The annoying things about politics and politicians.
They never apologise. Do you know why that is? It’s because other politicians don’t understand gratitude or humility in victory.
For example, party A has a policy, and a policy is usually well considered by many before it is announced. Party B decries it and demands changes.
Now, for all the best will in the world, there will be factors Party A didn’t consider because of a lack of omnipotence, and there will be factors they considered because of their value structure. (That is, the right tends to promote personal responsibility and conservation of what is, while the left tends to promote societal responsibility and want constant change in that direction.)
With that in mind, something comes to light or an alternative viewpoint is acknowledged and accepted, and Party A adapts the plan. Immediately, Party B rips into them for ‘U-Turns’ and ‘lack of leadership’ and ‘strife within the party’ and all that cobblers.
Try managing with that over your head. It is exactly like you making an honest mistake at work, apologising, and then being punished, attacked, demotes, moved, etc., despite correcting your error.
So instead of apologising, you try to justify yourself. Like any political party.
They don’t tell the truth. Occasionally, they do lie. (See above.) But one thing I learned from a lawyer years ago is that professional ethics occasionally mean they have to take a certain line – in the lawyer’s case I discovered that if a client tells them ‘I did it, get me off’ then they cannot sit there and listen to them lie. They have to go no comment. When I learned that I changed my approach from “solicitors are gits” to “No comment, eh? I must be on to something!”
It is fair to say that senior politicians are privy to secrets and confidences, just like us. And just like us, when asked about them, they have to avoid answering ‘correctly’. Which means avoiding the question or using another tactic. Bear in mind that even the answer, “I can’t tell you that, it’s an official secret” breaches the Official Secrets Act as it (usually) confirms a presupposition in the question asked.
Occasionally, they don’t know the answer. Of course, ‘we’ know everything and expect the same of them. When they say ‘I don’t know’, the ‘examiner’ with the answer in front of them attacks them for not knowing that random statistic. Then the press joins in. Now, if the subject of the interview is clear and it is an obvious question, the politician should have prepared. But surprise questions with stats held by the interviewer shouldn’t be abused by the press. Anyway, they aren’t allowed to not know the answer, so they avoid giving one, which looks like avoidance of a truth.
They waffle. It’s often quite funny watching this. A question is asked, and it is immediately answered with ‘Let me clear (about something else)’, or ‘The reality is (party political broadcast)’ or ‘The real question is (combination of both)’.
Nobody likes to answer uncomfortable questions, least of all us. Politicians are made up of ‘us’ but with the added expectation that they ‘must’ be transparent. Give them some slack and know when they are uncomfortable. They don’t want to offend the voters, even while offending the Opposition.
They have no manners. To my mind, there seems to be a complete – and ineffective – lack of manners when it comes to politicians and political interviewers. Interviewer asks a question, and as the interviewee draws breath they start attacking the answer not yet given, or the ‘opposing’ guest butts in. How wonderful it was to see Jacob Rees-Mogg and Vince Cable debate Brexit politely and intelligently without interrupting each other.
You can’t challenge a viewpoint or opinion effectively without listening to it, considering it, and seeing the holes. The ‘loudest shouter’ isn’t necessarily right. Make notes, wait yur turn, and then state your views. They are a lot easier to hear when you’re not arguing over each other.
What has all of this got to do with The Three Resolutions?
The Second Resolution argues for Character and Competence. For politicians, the spin doctors have invented a new competence – political avoidance, with training provided. (I find that non-pointing fist thing annoyingly inane, most of all.) Every statement must be slapped down and ridiculed by the opposing party, even when their own point of view is equally unclear through the same prevarication, avoidance or opinion. ‘The end justifies the means’, they say: but this means attacking the ‘enemy’ for doing what you would do yourself, but in the belief that their motives are evil while yours are good. Your ‘bad’ means are done for good ends, while their ‘bad’ means are done for ‘evil’.
What I would welcome is an improvement in the Character Ethic of the politicians and the media. Ask open questions, listen to answers quietly and respectfully, and then challenge in an appropriate tone and with considered responses where necessary. Acknowledge and respect the willingness or reluctance of the interviewee to provide answers and see things from their perspective, even if just at first. Just like Jac and Vic. Let your intellect say what your emotional outbursts actually obscure.
As a police officer, I was expected to do that when dealing with rapists and murderers. Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians and newsreaders gave the same respect to each other that I was expected to provide to the worst in society?
Let people change their minds; let them have secrets but let them say why it is a secret; interview them politely and challenge waffle – let them say ‘I don’t know, and I’ll find out’. It’s supposed to be about discovering the facts, not necessarily about finding them out in a convenient TV slot.
Let politicians rediscover Character as an ethical approach to politics, instead of perpetuating the ethic of Personality, where looking good is more important than being good.