THE BLOG

'Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!'

11/07/2016 09:50
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Liar liar pants on fire!

Liar liar pants on fire is an expression I would expect to hear from my four year old daughter but not Members of Parliament either aimed at the opposition or even party colleagues.
The referendum has brought out the worst in politicians and the two campaigns have without question been divisive. However, what worries me most is the way in which politicians are so quick to brand each other liars.

Calling a fellow member a liar or even implying it in the House of Commons chamber is strictly not allowed and would be challenged by the Speaker as un-parliamentary language. In fact, Erskine May (the bible of parliamentary procedure and etiquette) considers the imputation of false motives, charges of lying or the misrepresentation of the words of another as un-parliamentary.

If I genuinely believe something to be the case, that does not make me a liar, it may make me wrong, but not a liar. In my view this represents sloppy and unsophisticated campaigning and has elements of childishness. Politics should be about robust debate where we dissect our opponents' arguments in a polite and courteous way. In my view some politicians have become too quick to brand opponents that hold differing views as liars calling into question whether the fellow politician is in fact honourable.

When I first entered Parliament little over a year ago, it took some getting used to referring to colleagues in the third person and adding 'honourable' to their titles.

By branding each other liars or continually suggesting that if we hold a differing position we somehow do not care or are lacking compassion, we do each other and this nation a great disservice. How can we expect the general public to respect politicians when we have and display no respect for each other? Politics must be better than this. We owe it to the public we serve not to act like this and insult their intelligence. I fear that if we don't, we will only be adding to the malaise the public feel towards political discourse.

I openly confess that I have a number of Labour members of parliament that I consider to be good friends. I appreciate that the Government Whips may hold a different view but I see no problem or issue with this. Ultimately I believe that all British politicians want the same thing, we just have differing views on how to achieve it. Those who hold differing views are not the enemy but the opposition and as the late Jo Cox MP said, we have more in common than that which divides us.

Perhaps I am being naïve, perhaps British politics is too polarised and perhaps we will always be fighting across the political divide. But surely we can be civilised? Surely we can be respectful? Surely we can drop the name calling and the labelling as liars.

I think it is time to bring back honourable members. To accept and respect that we have differing views and to embrace it. If we are honourable then we genuinely believe what we are saying then whether we be right or wrong, we are not liars. If we start to respect each other, then maybe, just maybe we can earn the respect of the people we endeavour to represent.

Will Quince is the Conservative MP for Colchester