It’s one rule for them, another for everyone else
The main but unspoken deal when it comes to newspaper columnists is that they are supposed to be fairly wise people who can write well enough to be able to comment on just about anything.
Um. That begs the question how it is I’ve managed to hang on to this slot at the WMN for so long. Because the older I get the more I admit to being clueless about so much that goes on.
Here’s an example. I was in Italy this week (see today’s food pages) on a visit which, not for the first time, made me think hard about Brexit.
Milan seemed to be a wellto-do kind of place. I’m not just talking about how most of the shops seemed posher than ours (Armani versus Poundland?) – even the tube trains seemed better, more roomy and faster. The cars which people were driving seemed newer and shinier.
I found myself thinking:
“So this is meant to be one of the useless EU basket cases we’re so desperate to escape from because they are dragging us down? Which bit of that Great Escape am I not getting my head around?”
Yes, I know they’re meant to be poorer in southern Italy – and also I saw some pretty grimy bits of Milan. But in general I did not think I’d travelled from a Land of Milk and Honey to a tin-pot Third World country where they happened to serve spaghetti.
Millions of Brits go abroad each year so I can only assume they’ll have witnessed the same sort of busy sense of wellbeing across Europe. Which makes me wonder how the “Europe is failing, let’s get out as fast as we can” brigade managed to convince us that the EU was on a hiding to nothing.
One reason, of course, is because of a message they painted on the side of a bus. But no one – not even the most enthusiastic Brexiteer – is talking about the NHS getting an extra £350 million a week any more. Just about every expert has declared that it just wasn’t true.
So here’s the bit my brain cannot understand. Many business and economic experts say Brexit will be a disaster for this country. It might be, it might not. Let’s hope the latter is true. But if it is – if it’s a shambles – will we be sending the people who painted the falsehood on the side of that bus to jail?
I’ve not heard it mentioned as a possibility. Yet if you were to imagine some dodgy businessmen standing accused of telling misleading untruths in a courtroom, you’d by thinking in terms of prison sentences.
“You have been convicted of telling falsehoods to millions of citizens. One of the central selling points upon which your business succeeded turned out to be a lie. You knew this sales-pitch was backed by no hard evidence. Because of your actions great harm has been done to the nation. Millions are in hardship because you lied to have your own selfish way.”
I can hear the clink of the prison door now. For a dodgy businessman, that is. But we allow politicians to get away with this sort of stuff. We even give them well-paid jobs or knighthoods after they let us down.
Look at Tony Blair. He told this nation a lie about weapons of mass-destruction in Iraq. He convinced us there were such things and that the world was in danger – and newspaper columnists like me wrote things like: “The WMD thing must be true because no Prime Minister would dare tell such a lie. Why? Because apart from anything else, it’s the kind of porky-pie that can easily be found out.”
Blair did it anyway. There were no WMDs, yet we went to war and 179 UK military personnel lost their lives.
Whether you agree that crazy Saddam Hussein needed removing or not, Blair knowingly sold us a blatant untruth. His punishment? Today he’s occasionally interviewed on TV where he is greeted with elder-statesman status. And he is a millionaire.
No wonder electorates in places like Britain and America have become disillusioned with politics and politicians. But maybe that’s because grassroots folk like me just don’t realise how things work.
Take Michael Gove as an example. When he did that last minute stabbing-in-theback of Boris in a Conservative leadership kerfuffle, the world reeled with disgust and just about every commentator reviled the bespectacled little chap.
“That’s the end of Gove,” they said. “No one will ever trust him again. Least of all the voters.”
Now he is Secretary of
State for the Environment.
If I stitched up my mates for my own selfish ends, I’d be ostracised. But politicians work under a different set of rules. And this is the bit I don’t get. I’m not surprised politicians want to get away with it – but I am surprised that we let them do it, and so easily forgive them for it.
Gove visited Exmoor recently and was treated with awe and respect. Not by me, he wasn’t. But who am I? Just a not-very-bright newspaper columnist who often gets things wrong. At least I’m honest enough to admit it.
‘If I stitched up my mates for my own selfish ends, I’d be ostracised’