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Honest politician

Gavin Allen | 09:45 UK time, Friday, 6 June 2008

Lying is rather frowned upon in the House of Commons. Indeed it's assumed that since no MP, honourable as he or she is, would stoop to such levels, it's deemed unparliamentary language to even accuse someone of being a liar.

Politics Show logoBlackguard, git, guttersnipe and other vicious slurs are also on the banned list, but they were less on David Cameron's mind on Wednesday when he ridiculed the prime minister. "If a company director got up and read out a statement like that, the authorities would be after him," said the leader of the opposition - that's "Gordon Brown's a liar" to you and me.

And you and me probably wouldn't be that shocked if MPs did lie - after all the popular approach to politicians is perhaps best summed up by the "Why is this lying bastard lying to me" school of thought beloved by some journalists. It's unfair of course, but the age of spin and selective use of stats has left many voters rather jaded.

So what a delight when a politician is brazenly, shockingly, in-your-face honest and decides to tell it like it is. The former Education Secretary Estelle Morris who resigned when she realised she just wasn't good enough, the late Alan Clark who gabbled through a ministerial speech on equal pay and "found himself sneering at the more unintelligible passages", startled by the "sheer odiousness of the text". And now, as highlighted by the Politics Show this week, Mike Russell.

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Mr Russell is the environment minister in the SNP administration at the Scottish Parliament. Called a few days ago to make the closing speech in a debate on "Moving Scotland Forward", custom and courtesy might have expected him to praise the previous speakers or applaud the quality of the contributions. Thankfully for us, not a bit of it. He told a wide-eyed Parliament that the debate had been pointless, uninteresting and useless. It was political theatre. And, gloriously, he declined to take any interventions from other MSPs on the basis it would waste everyone's time still further, adding: "My intention is to get through this and then I want to go home".

Does this make it into the top ten most honest political moments? It would be an interesting list - if a tad short, you might fear. "It is appropriate for ministers to tell the truth and that's what I intend to do," said the candid Mr Russell. The only worrying thing for us voters is that a politician feels he has to spell that out.


  • Comment number 1.

    Robin Cook resigning over Iraq is the most obvious 'honesty' moment to me. He was a central part of an administartion that seemed to have made it clear that it had no real views at all, other than doing whatever was necessary to get elected again. So to find one of them obviously believeing in something strongly enough to give up such a role, was a huge shock.

  • Comment number 2.

    Two things come to mind.

    1. Is it possible for a politician to actually be 'honest' without being self-serving at the same time?
    2. Is it possible to compile alist of politically honest moments that makes it to 10 items?

  • Comment number 3.

    As well as the late Robin Cook, another MP who I always found refreshing in her forthright openness was the late Mo Mowlem, who of course also died prematurely, within 13 days of Cook.

    I'm reminded of her candid response to a question about past drug use: "I tried dope. I didn't particularly like it. But unlike President Clinton, I did inhale." Typical Mo!

    Glad to see you mentioned Estelle Morris too - even besides her stepping down moment, I always found her sincerity stood out amongst her political colleagues.

    Other than that though......

  • Comment number 4.

    Very funny. But note that Mike Russell is Minister for Environment in the Scottish Government, not the Parliament.

  • Comment number 5.

    "Lying is rather frowned upon in the House of Commons."

    Don't you mean: "Being honest enough to point out that someone is lying is rather frowned upon in the House of Commons."

    The fact that moments of honesty from a politician are so newsworthy says it all really, doesn't it? And I suspect Nosnarc (#2) is right about the challenge of trying to make it into double digits when counting politically honest moments.

  • Comment number 6.

    Honest politician is an oxymoron. Their sole purpose is to say whatever sounds good for the purposes of getting re-elected time and again so they can sit around and appear to be working, with the emphasis on sitting around.

    Politics isn't supposed to be a profession.

  • Comment number 7.

    I guess this is one of the unforseen problems that devolution brought, that someone has slipped through and he plans on telling it like it is. God love the man for the trying.

    If only only politicians could be more like the BBC and never tell lies then everything would be O.K.

  • Comment number 8.

    Good for him. If he had nothing constructive or worthwhile to say?, he's probably better being at home.

