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Politicians Should be Made to Stick to Their Promises, or Face Consequences

02/12/2014 16:07 GMT | Updated 29/01/2015 10:59 GMT

"We won't raise taxes", "We will not allow university fees to go up", "We'll cut the deficit" and "Net migration will fall to 100,000." All of these are well-known, fairly recent 'promises' made by politicians which also happen to be, in effect, lies, as the matter was in their control and they failed to carry out on what they said, or pledges which could never be kept as it was not in the their power to do so.

The list of broken campaign policies by politicians is endless, and, as I write this, headlines are dominated by David Cameron failing to meet the Tory-set target of net migration dropping to 100,000. This pledge, made in 2011, made no real economic sense but was an ambitious attempt to silence the right wing tabloid press who seem to print a headline relating to immigration every other day. This promise has, of course, backfired with the news that net migration is now above 2010 levels (at 260,000). Three years ago the Prime Minister said:

"....net migration to this country will be in the order of tens of thousands each year, not the hundreds of thousands every year that we have seen over the last decade. (...) No ifs. No buts. That's a promise we made to the British people".
Whether you agree with the policy or not, it's a broken promise and therefore, effectively, a lie. But Cameron won't apologise for it, nor will he even fully acknowledge that he has completely failed to deliver on the promise. In fact, his latest speech on immigration hasn't mentioned a target number at all; not only has the Prime Minister lied to the public, but now he is - to use a cliché - attempting to sweep it under the carpet and pretend it never happened. This is the real problem with politicians breaking promises.

Anyone who even remotely follows politics will know that this is far from an isolated incident. However, time and time again politicians gain support and power on the back of promises which they never deliver. There are no definite consequences of this and so most of the time they carry on like nothing happened, even going on to make more pledges which may or may not be kept (see Cameron's newest policies on migration). Of course, politicians do apologise on occasion (take Nick Clegg's apology video over the university fees failure, for example) but if a party or politician is elected due to a promise which they made, which is fully in their power to implement, they should face some form of consequence.

Now, I'm not saying I have the perfect prescription to the problem of politicians lying. This issue has certainly been raised before, numerous times, but surely it is in the interest of the public that politicians stick to their promises - and if they cannot do this, then perhaps the electorate should be able to reconsider whether or not they want them to stay in power for the remainder of their term. Obviously it isn't quite as simple as that, but upon researching this topic I have found a few good proposals which would help to fix this seemingly never -ending problem. It's been suggested that it could be written into law that political parties are forced to keep promises made in their election manifesto, or be removed from power. Of course there are technicalities with this which must be overcome, however it is possible and will undoubtedly do a lot to ensure politicians stick to what they say. Another interesting suggestion, set out in a 2007 report entitled 'Reform Ideas for Democracy', is that a politician's salary or pension could be directly linked to the outcome of their self-set goals: a kind-of reward system similar to getting a gold star in primary school. The same report also suggested politicians who honour their election promises could have their term in office extended.

These are interesting suggestions, some more practical than others, but I think the main point is that this is a problem which has been identified internationally for so long that surely it is time to do something about it. In one way or another, politicians should be made to stick to the promises which get them into power.