Leading Article: Stupid fibs, bad liars

Share
Related Topics
Perhaps it is only right, in this year of panic about our politicians' probity, that Parliament should close for Christmas with a final flurry of lies settling like so much fake snow. On Wednesday, Tony Blair told Des O'Connor about the time he absconded en route to school and boarded a plane. "I think it was to the Bahamas," he giggled. This impish lark by the boy Blair might have lent a likeable edge to the cheerless prude his advisers fear we're growing not to love - were it not for the Daily Mail's discovery that the airport in question did not run flights to the Bahamas at all. Its most exotic destination in 1968 was, gloated the Mail, the Isle of Man. Then came the Prime Minister's cosy disclosure to Good Housekeeping that, chez Major, Norma goes by the petname "Little Grub". This was news to the lady herself. "We don't have nicknames for each other," she said. "What rubbish." How we chuckled! The week's other deception, from the Tory whips' office - a kind of multiple share application for parliamentary pairs - was taken more seriously. Yet this lie had, at least, the distinction of a good reason behind it. The need by Messrs Blair and Major to make things up in order to sound like human beings is more troubling.

What, pray, is the Prime Minister doing in Good Housekeeping? What is the Leader of the Opposition doing on Des O'Connor? Mr O'Connor appeared as surprised as anyone, but was reassured by Blair; once installed at No 10, he intends to come straight back, and bring the whole family along. This incarnation of PM as bloke in the pub was first brought to us by Major, Ordinary John from Brixton. It is no credit to the Labour leader that he seeks to reinvent himself likewise. An easy-listening account of Tony Blair is not real; Cherie Blair QC as editor of Prima is uncomfortably close to Hillary Clinton, the home-baked cookies expert. It will come unstuck. The Tory press, as this fine-spun Labour Party should know, may have indulged much of Major's faux blokeishness, but will be ruthless in catching Blair out. A sophisticated electorate expects nothing less from its MPs than the odd slick, expedient lie from time to time. What it will find so disappointing in these stabs at self-embellishment is their amateurishness. If your sister-in-law tells you her Christmas gift is just what she wanted, all will be well. It is only if she cannot keep her voice down when confiding to Uncle Arthur that she would rather die than wear it, that the problem arises. Blair could have said the plane was only going to Birmingham, and the story would have been better. Major need not dream up pet names to deny he sits at home counting peas over dinner with Norma. Yet these needless, embarrassing lies - or acts of dissembling, should we say - are inevitable, if leaders persist in turning themselves into Oprah Winfrey sofa fodder.

Tony Blair was elected leader as a dynamic, young, but above all brilliant man. He is being transformed into a cardy-loving ass. And now the Labour Party is anxious that Blair's "personality" is becoming a bit of a problem. Even the Spice Girls have a problem with it. Women voters at large, we have learned, are not so sure about him any more. In turn priggish and churchy, then smarmy, then bossy - this is indeed a serious problem. Yet it is one which need never have arisen, had he not set about trying to be an improbably well-rounded fellow. Margaret Thatcher made no secret of her dour Grantham background, nor did she ditch Iron Maiden mystique for mateyness. But nor, New Labour could counter, did we ask her to. Could it be that we, the voters, have muddled up democracy with the notion that politicians should be boys-and girls-next-door? Or confused the requirement that a politician be of sound character, which is not unreasonable, with a demand that he or she be a lovable character, which is quite unnecessary. As fast as we are calling for committees to ensure our politicians tell the truth, Blair may complain, we are requiring new and elaborate ways in which they are to be inauthentic.

This is not good enough. So far, we have had only one Prime Minister standing on a Little Chef ticket. Tony Blair still has time to call a halt before whole Cabinets end up on Celebrity Squares; his successors will find the task progressively harder. The price he will pay if, like a teenager trying to impress, he cannot stop fibbing, will be high. The cost to our political culture will be higher.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Thame i...

Graduate Project Manager

£25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Teaching Assistant Cornwall

£45 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Plymouth: TEACHING ASSISTANTS REQUIRED F...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: out of time, polling and immigration and old words

John Rentoul
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past