It’s a funny old thing, lying. People claim to hate it, and say that they hate it when politicians lie, but in reality they don’t – or at least don’t always. Gordon Brown lost the next election in 2007, when he marched his troops to the top of the electoral hill, and then tamely marched them back again. But voters really turned against him with a vengeance when he claimed to a press conference that the sharp narrowing of the polls, particularly a marginal seats poll in the News of the World, had nothing to do with his decision to cancel the election.
Bull-shit. The polls had everything to do with it – if the polls had still been showing a 10 point Labour lead, then there would have been an election. It was a lie, pure and simple. And everyone knew it was a lie. Everyone hates liars, ergo Labour fell of a cliff and have never recovered.
And yet. Before that election that never was, when it looked certain that the only question was how much Labour would win by, David Cameron was publically insisting that he believed the Tories would win outright. He can’t really have believed that – the best the Tories could have done in a 2007 election was deprive Labour of their majority. Further, the whole aim of the Tory conference of 2007 was to spook Labour into calling off the election – an election that the Tories were desperate not to have to fight. So, this too was a lie. But it is not one that people seem particularly to disapprove of.
There are, in other words, understandable and expected lies – ‘of course the Prime Minister and I get on’, ‘Bloggs is an excellent MP and a good friend’, ‘I have no plans to run for the leadership’ – all these are lies that we expect MPs to make. The lies we don’t like are the ones where we feel the politician is not playing the game. It’s the difference between ‘no dear, your bottom does not look big in that’, and ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman.’ And in this instance it was Gordon who was left with the sticky dress.