Politicians are All the Same

‘Don’t trust politicians. Liars and charlatans. All in it for themselves.’ Well, I know that’s not true, of some at least of the handful of politicians I’ve met personally – mostly Labour. Conservatives, of course are less ideologically averse to being ‘in it for themselves’. That’s why more of them (I think) were involved in the great ‘expenses scandal’ of eight years ago. It was that event that did more than anything else to tarnish the reputation of the House of Commons in modern times. Together, of course, with the press magnates, who would rather politics (a.k.a. ‘democracy’) got out of their way so that the ‘market’ could determine everything; and a natural popular prejudice against the ‘ruling classes’ going back to Greek and Roman times. All politicians suffer from this, probably unfairly; but it’s partly their own fault.

I wonder if this didn’t help to scupper the ‘Remain’ side in last year’s European referendum? The main spokespeople of that campaign were David Cameron and George Osborne; both Tories, and ultra-‘Establishment’, which meant that they were hardly trusted at all. They also argued in a way that appeared to be too apocalyptic: ‘outside Europe we’re doomed! Doomed!’; but is seeming to be less so now. Corbyn at that time was also campaigning to remain, and in a far more cool and rational way, but his speeches got very little publicity: see https://bernardjporter.com/2016/06/02/corbyns-fault/. Corbyn also wasn’t widely seen then, especially in the popular press, as the ‘unusually’ honest – if nothing else – politician he has been recognised as since.

On the other side stood a trio of mavericks who, although still politicians, were seen as apart from the ‘Establishment’; which may (just may) be one of the reasons why they triumphed. Boris’s and Nigel’s lies were quickly revealed as such; but then ‘all politicians lie, don’t they?’ Asked to choose between two sets of liars and dissemblers, the electorate preferred those whose eccentricities suggested they might nonetheless be on the same anti-Establishment side as them. They had a choice between, on the one side, two public-school smoothies, with conventional names; and on the other, two more public-school eccentrics with silly names and very un-smooth looks – a frog and a hedgehog. (With Gove swimming along behind looking like a goldfish.) If they were unconventional enough to look and sound silly, might they not be independent enough to tell the truth? Perhaps if Osborne hadn’t changed his name from ‘Gideon’ to ‘George’ early on, and had developed some character, his side might have stood more of a chance.

No, not a serious explanation for the Brexit disaster. But there could be something in it.

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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