In the lead up to the General Election on 7th May 2015 the British electorate will be subjected to the time-honoured burst of political spin, rhetoric and appeals to reason from the gattling guns of our political representatives.
Politicians have never truly enjoyed a reputation of honesty and rectitude, but with an alarming increase in revelations of self-interest and financial gain being exposed by the media, have our elected representatives irrevocably altered the way we regard every politician who steps on the soapbox – regardless of what comes falling from their mouth?
Perversely, calling on politicians to exercise the traits of the reasonable man – honesty, candour and integrity – has become in recent times about as effective as a cat flap in an elephant house. Sadly, in elections for office, these traits are part of a losing strategy – and we know it. The need to win trumps honesty and integrity every time.
Over time, game theory has furtively chaperoned the political process to an inexorable descent into theatrics [watch Prime Minister’s Questions and tell me that this isn’t farce in its most concentrated form], and politicians themselves strut and fret their hour upon the stage, seemingly with reckless abandon. If the fate of our country wasn’t at stake, I’m sure we’d find political theatre incredibly amusing.
As though mesmerised by saturation, we now perversely accept (if not presume) that politicians will lie or manipulate the truth to suit their own means. The long-term consequences of this depressing acquiescence cannot be understated.
The spell was almost broken with the recent Scottish referendum – while the nation engaged with the political process in unprecedented numbers, we were still subjected to scurrilous untruths and heavy-handed misdirection of facts from all sides.
If misleading assertions and distortions of facts are commonplace, if votes are being secured on empty promises, it is reasonable to hold that a political figure must be held to account. Why should political campaigns be exempt from the moral norms of truthfulness?
Is it time that we ask our politicians to physically sign a pledge for each “promise” extolled on the campaign trail? Not all promises can be fulfilled, and many are founded on contingencies that may never transpire, but an appeal to honesty – a written contract at this crisis point in the relationship between politicians and society – may stop the rot.