Is truth now rarer than fiction?
Does the truth matter? Not according to the 211 Conservative Members of Parliament who voted to keep Boris Johnson in power, despite his ever-expanding catalogue of lies and half-truths. It wasn’t only the Prime Minister’s “partygate” porkies that caused disenchanted Tory MPs to instigate the vote of no confidence.
Johnson has lied numerous times throughout his political career and before that was sacked twice for lying as a journalist. And he continues to lie. His supporters in the Commons appear not to care, particularly those devoted members of his Cabinet who are aware that if he goes, they’re likely to follow. So they back him up, repeating the hackneyed phrase that he “got the big calls right.” Even if that were correct, does it make his lying acceptable? It appears so, because government ministers also lie, boasting of government policies and achievements that are exposed under scrutiny as untruths. This floundering prime minister and his cabinet perpetuate a policy of catchy slogans with little or no substance, from “Levelling Up” to “Build Back Better”, and others.
The latest is “Benefits into Bricks,” a proposed Right to Buy policy allowing social housing tenants on benefits the right to purchase their homes. A good idea? Perhaps, but that is precisely what it is, an abstract idea with no practical detail to back it up. No lenders or housing associations are signed up to the scheme and no one in government has explained how those on benefits could afford a mortgage, given many can’t even afford to heat their homes or eat. Hearing ministers talk, though, this is the latest in a long line of best things since sliced bread.
All politicians of every party slant the facts in the way that suits them best. That’s undeniable. But have we gone a stage further in that dishonesty rather honesty is now the best policy? The truth can hurt, and since Trump we have seen that lies can work extremely well. To persuade. To convince. Sometimes the more blatant lie the better. Lies have been vote-winners, lies can contribute to massive change, like Brexit. Lies can get the job done and then be conveniently forgotten or brushed aside when it’s too late to do anything about it.
Remember that post-Brexit £350m a week for the NHS? Bob Seely, backbench Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, said he voted for Boris Johnson to stay in his job only after gaining assurances from ministers about funding for his local council. Seely would say he was looking after the interests of his constituents, precisely what he was elected to do. In one way he’s right, but doesn’t that also mean he’s prepared for lies to be acceptable in exchange for a few million in government cash? Honesty? Some may consider the facts cynical and depressing, but what starts at the top can gradually filter down through society.
Cheats can only succeed with the public’s acquiescence, so does the public still care about the truth?