Why do we allow ourselves to be lied to?

I am sure that the vast majority of folks reading this will say I don’t want to lied to. But…….

And the but is this. We are all lied to on a regular basis by the media, politicians, businesses etc. Some lie openly but most lie in a way that some of us will not detect because the lies told feed our prejudices. So, in my case, if I hear a story slagging off Yorkshire County Cricket Club I will want to believe it as a Notts supporter. Now are you getting my drift?

But what if the lies we are told are about far more important things than a sporting allegiances? Without doubt we have been told lies [unless I am lying to you now of course] about the EU, immigration, the NHS, tuition fees, the Iraq war, taxation etc. etc. etc. in recent years.

Beware someone who tells you something that they know you are likely to want to agree with because it may well not be true, particularly if they are selling you something, trying to get your support or indeed wanting your vote.

Look at it this way newspapers play to the prejudices of their readers. They work on the basis that if we tell our readers something often enough they will believe it and repeat it as fact. Some of the more disreputable politicians do the same thing, but we know that don’t we?

I was once told by a politician that you need to find out what people are most upset about and then keep sending them messages (e-mails, leaflets etc.) that repeat those concerns and that whether those concerns are real or not does not matter.

Our problem is that with our busy lives we do not have the time, or say we don’t have the time, to find out the facts before we take a stance on things. We repeat what our family, friends and neighbours tell us without question at times and that is how falsehoods become ‘facts’ in public mind.

You could say that we are too lazy to check things out when someone we trust gives us an easy answer that fits with our prejudices, but that’s exactly how we are had by newspapers, politicians and businesses. They all put a lot of time and money into how messages are played to us so that we will react as they wish us to.

So if Auntie Mary or Uncle Fred for example is hooked by a dodgy message or ‘fact’ and then repeats it to the rest of his/her gullible family, who take it on board, then that dodgy message is spread just as the originator of it intended or at least hoped.

When polled we say that we hate lying politicians, rip-off business people and that we don’t trust what the media tells us but the fact that we are had quite often indicates that we are not actually very good at knowing when we are being lied to. This is particularly the case when we hear a ‘fact’ that we want to believe but is in fact a lie or a gross distortion of the truth.

Let’s look at few examples:-

* The NHS – we all now seem to take it as fact that we were lied to during the EU Referendum about £350m per week going into the NHS if we voted to leave the EU. Indeed, the very people who told that huge fib have openly now said it is not now going to happen! A big lie indeed.

rsz_cikhd7axaaiklxc

* Tuition Fees – This one sunk Nick Clegg (and rightly so) as he negotiated away his pledge not to increase them and indeed to scrap them. Strangely though some of us who were angry with him then voted for alternative politicians in the Labour or Conservative parties who were the instigators and promoters of Tuition Fees! So we were upset that Clegg had said one thing and done the opposite but by our actions we endorsed the policy of tuition fees. Now there’s a odd muddle for you.

* Taxation – It probably started under Thatcher but certainly Blair, Brown and Cameron built on it i.e. that we can have low taxation and great public services. And guess what, we can’t! We even had some recent nonsense from the Tories about a law to make it illegal for Parliament to increase some taxes. Their stance is built on the fact that we don’t like paying taxes so we like a message that says we don’t have to. We are also distracted by media messages that tell us that our taxes are wasted by fat-cat public sector bosses – we like that message too. That message may well be true at the margins but those that spread the message intend us to think that public money is wasted by hundreds of billions of Pounds each year. We want to believe it, so many of us do. Of course, this one is difficult for us to check out so the media and politicians who peddle that message are on to a winner.

If we keep believing what media outlets, businesses, politicians etc. tell us without checking things out, whilst trying to keep both an open mind and sceptical inquiring outlook, we will keep getting had! But are we too busy or too lazy to become better informed and less gullible?

Jo Cox – Thoughts on the consequences for UK politics

I have to be honest and say that I had not heard of Jo Cox MP before she was murdered but what I have learned about her since leads me to think that in a Parliament with few shining progressive stars these days she must have been one of them.

With the Lib Dems severely reduced in numbers, a Labour Party that is inward looking, authoritarian and at war with itself and the SNP looking like an uncomfortable marriage of supposedly social democratic and narrow nationalist values the left of British politics is frankly in a mess.

Jo Cox, we are told was far from being in the usual Labour mold (tribal and authoritarian) so she is both a big loss to Labour and to progressive politics in general. This was well summed up by Nick Clegg (not someone I would usually quote) when he said in a Tweet on the day of her murder – Jo Cox was unusually free of the tribal pettiness of politics – always friendly, cheerful and kind to friend and foe alike.

But as we have all read since the murder people in public office do receive threats. Yes, often they will be from nutters who have no intention or ability to carry out their threats but at the fringes there are the genuinely dangerous crack-pots.

I think I have posted previously about some of the crank mail I got when I was Leader of Sefton Council and how I was warned about it by my predecessor – Labour Cllr. Dave Martin. Indeed, I will never forget his advice ‘Within 6 weeks every nutter in the Borough will know who you are’.

