Monday 3 April 2017

The £350,000,000 a week bus lie

There is the old joke: “How can you tell when a politician’s lying? He’s opening his mouth.” That’s a little harsh, perhaps. There are many sincere MPs, who, although they may show bias and in the end there is something natural about that, they don’t set out to deceive. Nevertheless, just before the referendum on 23 June 2016 a group of academics, some of my dear colleagues among them, urged both Remain and Brexit to stop lying. After the referendum many of us signed a petition asking politicians to be truthful.  And what was their reaction? They claimed that they don’t tell lies. That’s the sort of statement that can unhinge a robot or a computer. 

Historians write history by leaving things out. Many who know of Florence Nightingale have never heard of Mary Seacole. You can use statistics to prove anything: I’ve seen the same set within ten days in my former place of work being used to give us a pat on the back and then to kick our behinds. We have all heard of alternative facts now. The more philosophical will say that the opposite of truth is another truth.
Yet there was something really nasty about that bus that goes beyond this nuancing. And about the sign I had to drive past every day that said “£350,000,000 a week is no joke. Save our NHS.” 

Of course, now we know it can’t. By his own admission a certain MEP who always reminds me of a Jack Russell, says that that was a mistake. A mistake that he lied? Or a mistake in his understanding? Goodness, if an MEP doesn’t understand how the EU works, how will the rest of us manage? Amazing how many people googled “EU”  AFTER the referendum, mind.
Yes, we send £350,000,000 across but we get £300,000,000 back for our regions – two of which want to remain in the EU and all of which are making big noises about independence. I’m near a city that voted Remain and I’m enjoying the new tram routes partly funded by EU money. On the Sunday after the referendum I went to an outdoor event and we parked at a nearby enterprise that displayed a huge European flag. It had received European funding and brought thousands of jobs to a deprived area. Then there are the subsidies to farmers and the collaboration in research. I’m no expert on how all of these pots of money fit together but if we start having to pay import and export duty on goods going to and from Europe, the extra 50,000,000 will soon be used up. Did you notice how the price of peppers went up after the crop failure in Spain and we started getting them from further afield, paying import tax and air miles?    

There is something here, I believe, about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
I fear a rise in UK taxes. Amongst other things, civil servants are going to be very busy. How will the present government be able to keep its promises? 

And for the record: I love Jack Russells even if they remind me of someone.     

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