The Sketch: Lying is OK. But believing your lies makes you mad

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The Independent Online

It wouldn't have been true either but the correct answer was: "The polls were actually the reason I didn't call the election. They showed us we'd come in with a majority very similar to what we've got now. And I thought, 'why put the country through a general election to achieve what we already have?'."

And that would have been the end of it. Instead, with his high-flying Vision for the Nation and "sensing the aspirations of the British people", he sounds worse than Tony Blair. So the media (magnificent set of men and women that can out-chew any representative group of jackals) kept coming back to the unanswerable question that Gary Gibbon put in the press conference: "Can you say, with your hand on your heart, that the polls had nothing to do with your decision?" And he said: "Yes, I can."

Ooh, it makes you flinch to look at it. The polls had nothing to do with it? He might as well have said, "I only want to serve". Or, "I stand before you in all humility". Or, "I take responsibility for everything that happens in Downing Street".

It can't be true. The Tory conference turned an 11-point Labour lead into a five-point deficit in the key marginals and suddenly the election we had all been encouraged to lather up was cancelled. The polls had nothing to do with it?

To the question, "If the polls had shown you were leading in the key marginals and that there'd be a 100-seat majority for Labour, would you be calling an election?"

"I still would have made the same decision," he said. It's there on tape.

The air around him turned black, marsh gas bubbled sulphurously round his podium and when he opened his mouth, two tongues flickered out into the room. Or was it the E-numbers in my morning doughnuts? It's easy enough to say the Prime Minister's lying, but I have something more alarming.

These people need to believe they are truthful, honourable, moral. Such qualities are their most precious resources. A politician says something slightly untrue, a fib. The media sense it, the questioning intensifies and the politician ends up having to tell big, gob-stopping, full-fat lies. But because integrity is more valuable than sanity he adjusts himself to the lie; he rearranges his character around the lie so that he can say, "Whether I was right or not, I believed it to be the truth". Even now he may be persuading himself that the polls had nothing to do with his decision.

It's not that telling a lie makes you wicked, but believing your own lie makes you mad. You have to adjust the world to your own, false, version of it. And then you invade Iraq. How will it end for Gordon Brown? We'll have to wait and see.

PS: A new Broonian word: "Arkiada". Pronounced like an inverted Arcadia.

"Arkiada" is "not welcome" in Iraq, he said. If you can ignore the carnage you can laugh at that. "You're barred Arkiada! You're not welcome! Out!"

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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