The Real Hypocrisy

In a week (or was that a decade?) when the UK Electorate asked themselves whether Boris Johnson could be trusted, UK politicians are under the most intense scrutiny. It is a General Election campaign after all.

But hang on a minute.

Surely the supreme hypocrisy in politics is for a politician to profess to be without hypocrisy?

Let’s be candid about it. Searching for a political leader who is not a hypocrite of sorts would be a greater lost cause than, well, the Liberal Democrats.

This election, as is the case at any time, will surely be about only attaching one’s vote to the least injurious hypocrite.

Because hypocrisy in politics is as inescapable as rubber chicken at a constituency gathering, as well as being intrinsic to the human condition.

Politicians are rigorously scrutinised apropos their interaction with the real world.  And that is a world with inestimable variables that are bonded by equally boundless analyses, value judgements and determinations. 

Inconsistency and contradiction are going to be uncovered, particularly when a dedicated band of bloodhounds are assiduously sniffing (and digging) them out.

So, for every political figure (and the same applies to every one of us) there will be something that will instigate an awkward shift in the seat, as instantaneous pressure is brought to bear on them to square it.  Some declaration they made about one aspect of their behaviour that will be outwardly gainsaid by another fragment of their political CV.

Habitually, it is nothing more than a consequence of originally employing imprecise labels, or just having not appraised something as appositely as they should have. Or just that somebody exercised a judgement differently.

Big deal. It happens. And it happens to everyday folk all the time and the accusation of hypocrisy is seldom levelled. People just point out the inconsistency, which initiates reflection and maybe a change of tack.

Politicians too are afflicted by this, though they grapple with additional complexities.

They have to unravel the political conundrum that you cannot change anything, unless you get elected. Politicians without power cannot enact new law and effect change. It’s one of the rules.

So, politicians need to resort to the Realpolitik lark. Tone down the extremities, so that the lion’s share of what they say will garner the black crosses of the majority, who are also middle-of-the-road.

Why do you think that both Labour and the Tories have been busting a gut for the middle ground during the last few decades? They know that they have to focus on the conventionality and orthodoxies that appeal to the hoi polloi.

So not only are politicians as vulnerable as the rest of us to being brusquely rogered by a white-hot discrepancy poker, they do need to be consciously selective in what they prioritise and push. They also have to adhere to the party line, so must forego a certain amount of individual choice, in order to fall in with their compadres.

It’s a tough old world, of that there’s no doubt.

What awaits them though, is confrontation with what might be known of their past individual stance, by those who effortlessly swat away any consideration of what they are obliged to sign up to now as part of their present duty.

It does get the old grey matter tingling regarding the hypocrisy of those posing the questions. But Let’s park that for a moment.

Let’s have a few moments to consider poor old Jeremy Corbyn. Slated for being a renegade, disloyal backbencher who didn’t toe the party line.

Later slated for sacking rebels in his own shadow cabinet for not toeing the part line. 

The same Corbyn who is a campaigning politician and by all accounts an excellent MP. A man of principle and a lifelong Eurosceptic, who voted Remain, but who will stay neutral on the question of a second referendum.  This is a man who now as leader must coalesce the diverse elements into one unified body.  And to do this, he has had to compromise and reprioritise.  And I am willing to bet that it is the part of being leader that he loathes.

But is it hypocrisy, or good leadership?

And don’t forget, that in a democracy, a leader is not just an individual, but an embodiment of an institution.  So, is it fair to drill down on the leader for inconsistency, while accepting that any particular party is a broad church?

If it is, would it still be fair to criticise any leader who has failed to unite the party? Arguably not. But those who judge – the political commentators – cut it whichever way suits their ability to stand up any one argument at any particular juncture.

Look at Nick Clegg, the fantastically popular opposition leader with all his cool, laid-back Lib Dem policies. Lovely to be in a position of being able to promise the world, in the knowledge that he would never be called upon to deliver.

And then he was. He must have stood in the garden of Number 10 that day, knowing that for him it was 5 years of power and then that would be it.

So, he took it, and he, along with many others – like the current Fib Dem Leader Jo Swinson – supported a whole raft of Tory legislation that contradicted many of the flagship promises he been punting while in opposition.

Hypocrisy, or Realpolitik?  After all, better to be inside the tent pissing out. Better to have power and try to effect some change from within.  Resolutely stick to your principles and you remain out of power and achieve nothing.

And let’s not forget old Bo-Jo. Two articles on the EU, one effusive in praise for the majestic institution and the other manifestly critical; publication decision wholly dependent on which way he decided to jump.

Again, hypocrisy or realistic politics?  After all, Leave or Remain was diametric choice, between two immeasurably complex positions. No single strand of argument could not be controverted by citation of another line of thought expressed by the same side.  Each camp had to boil down all that morass of complexity into a single pick. The pros and cons of Leave could be flipped over into an equally well-stacked rationale to Remain, depending on value judgements of the person weighing up the argument.

The rationale for either choice was always going to be contradictory and self-defeating.

Yet it was the exploitation of this – by both sides of the debate – that has kept the whole EU debacle festering away for so long. And it will now never go away, however the political reality of membership is settled.  And quelle ironie, before the referendum was announced, the vast majority didn’t even have a strong opinion either way.

It was only the nutters at either fringe who put it on the agenda and the media that kept it there by stoking it. The so-called foreign propagation of fake news will likely pale into anaemic insignificance when compared to the mainstream fakery from within our own shores.

Forget the Red Battle Bus too and all that other nonsense.  And don’t blame Parliament.

Our path to the abyss has been fuelled by the fertilisation of an unceasing mass of contradictions and inconsistencies, with the result that facts became subordinated to emotion. It just became too laborious and recalcitrant to plough through the evidence and make strong cohesive and unfragmented treatises. 

Even experts have been derided for their expertise. That is where it’s at.

And feeding the frenzy have been our media, who have excreted the greatest hypocrisies of all.

The political commentators, who resort to the purist definition of hypocrisy, ignoring political reality at their convenience, and then who pick out the points for their own O.K Corral in their purported quest for truth.

But it’s not because they want to better inform people. They just want to create some good copy, that in turn will boost circulation, viewers and their own positions.  

These are no Wyatt Earps on the plot for this shootout. Just currency speculators.

And the ones who so readily throw the H-Bomb are equally happy to blame fake news on Russia.  Even Mr Putin would doff his Budyonovka to that one.

Ultimately, the question of the least harmful hypocrite among the candidates is a matter for individual conscience and individual vote.

But in the meantime, try not to let the truly grievous hypocrites sway you.

unsplash-logoAdi Ulici

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