It might be at least partly down to advancing years. Policemen are definitely getting younger, and that’s supposed to be one of the more reliable signs, isn’t it? I don’t think it’s down to rose-tinted nostalgia, though – I mean, I’ve always known that politicians will say one thing to get elected and then do the opposite when they’re in power, even if it took a while to realise that no party is exempt from that rule. The first elections in which I took any interest were those of 1964 and 1966. I was too young to vote, but had I been old enough, I would have voted for Harold Wilson’s Labour Party. They were going to bring about radical change, to re-forge Britain in the “white heat of the technological revolution”, and above all, they were going to scrap Polaris. They didn’t of course, and (apart from a brief period of hope under Michael Foot) I’ve never trusted anything the Labour Party has said since.
But if I can’t explain it in those terms, then perhaps it really is true – there has never been a time when politicians told such outright and easily demonstrable lies on the scale which we are witnessing today. The Prime Minister lies on an industrial scale, even if MPs are told off for pointing it out. But the fact that it is contrary to parliamentary rules to call the PM a liar doesn’t mean that she isn’t. Day after day she opens her mouth and what comes spilling out is in complete contradiction to objective, provable truth. It isn’t just her, of course; but we’ve reached a stage where mere ‘facts’ are no longer relevant; her nearest thing to a saving grace is that she hasn’t yet reached the level of Trump, who seems to feel himself bound to utter six demonstrable untruths before breakfast.
She told the House of Commons this week that she’s spent two weeks ‘negotiating hard’ with the EU when, in reality, they are still waiting for her to define what she actually wants. There are no negotiations – as some EU officials put it this week, the UK is only “pretending to negotiate”. What she asked parliament to agree to yesterday was to give its approval to continuing the pretence for another two weeks; she still hasn’t a clue what it is that she’s trying to achieve or how it is in any way different from that which she herself solemnly declared to be impossible just a few short weeks ago. It would be a foolish person who was prepared to wager that she won’t go back to parliament in a fortnight, declare that she’s still ‘negotiating hard’ but needs yet more time to define what it is that she wants.
In the worst days of the old Soviet Union, when the economy increasingly resembled a basket case, one factory manager was reported as saying of the workers “they pretend to work and we pretend to pay them”. The UK seems to have reached a point where the government pretends to govern, the opposition pretends to oppose, and parliament pretends to have some influence. Where’s Toto when he’s needed?