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A Citizen's Guide to Duplicity

rotten appleCitizens' appear to be disenchanted with the political process and perhaps with politicians themselves. And when we view the behaviour of our politicians it is hard to argue that this disenchantment is not fully justified. Do you remember when Osborne and Cameron claimed to once have eaten a pasty and told us that tax avoiders were morally repugnant. Quizzical journalists asked if that applied to the tax dodging behaviour of their spiv buddy Sir Philip Green but all they wanted to talk about were distant memories of mythical pasties.

The failure of the Nation's political managers, chiefly their inability to inspire the public's trust, to act with integrity, to behave like leaders, to set high public standards corrodes the public consciousness. The fact is that our political class are liars. However, you'd expect them to lie in some instances, e.g. on our collusion with the US over rendition and torture but should we expect them to lie about the success of some of their silly policies, e.g. the 'troubled families initiative'. That initiative has helped no one and not met any of its own targets and yet the government claims that it has been a brilliant success.

The roots of social decay

What we have seen is our modern managers turning politics into a board game called Duplicity, where lying is deemed to be an acceptable part of continuing in the game for as long as you can, and when you get 'caught out', you don't leave the field of play, you lie some more.

Political commentators, seeking to claim some moral vantage point, some higher ground from which to declare their penetrative insight, will frequently cite a vague point in the past when the worm turned, when things changed for the worse, when we strayed from a now lost virtuous path. Some will be prepared to take us back as far as the Magna Carta or the Great Rebellion, time before the Great parted company with Britain.

The general populace have never been blithely ignorant of the maneuvering of the political/business class. They knew their betters were rotten self servers but life was nasty brutish and far too short to make a fuss. Those who did make a fuss on the fields of Peterlee were hacked down by the forces of law and order, upstarts who wanted to vote. Who's law, who's order?

In the public interest, it's simply not good for the masses to know too much. Even as late as 1960s and 70s we see the British and US governments colluding to remove a whole population from Diega Garcia, out of the public gaze. No questions were asked, those that were, in later years, met a stonewall.

However, technical innovations of recent times have added a new dimension to the game. Those old school types who guard the public interest in Whitehall are playing second fiddle to some long haired hippie hacker and the secrets are now public knowledge. New responses are called for now from the liars and deceivers, and the Murdochs' provided us with a virtuoso performance at the Leveson Inquiry, as did the skulking coward Jeremy Hunt, who allowed his permanent secretary, Jonathan Stephens, to take the rap for his association with the Murdochs.

Lying is the new normal

When lying becomes the cultural norm, citizens can be forgiven for believing they are living in a banana republic and adjust expectations accordingly.

Everyone knows what a lie is, well perhaps they did but today looking up the word lie in a dictionary will not help. Lying has been refined by the players at the Duplicity board, where words mean what the player thinks they mean as they seek to persuade the rest of us that we misunderstand what words mean.

Straight answers, the truth doesn't intrude when the culprit denies all knowledge or simply refuses to explain their behaviour. Mr Cameron didn't know when he employed Andy Coulson that he'd been involved in the phone hacking saga. Coulson was at the News of the World when the paper's reporters increasingly resorted to illegal activities to get the dirt on people. Coulson was there when Clive Goodman was charged with conspiracy to intercept telephone calls. Coulson was there when the cheques were being signed for PI Glenn Mulcaire, Goodman's phone 'blagger'. Seeing Cameron portray himself as a dimwitted employer stretches credulity; almost as far as Liam Fox, who couldn't explain what Adam Werritty was doing following him all over the globe, business card in hand, endorsed by Fox.

On reflection, Mr Cameron's judgment as an employer leaves much to be desired. Spread-better, party fund-raiser, Peter Crudas, was captured by undercover reporters advertising that the Prime Minister would be open for business to anyone who wanted to join the ‘premier league’, by donating £250,000 to the Tory party.

And we may wonder if Mr Cameron asked any searching questions of Craig Oliver, his replacement for Andy Coulson. Oliver, who set up a 'legal' tax avoidance scheme to manage the £150,000-a-year earnings of his television presenter wife through a company called Paya Limited.

The sorry stories of Liam Fox, Oliver Letwin, Chris Huhne, Jeremy Hunt, David Laws, and Theresa May, make us realise that there's not much to be positive about when it comes to our political class.

Before Theresa May became our leader in 2016, we saw her as home secretary, getting her dates mixed up over the deadline for exporting Abu Qatada back to Jordan. We saw Mr Cameron saying:

"The European Court of Human Rights 'told' the Home Office that the time limit for the radical Islamist to appeal against deportation would expire last Monday (i.e. 16/04/12) at midnight."

The Home Office were surprised to hear that they had been told anything, in fact, they simply thought they had the deadline right but they were wrong, by a day. Ms May subsequently appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee and was asked six times whether any of her 61 lawyers had checked the deadline date and six times Ms May did not give a straight answer. Eventually, Qatada went home of his own accord, July 2013, or so we are led to believe; some think that money changed hands but we will never know the truth.

The Spectre of Past Misdeeds: Rendition and Torture

Not so long ago we frequently saw David Miliband, one time New Labour Foreign Secretary, asserting that Britain did not condone or participate in torture. And yet we now see a Libyan military commander is taking legal action against former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, claiming he was handed over to Colonel Gaddafi's forces in 2004 by MI6. Abdul Hakim Belhadj, who was believed at the time to have links to Al Qaeda, says he was tortured as a result. Back in 2004, Miliband was given a non-job in the Cabinet Office by Tony Blair, allowing some to argue that he would have known nothing about Jack Straw's CIA connections. However, having arrived at the Foreign Office you might think he would bring himself up to speed with the department's past misdeeds - but not asking allows you to lie honestly.