11th April 2016.
Whose truth shall we vote for?
Purdah-that period of inertia in public life prior to an election-is inevitably punctuated by posturing and oratory, which, by any stretch of the imagination is far removed from the truth. Often story-telling (more accurately, lying like Billy-oh) is far more politically productive, if morally repugnant, than being open and honest with the electorate. It's called spin.
But do we really want to hear the truth at election time? Or any other time for that matter? I'm reminded of that Hollywood representation of military justice, "A Few Good Men". Jack Nicholson's Colonel Jessep is asked in the witness box for the truth.
A fulminating Jessep delivers a damning indictment of those who claim to search for truth, but who really don't want to hear it. Finally, he tells his interrogator, "you can't handle the truth!".
And so it is, with alarming regularity in political and public life, we claim to want the truth. But can we handle it? Take funding and services. We don't want to hear about services cuts, because as sure as bears DO in the woods, we'll vent our spleen at those delivering the bad news. By voting for the other chap. Or chapess. So can we blame those whose political careers depend on our endorsement?
We claim to admire whistleblowers, the vast majority of whom are attacked, ridiculed and humiliated in a way most of us couldn't handle. They may spend years, subjected to abuse, mental and emotional torture, and intimidation. And that’s at the hands of those who are legally and statutorily obliged to protect them, never mind those whose reputations and livelihoods are threatened by their revelations. At the end of it all, their careers and reputations lie in tatters. They pay the heaviest price in their professional and personal lives. If they live.
Millions observe from the sidelines and do, well, nothing. They don’t lift a finger, except to wag it disapprovingly in the direction of the poor sod whose only fault was to have a moral compass that actually worked. Until, that is, they realise that what was said by the defenestrated eejit sacrificing all for the greater good, was actually true. Or until they find themselves subject of abusive attack by those who are tasked with maintaining order and control in our society, never mind those who are allegedly regulated by them. Then you’ll hear them scream like a stuck pig.
It is Kafkaesque to behold. Those who lie best in their own interests continue up the greasy pole, as those having dared to tell the truth in the public interest hurtle earthwards at breakneck speed toward an unsympathetic public below. Comfort, rarely afforded to the whistleblower as they lie professionally, financially and emotionally ruined, may come later.
Some Hollywood type might make a film about their story. Then you might recoup your losses, but probably not. It’s more likely you’ll have to make do with the public’s grudging acceptance that you were, after all, telling the truth. And they couldn’t handle it.
So, as we enter another round of electioneering, spare a thought for those who tell the truth in the vain hope you’ll believe them. Do not be blinded by those who have lied-not simply spun-about our health services in West Lothian.
Remember those who would have you believe their smoke and mirrors. Local MSPs like Fiona Hyslop and Angela Constance.
The recent debacle surrounding children’s services at St. John’s is a catalyst for their under-achieving. The public should not be fooled by their disingenuous hand-wringing as they claim to want to keep the services as they are, but are powerless to guarantee anything. What was it they said about the Labour party in 2007?
Yes, they said that you shouldn’t vote for Labour because the Labour Government wouldn’t guarantee services, and had already taken many away. Really, they did. And we listened. Labour got a bloody nose from which they’ve still to recover.
But now the boot is firmly on the other foot after 9 years in power. Responsibility for the partially privatised, funding-starved wreckage that the NHS in Scotland has become lies with them.
So, the choice is yours. Use your vote wisely, but use your vote.
Most of all, be honest with yourself about how the people you vote for handle the truth.