    What worries me is, when they are less than honest they seem to get away with it.
    And political commentators rarely say anything to challenge why they are not subject to the same law as the rest of us.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think the root of the problem is that they are self-governed, and responsible to to nobody other than an electorate with no real alternatives.

    It's a private club where the lucky members, make their own rules, decide how much they will pay themselves, what benefits they will receive and if and how they should declare them to us.

    How can any of this encourage honesty, or be attractive to an honest individual considering applying for membership.

    It's time for the 'Independent Honest Party'

  • Comment number 10.

    Spot on, Skid-solo(9). I wonder how many people out there know that there are sections of the Taxes Acts (enacted by our MPs in Parliament), in particular in that part of the legislation which governs the treatment of expenses, which apply only to Members of Parliament, and, of course, apply a tax treatment to MP's expenses which the rest of us could only dream of. So they're not only awarding themselves eyewatering amounts of expenses under very lax rules, but they're not prepared to be taxed on them in the same way that the rest of us would be, in the most unlikely event that we received such largesse. Haven't heard much about that from the BBC, have we, folks? Or from any other media source, for that matter. But then there are so many things it's better the children don't know about- the poor darlings just might get upset, and that would be no good at all, now, would it?

  • Comment number 11.

    I have watched many MPs those most are liars it is the only way they can keep in the party it is after all about the Party not about those who vote for you, we do not vote for the leader of that party. I was always amazed how we are sold people who should be scene by a psychiatist first as the power= egomanic you can see it in their eyes many MPs see it as a boarding school with all the chaps it is even to this day a mens club with the old boys and a few girls who come along as one of the lads for all Thatchers make over she was still what I would call a daddies girl.
    There is an idea that everyone believes them most people have an healthy dislike for them as they do for doctors and estate agences, insulting peoples intelligents is what they do and we expect them to do it for the many there is few I would trust. Cable, Galloway, as two.

    To me leader play act they are chosen not by us but by Whitehall they are the face that we look at not who is their masters like Whitehall, M15 and others, no I do not think people take what is said by these immature men and women as truth, look at all the mess they have got us in over the years more or less the same thing over and over again.

  • Comment number 12.

    You can read the Moving Scotland Forward debate mentioned in the article on TheyWorkForYou at

  • Comment number 13.

    I left the UK 3 years ago, I'm not coming back, it's going to the dogs, and it's the lack of strong characters in parliment that's leading the pack.

    So someone pointed out that someone was twisting the figures to make it more appealing, so what? They do that with Internet link speeds and with car acceleration figures and a great many othe things.

    The only good thing about this entire exchange is that David Cameron spotted a flaw and pointed at it.. It doesn't make him any more honest..

    Maggie Thatcher wasn't popular, but she certainly wasn't afraid of upsetting a few people for the common good.. Since her we've had Mr major, who had no personality, Mr Blair, who was his own best spin doctor, and now, Gordon brown, who wasn't even voted in!

    No thanks, I'm going to stay here, where the weather is better and the air is cleaner, even if he politics aren't.

  • Comment number 14.

    Here is what just went in to the BBC:

    What does the UK community think about the emerging John McCain "Gestapo" Tactics going on in the so called USA freedom arena. Shocking videos are showing up on youtube like we found at:



    for starters. Good Lord, seems John McCain wants the wold at war with itself forever and is demonstrating that he already has his "gestapo" on the rear ends of his protestors in the U.S. Has the BBC had a look at this and seen how it connects to the problem of American Health Care and Insurance Corruption. People are finally bringing out the truth on youtube about the way the good old American Profiteers kill people in hospitals because there is money in it and when McCain is contacted, cops show up with guns but now people are fighting it with video cameras. These poor oppresed people would likely be dead if it were not for having the smarts to take out the old camcorder. Bravo to those fighting the American "gestapo" with cameras instead of guns, I just hope these people stay alive long enough for maybe the British to make issue of it knowing the media there will likely ignore them. Hell, they kept a 13 year old girl prisoner trying to lure dad out of the house clearly to grab him up. This is the sick nonsense that comes from a Nation without humanatarian health care still in that for profit. Watch out America your real illness is starting to show. Michael Moore was right on about it in "Sicko" for certian. it all is laid out at another site: but the poor folks are under attack from their exercise of free speech for god sakes. Here comes the fall like Rome if McCain is elected there.


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