THE BLOG

Don't Trust Politicians? You Get the Ones You Deserve

22/01/2016 16:23 GMT | Updated 22/01/2017 10:12 GMT

This week Ipsos MORI published their latest version of the Veracity Index, to you and me a periodic poll of how much people trust different professions.

It will come as absolutely no surprise that the most trusted profession is that of Doctor, 89% of us believe they will tell us the truth. Closely behind is teacher, whom 86% of us would put our faith in.

At the other end of the scale the least trusted profession? Once again no surprise here, just 21% of us would think there are such things as honest politicians.

Yet I have news for you. We get the politicians we deserve.

Of course our elected representatives lie to us. They know that there would be no chance whatsoever of getting elected if they were tell the truth. Politicians don't live in a different world to us, they live in the one we demand of them.

If a politician were to stand up to give a speech in which they said 'Yes I understand immigration is a hot topic but the truth is it's also highly complex and chances are that whatever we do we will never have a full grasp of it' seriously, who would vote for them?

Put that honest politician against someone saying 'Ignore the other guy, I will take full control of our immigration system'. Honestly, who are the majority likely to vote for?

It doesn't matter that the second politician knows it's not the truth, it doesn't matter that the second knows the first is far more correct in his assessment of the situation, the second one will invariably be the most popular.

Look no further than the current race for the Republican nominee for US President. Every sane thinking person knows that Donald Trump and his Mexican wall or Muslim ban is sheer lunacy and yet to a significant portion of the electorate his brand of simplistic nonsense resonates loud and clear.

It's not just national and international issues. How many councillors would have the guts to say to a voter in countless cases 'I know your view is nice, but there's a national housing shortage and on balance we need this new development'?. But, of course, it's just not done. There are no votes to be had in supporting new builds.

There is nothing truer than the old political edict that you oppose in poetry and govern in prose. The poetry is so enticing but the reality so dreary, and yet because politicians are ultimately pragmatic that elegance of opposition is soon lost, and trust is eroded further.

A few weeks ago ex-Labour MP Tom Harris called in his Telegraph column for politicians to be in blunt terms a bit ruder to voters. He said 'Normally, MP's prove their super-human tolerance for other people's stupidity by biting their tongue, smiling, and agreeing to disagree'. Mr Harris was spot on.

If we want politicians that we can actually trust we have to expect them to tell the truth to us. It needs to be OK for an MP or Councillor to say quite clearly 'I don't agree with you, you are wrong'. Of course, in the face of another candidate feigning agreement, what will the inevitable conclusion be?

Our world is an exceptionally complicated place and as long as us, as voters, continue to call for it to be oversimplified, as long as we form our views from a 15 second soundbite of course politicians will lie to us and we deserve it.

Let me be honest though. We won't break our habit of looking a little deeper, of trying to understand a little more. It's too much effort.

There is a reason that we trust doctors so much. We take much greater interest in our health and when there is bad news we expect a doctor to be honest with us. Let us face it: a great many of us take the exact opposite position with our politicians.

So we will continue to have the politicians that we deserve and our trust will continue to erode ever further. Sad isn't it?