By Fiona Grahame
If you haven’t been to see Stan and Ollie yet with Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly and you want a reminder of how great these two comedians were then try to catch it whilst it’s doing its run in the cinemas. Their famous catch phrase from the 1930 film ‘Another Fine Mess’ pops into my mind on many an occasion and none more so than the daily lies we are subjected to by our elected politicians.
The latest batch of untruths came courtesy of the Tories who despite having the most incompetent UK Government – ever – went onto the campaign trail in Scotland about a workplace car park tax.
The workplace car park tax will be an optional power for local authorities enabling them to raise additional revenue through charging for the use of car parks at workplaces. The Tories omitted this from their campaigning and used it to bash the current Scottish Government as a means to attack the SNP.
I have no problem with people arguing for or against this additional levy. What does bother me is when elected politicians deliberately lie about it to the public with the sole purpose to attack another political party.
But for information there are streets in Scotland’s cities which are way above the legal limits for Nitrogen Dioxide air pollution (Friends of the Earth Scotland) which is a serious public health issue.
- Hope Street Glasgow
- Queensferry Road, Edinburgh
- Nicolson Street, Edinburgh
- St John’s Road Edinburgh
- Seagate Dundee
- Lochee Road Dundee
Cynical people may say that all politicians lie but I’m not one of those. There are genuine people who go into politics to make a real difference to their communities. They may make mistakes based on the information they know at a given time. That is completely different from telling a blatant lie in order to gain political advantage over an opponent or for self interest.
The EU Referendum was notable for 2 things 1. The murder of a Labour MP on the streets of her constituency and 2. The lies (one plastered on the side of a bus) about what Leaving the EU would actually mean – an extra £350million a week for the NHS – that is a whopper of a lie.
As the incompetence of the UK Government continues the descent into Brexit chaos more of the ‘claims’ made by the Leave campaign are revealed for what they are and always were – lies.
‘Taking back control’ – this was another snazzy slogan from the Leave campaign. It was used to great effect in the fishing communities of Scotland where the CFP (Common Fisheries Policy) had always been unpopular. We would take back control of our seas. The ‘We’ refers to the UK Government taking back control over a sector which is currently managed by the Scottish Government. ‘Our Seas’ are the UK’s seas – not Scotland’s where most of the sea actually is. So in some ways this was not a lie for those who were promoting it. For them, Scotland was only a ‘part’ of the UK – this was a UK wide vote and it is of no consequence to them that the whole of Scotland voted overwhelmingly remain. The elected politicians and the leaders of the fishing industry who promoted this slogan merely omitted to clarify who the ‘We’ was – and the fishermen of Scotland thought it referred to themselves.
Ian Blackford MP, SNP was reprimanded by the Speaker of the House of Commons for calling Theresa May a liar. I was disappointed that Ian Blackford apologised for this. Theresa May is a liar.
During the 2016 EU Referendum campaign Theresa May was a Remainer .She said then:
“I think being part of a 500m trading bloc is significant for us. I think one of the issues is a lot of people invest here in the UK because it’s the UK in Europe.”
Perhaps Theresa May was not telling lies back in 2016 but was misinformed or perhaps her conversion to deliver ‘Brexit means Brexit’ including a no deal scenario was a genuine one. Surely it wasn’t her thirst for power – to become leader of the Conservative Party and thus Prime Minister that shifted May’s support of membership of a single market overnight? It is not illegal for a politician to tell a lie – so long as it is a political one – but it is immoral.
I have given up watching Prime Minister’s Questions – it’s just a bru ha ha of name calling, and party political speeches. It’s supposed to be where MPs can hold the PM to account , to get her to answer genuine questions with honest answers. Instead it’s worse than the noise of the farmyard. First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament is unfortunately going the same way. It’s a turn off.
And I suppose that is what many politicians desire. That we become so disenchanted with their behaviour, with their lack of honesty that we disengage and let them get on with it.
Voter disengagement is a serious concern if we value democracy.
In the EU Referendum the turnout across the whole of the UK was 72.2%, indeed in some parts of England it was well over 80%. It was certainly an election that people in England and Wales (71.1%) (both Leave voting nations) were keen about casting their vote in compared to Scotland (67.2%) and Northern Ireland (62.7%) (both Remain voting nations).
Only a year later in 2017 the snap General Election had a UK turnout drop to 68.7% and in Scotland this was to continue to drop to 66.4% (from 71.1% in 2015).
Elections to the Scottish Parliament are even more disappointing especially as the franchise was widened to include 16+yrs. There are 2 votes – a Regional one and a Constituency one and the turnout in 2016 was Regional 55.8% Constituency 55.6%. This was actually an improvement on the previous election in 2011 when the turnout was Regional 50.4%, Constituency 50.3%.
Across Scotland people have been complaining about council cut backs and yet local authority elections have even lower turnout figures. In Orkney it averaged out at 49.7%, slightly higher than the Scottish average. The lowest turnout was in Glasgow at 39%.
Voter apathy is a greater threat to our democracy than the lies of politicians. Those who deliberately lie in order to win an election, a referendum or to gain an advantage over their political opponents are bereft of any honour. Those politicians are dishonest. They thrive on voter apathy.
As voters we can hold elected politicians to account at elections but we should question what they say between times. We need to remind them of their election promises and get savvy at finding out information for ourselves so that we can question what we are being fed. It is our responsibility as citizens to keep informed, to engage and to ensure that lying by politicians becomes an exception and not the accepted.