Thursday, 5 April 2007

Distance from power keeps us honest

In another piece of groundbreaking journalism, the Times has invited Big Brother and Manchester University psychologist Geoff Beattie to rate the honesty and evasiveness of British politicians.

It will be of no great surprise to Liberal Democrats to discover that their leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, gave direct and frank answers most frequently, while Home Affairs spokesman Nick Clegg was least likely to avoid the question.

Labour scored consistently badly, with all Government Ministers proving more evasive than Campbell or even the Conservative front bench. Interestingly, the most evasive politician of them all was the “straight talking” Home Secretary, John Reid.

But before we start pushing Foci through letterboxes and touting our honesty on doorsteps, we should note Beattie’s warning: “There is not some factor that make [the opposition] psychologically more straightforward than Labour.” Rather, they were affected by “the constraints of government”.

Thus, “I wouldn’t for a second say that Conservative [or, presumably, Liberal Democrat] politicians are more straight-talking. Once they get a chance to go back into government, I’m quite sure they will be equally evasive.”

Liberal Democrats often like to point out that they are a less venal bunch than the other parties, noting that nobody joins the Lib Dems because of a hunger for office or power. Perhaps by remaining on the opposition benches it also gives us the chance to be more honest and open. Every cloud has a silver lining.

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