There is a long and utterly dishonourable tradition in rural Welsh politics where so called ‘Independent’ candidates for local authorities get elected unopposed by any of the formal political parties. One of the reasons for this is that some of them adopt the practice of telling all of the parties “I’m with you really, but I’m more likely to get elected as an independent”, and have even been known to give small donations to multiple parties as a token of their ‘good faith’. I even recall one who told us that he’d be standing as a Plaid candidate next time round so we didn’t need to oppose him, but he didn’t want to announce it until after nominations closed so that none of the other parties could oppose him. It’s probably needless to say that after nominations closed and it was too late to find another candidate, it emerged that he was standing as an ‘independent’, yet again.
It’s a practice which was brought to mind by the ‘news’ from the Conservative Party leadership contest that Boris Johnson has developed an almost unassailable lead amongst MPs with 80 now allegedly supporting him. The Conservative Party likes to regard its MPs as being “the most sophisticated electorate in the world”, but this is actually a euphemism for “the biggest bunch of liars”. Given that the eventual vote is held by secret ballot, it is perfectly possible – and apparently entirely normal – for MPs to pledge their vote privately to more than one candidate, in the hope that if they are believed to have been on the winning side, they may gain some preferment when ‘their’ candidate has been elected.
What that means, in practice, is that Johnson and his team haven’t a clue how many are actually going to vote for him, and nor do any of the other candidates. The ‘news’ that he is far in the lead is no more than propaganda parading as fact in a dark and devious attempt to give the impression that his ascent is unstoppable. There are two things that I don’t understand, though. The first is why any news media – all of which know what a bunch of liars they’re dealing with – should choose to present this as ‘news’. The second is why any of those resorting to such propaganda – who are even more aware than the media of the level of dishonesty amongst their colleagues – would think it stands any chance of working.