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The treadmill

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As we know, the political game is a theatre where aspiring actors must stand out in some way or they don’t get top bookings. The theatre requires drama from them, but honesty is rarely dramatic. Hence there are essentially two ways to stand out on the political stage – by raw ability or by lying. In some disastrous cases – both. Tony Blair for example.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, lying is the favoured approach for those would-be political actors who happen to be deficient in raw ability. Most of them in other words. Hence the political stage has a powerful tendency to attract narcissist I can do that better than anyone else recruits – the self-centred liars.

Another problem is that honesty is a treadmill of endless caveats and uncertainties where picky people rule and major political actors know it. They have absolutely no interest in treadmills ruled by picky people – that is definitely not why they entered politics. 

Honesty becomes a political treadmill if everyone understands their own abilities, what they have to offer, what other people have to offer, how the world works and how much it relies on people looking out for themselves within a wider picture. If all that were to be commonly understood, then political life would have to be far more pragmatic. Crude lies handed down by elites wouldn’t do at all.

The trouble is, hardly anyone strutting the political stage wants it be significantly more honest. An effective fightback against the honesty treadmill has been to spend huge sums of money on persuasion. Persuade people to accept even the most blatant lies – it can be done because it has been done and will be done again. And again and again…

Hence the coronavirus debacle. It is not only a problem of grotesque government incompetence but a question of political theatre. The play must go on but the whole theatre attracts actors with absolutely no interest in a pragmatic response to the pandemic. They cannot allow the treadmill of honesty onto the political stage. The ugly spectre of merit could mean greasy pole would have to go. That would never do for those whose only skill is knowing how to climb it.


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