The Spectator Coffee House has a brief piece discussing a post on Paul Waugh's Evening Standard blog, about Conservative unwillingness to say that health and education budgets will be cut despite the incredible inefficiency in those areas, because political opponents will equate such cuts with reduction in nurses and hospitals. My first thought was "please, people, just grow up!".
Initially that thought was aimed at the politicians, especially Labour and Liberal Democrats who would certainly make those dishonest accusations. Conservatives also need to have courage, and realise that people now listen to them and believe Labour less under Brown than they did under Blair.
However my view quickly developed to wish that editors and journalists would grow up. Yes politicians will twist the words and policies of opponents. They always have and always will, and in a democracy they cannot and should not be restrained. However the role of the media in a healthy democracy is not simply to report but to think as well. It is to present what politicians say in such a way that their readers, listeners and viewers can see both sides, and such distortions become obvious.
More honesty in politics will come when politicians have an incentive, when they realise that the media report more than rewritten press briefings, so their dishonesty becomes a liability. This is a critical matter not of personality but policy. Good policy comes from effective debate, not from a debate won by the best dissembler.
As an aside the Conservatives and Spectator must take back ground from socialists in the terms used in debate. The Coffee House piece said “… no major politician is prepared to risk the inevitable charge of wanting to shut down hospitals, sack nurses etc”. This shows how the focus is entirely wrong, and has been captured by the union movement. The issue is not nurses and teachers or buildings. The issue is patients and children. The government’s aim should be to provide services, not to provide employment.