambers where insane lies get backed up and reinforced.
Perhaps over time this will gradually change but I fear it will actually just get worse. Truth is always a tricky thing to work out and our politicians aren’t making finding it any easier.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Freya Jhugroo
Point of Information
A healthy democracy depends on accountability and telling the truth – a Liberal Response
Power tends to corrupt people. Absolute power, though, corrupts absolutely.
These famous words from Lord Acton were at the front of my mind whilst reading Freya’s article. Accountability is that thin line between power and absolute power.
Like Freya, I am angry at how unwilling our politicians are to apologise. Freya is right to call out Cummings, Johnson and Jenrick, but we need to expand the scope. Statesmen worldwide believe that strong leadership means never conceding ground. No matter what.
Consider Trump. His inability to compromise has led to the world’s deadliest handling of COVID-19 to date. Even when Trump had the chance to apologise, such as in the Axios interview, he refused. The whole interview is a morbid comedy that reveals something dangerous. Trump believes he is accountable to no one. Many world leaders believe the same. Unaccountable leaders are a risk to our democracies.
However, there is a remedy; one that Freya sadly only touches upon in her title. The solution is education. My conservative colleague, Seb, hints at this, but we must go deeper.
If we can educate ourselves on what real strong leadership is, we have a chance to preserve our democracies. A strong leader is charitable, honest, and humble. A strong leader can admit their shortcomings. Even more so, a strong leader consistently aims to rectify their mistakes. This is why Clegg’s apology failed. An apology is not enough.
We need to elect leaders who can apologise. Let’s look to politicians like Jacinda Arden as a model, not Johnson or Trump.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Frank Allen
Society is to blame as well – a Conservative Response
While I fully agree with Freya’s main argument that truth and transparency must play a much bigger role in politics than it does now, I believe it’s not only politicians who are to blame, but our society as well. Yes, politicians must take responsibility for their actions and apologize for their mistakes, but society itself must also learn a thing or two about responsibility.
Social media has facilitated the rapid dissemination of information. With a simple tweet you can now reach millions of others across the globe. It is alarmingly easy to quickly spread false information. The amount of fake news I have seen on social media in recent years is disturbing, to say the least, but what’s more disturbing is the blind faith much of society has in our politicians. While some might be concerned about how low 48% is in terms of government trust, I’m concerned about how high that number is.
Staying true to my Libertarian beliefs, all authority should be questioned. So yes, we can sit around and hope politicians do not lie and perhaps forgive them or not when they do lie. But instead, we the people should be proactively seeking to educate ourselves, not relying on a politician to tell us how to think or act. It is our job to formulate our own opinions and conclusions on current issues.
Politicians are humans just like us and are inherently prone to making mistakes, so why should they be trusted to begin with? Especially with powerful interest groups and lobbies lining politicians’ pockets with money, it’s naïve to think that anything politicians say and do has the people’s best interests in mind.
Absolute truth is unobtainable, everything people say will always carry a certain degree of bias or falsehood. We must stop viewing politicians as the voices of truth and reason in our world, and instead, focus on the individual and holding ourselves accountable. Just as we have the power to spread lies and disinformation, we also hold the power to question and bring the truth to light.
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Sebastian Calcopietro
Hello, I’m Freya. I am going into my third year at Exeter, studying International Relations and Spanish. My main areas of interest are the environment, societal injustices and foreign affairs.
Politics was a completely taboo subject for me as a young boy. Having lived almost all my life in Brunei and Qatar – two very strict, theocratic autocracies – I was cautious to keep my opinions well-guarded. The smallest negative remark about either country’s governance, for example, would’ve meant deportation for my family and I. Any non-approved political activity, no matter how naïve, had to be kept a secret. It was best not to question at all.