David Blackburn

Does it pay to be mendacious?

Does it pay to be mendacious?
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Lying is a politician's occupational hazard. The Independent on Sunday has published a Com Res poll confirming that truism. The majority of voters do not believe that David Cameron and Gordon Brown are being honest about how they will tackle the deficit. We voters resent being taken for fools. If Brown and Cameron are being disingenuous about the economy, the honest Sage of Twickenham benefits - the Liberals are storming the marginals, a hung parliament is odds-on according to some pollsters.

Is Vince Cable honest about reducing the deficit? Emphatically not. One minute he’s against a VAT rise, but refuses to rule it out the next. He’s in favour of unilateral charges on banks, but not if they fund a tax break for some married couples. The Liberal Democrat’s peculiar hypocrisy is that they demand an even wicket but scuff-up the one that already exists. The Liberal Democrat’s singular genius is to appeal to our intelligence whilst taking us for fools.


Martin Ivens applies that paradigm to all the parties. Noting that Labour’s autumn fightback coincided with George Osborne’s brutal honesty about an ‘Age of Austerity’ and ended when Alistair Darling’s budget alluded to straitened times in the future.


Voters are fools and mendacity pays. Election campaigns are beauty pageants minus the swimming costumes – lots of posturing and hot air about world peace. But if elections are about credulity, government is about credibility. Regardless of the political, social and economic sense of the National Insurance measure, having GPs on-call 7-days a week and recognising marriage in the tax system, all are hostage to what lurks in the nation’s balance books. Normally, this would not matter. But a hung parliament increases the chance of a second election in the near future, which would be fought on credibility rather than credulity. The Tories must think very carefully about offering too much hope that may prove false.