I also recall how my colleague and former Sefton Councillor Andrew Blackburn got some very odd and worrying letters during his time on the Council so threats, hate mail, etc. are sadly what elected folks can and do get at any level of governance.

Where this latest tragedy leaves politics is difficult to say but it must not lead to those who hold elected office becoming more remote from the people who put them there. That is the road to democratic ruin. We must strive to be more open, less tribal and more inclusive in our politics.

And a final word about Jo Cox. I wondered more and more as the story of her all too brief life unfolded in the media how despite her being a Labour MP she came across more like a radical Liberal.

So sad that that this bright star was killed seemingly because of some irrational hatred issues in the head of one man.

What David Steel thinks went wrong for Nick Clegg & the Lib Dems

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/11/nick-clegg-liberal-democrats-disaster-coalition

250px-David_Steel,_October_2007

The Guardian newspaper has the story – see link above.

There are clearly going to be many people giving their opinions on what went wrong for the Lib Dems and indeed Labour in the recent General Election but I quite like this piece from David Steel who was the Liberal Leader when I first joined the Party in 1980.

With thanks to Roy Connell for leading me to the article.

Public debt rising by £4,000 a second

Campaigners claim that public debt is rising by almost £4,000 a second, while £120bn of taxpayers’ money is being wasted every year. Launching its War on Waste roadshow, the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) said “every tick of the clock” was equivalent to putting £3,965 on the nation’s credit card. From tomorrow until Sunday, July 13, the TPA’s staff will join local activists to call on public sector officials to strip out waste from pay, pensions and inefficient spending as they tour across England and Wales. The TPA will claim that local authorities have wasted money by imposing high council tax and diverting resources away from frontline services through pet projects. Among the stops on the roadshow will be the constituency offices of leaders of the three main parties, and the Grey’s Monument in Newcastle, Exchange Square in Manchester and Birmingham Town Hall. During the tour the campaigners will highlight examples of waste, such as the £4,450 spent by Nottingham City Council on an office Christmas tree, or an art gallery in West Bromwich that cost £72m but had to be closed because of a lack of visitors.

The Times yesterday, Page: 23

I have picked up on this not necessarily for the detail of the Times article but because of the headline. I am one of those politicians who is convinced that if public spending is not brought under tighter control it will be the ruin of the lot of us. Whilst at face value there is now a broad consensus to restrain what Government and other public bodies spend, as we get nearer to the General election I am sure the political parties will start to trumpet areas where they want to spend more in an attempt to garner votes. This could be the start of the road to ruin (again) except of course if it is more money for the likes of the NHS and social care which I think we all want to see.

Elections can be dangerous for the economy because of politicians trying to outbid each other. Even the Scottish Independence vote later this year is ramping up spending pledges from the SNP in particular but with others tagging along too. Of course, some parties make spending pledges and then decide having made them they can’t afford to be implemented. The economy may well then be saved from further spending but the pledge that folks voted on is seen to have been misleading. Tuition fees comes to mind as probably the the most obvious one of recent times and it hangs around poor old Nick Clegg’s neck like a millstone.

In my book if you make a pledge you carry it out. Yes, other things may have to go as a consequence but a pledge is a pledge. I do hope the political classes have learned from this as there will be other examples.

But the bottom line (an apt phrase in this context) is the issue here. Economies have to balance their books; we can’t go back to the New Labour days of spending money like water whilst not raising enough in taxes to balance those books. It did ruin us and it will ruin us again if we don’t wake up and smell the coffee. In politics lessons are often not always learned and mistakes often repeat themselves!

With thanks to the LGiU for the lead to this story.

What Ed Miliband has to say about UKIP

www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3NA1RcE3s4

This amusing youtube video sums up Labour’s ‘what do we do or say about UKIP’ dilemma. Ed is seemingly afraid to debate with UKIP, he is worried that working class Labour voters will defect to UKIP and is unwilling to challenge this deeply illiberal Party – UKIP I mean in case you were wondering!.

Nick Clegg takes a lot of stick from the right wing press, because he often stops right wing Tories doing mad things in Parliament, but he was the only political leader willing to take on UKIP and he deserves credit for doing what Cameron and Miliband were not prepared to do. Considering that both Cameron and Miliband claim to be in favour of Europe their lack of guts, in ducking an encounter with UKIP, does them little credit.

Lib Dems revise mansion tax

The Liberal Democrats have revised their long-standing plans for a “mansion tax” and would instead impose higher council tax bills on homes worth more than £2m. The switch could give Nick Clegg’s party a better chance of achieving its goal of higher property taxes for the rich if there is another hung Parliament after next year’s general election. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said his party would no longer call for a 1% annual levy on the value of a property worth more than £2m. Instead, it would propose a “modest additional banded levy on top of council tax for high-value properties”. Meanwhile, research by Zoopla has suggested that if a “mansion tax” was introduced then two-thirds of it would be paid for by homeowners in three central London boroughs – Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Camden.

Financial Times, Page: 4 Financial Times, Page: 4 The Independent, Page: 16 The Times, Page: 4 Daily Mail, Page: 19

With thanks to the LGiU for this story