Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Tweeting truth

I want to gripe again. My question is this. When do you ever hear what a politician really thinks?
Cartoon from Cartoon Stock
Maybe Donald Trump’s tweets are genuinely his thoughts. But if they are, then where do his more reasonable speeches come from? Are they really what he thinks and wants? Or are they what his speech-writers reckon will go down well with his audience at the time? Certainly his minders minded when in the early days he strayed off-script. And it’s probable that they now also try to vet his tweets, with limited success it must be said.

Meanwhile on our side of the pond it’s fairly obvious that our prime ministers don’t have the time to write the host of speeches they choose to deliver every week. One imagines that their party minders, the ones who pre-brief on coming speeches, suggest a promising topic as well as a crowd or party pleasing line; the PM chooses it and the speech writers produce it for her to deliver. And so we have the curious phenomenon of shifting policy arguments stated with all the conviction of a university debating chamber.

How I long for a politician whom one knows where they stand! And I don’t think I am alone. I suspect the perceived straightforwardness of Jeremy Corbyn accounted for the unexpected success of Labour at the last general election, and the beautifully articulate rigidity of the honourable member for the 18th century, Jacob Rees-Mogg, explains similarly his unaccountable and regrettable popularity among certain circles. Even the wily Father of the House, Ken Clarke, remains consistent  at the expense of his colleagues falling asleep.

There is, it seems, a struggle between politicians of convenience and politicians on conviction. Sadly often those with political aspirations start off with conviction but the pressures of expediency and the pursuit of power soon squeeze them into the mould of convenience.

It would be nice to believe that a good interviewer might elicit the truth from a politician. But of course the party machines have that awful possibility covered as well. Their representatives are intensively trained in interview technique, which we recognise all too well. It seems to boil down to, “Don’t answer the question asked. Have a sound bite and repeat it at every opportunity. Above all, stay on message.” In my view, the adversarial nature of the interviewing game has done nothing for honest politics. Belligerent interviewers such as John Humphrys simply produce defensive politicians.
E B Herbert, The Fox Hunt
Let me add one thing. I’m not blaming politicians more than anyone else. The rest of us have a mob mentality, like a pack of hounds led by journalists on their high horses, seeking out any weaknesses and hunting down our prey to their political extinction. We relish the chase. Perhaps if we respected our politicians more, who are entrusted with a huge responsibility on our behalf, we might receive the respect of their honesty in return.

So, meanwhile, are Donald Trump’s tweets the nearest we will get to knowing the honest views of a politician? If this is as good as it gets, how sad.

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