Wednesday 5 November 2014

Who can be trusted to tell the truth?

You would not think it now, but I was a very trusting child. I believed my parents when they told me you could always trust a British bobby.

Evening, all. A classic octogenarian British PC.

I even believed my first headmaster when he told us, at the time of the 1961 census, that its secrecy was so complete that one could put down one’s occupation as “burglar” without any fear of retribution.

Scroll on to 2014 and it seems that you can report as many thefts as you like without anyone lifting a finger, though the European Union presumably marks them down as further evidence of burgeoning economic activity, justifying another whacking increase in its membership fees.

After all, it has just slapped in a £1.7 billion demand that seems to be largely based on previous under-recording of such vibrantly healthy UK economic sectors as tobacco smuggling, prostitution and drugs. By which I guess they mean the sort favoured by that “crystal Methodist” banker rather than my own statins and low dose aspirins.

Maybe this is the sort of British success story George Osborne has in mind when he bangs on about his “Northern powerhouse”, led by a directly elected mayor. You remember, the sort that the people of Manchester (and many other places) rejected in a referendum only two years ago but are now apparently going to have anyway, whether they like it or not.

Among his or her many other useful functions this new mayor will take over the role of the police and crime commissioner that a handful of people bothered to vote into office a few months later.

It all seems eerily reminiscent of voting ten years ago against both a North East assembly and a unitary authority for the whole of Northumberland. One of which has already been imposed upon us while the other is clearly trundling down the tracks once again, thinly concealed by more waffle about “city regions”.

Really, what is the point of voting for anything at all when no notice is taken of the outcome?

How would it go down if I adopted the sort of approach to the Government that it takes with me? Maybe sending my tax demand back with an offer to pay a token amount because it’s all I can afford (which has the virtue of being true).

Oh, and I’m terribly sorry, HM Revenue & Customs, but you won’t be able to check my records yourselves because I’ve shredded them all to comply with the Data Protection Act, as the House of Commons has done with all those dodgy expenses claims.

... apart from the ones we shredded

Regardless of election results, politicians of all parties display a shared and cynical determination to plough on with policies they have never deigned to explain properly, whether those be elected mayors or the encouragement of mass immigration.

Small wonder that the result has been a collapse of trust in authority over the last half century, which means that most of us no longer look up to anyone or accept what they say at face value.

In some instances, this is entirely beneficial. For example, if you were crazily thinking of buying a ticket to outer space from a music industry entrepreneur with a proven track record of failure in the technologically less demanding task of running a reliable train service into London Euston.

In others, the results are more questionable. Virtually no one but the most gullible green fanatics believes that there is a case for massively increasing our reliance on wind and solar power. But then virtually no one readily accepts the case for massive increases in fracking or nuclear capacity, either. 

If the UN’s scientists are right, and we need to get used to the idea of doing without gas and oil completely by the end of this century, a lot of us are going to need to do some pretty radical rethinking about who we can trust quite soon.

Either that or prepare to spend rather a lot of time sitting in the cold and dark. On the plus side, though, we won’t be able to hear George Osborne banging on about powerhouses. And, if the scientists are right, it won’t be quite as chilly as it might have been.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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