Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes…
So sang Leonard Cohen in 1988.
Labour lost the 2015 election in 2010-11 when they failed to nail the twin lies that:
- The economy was in dire straits, as bad as Greece
- It was all Labour’s fault.
See my verdict on these issues here.
The groans at the televised leaders’ debate on 30th April, followed by Ed Miliband being called a “liar”, said it all. Polls had shown that, by 2012, over 60% of the population believed these lies. The intervention in December 2014 into the debate by Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England at the time of the 2008 crash, made no difference.
Matters got worse when the following acts of “economy with the truth” went by without serious challenge:
- “Benefit scroungers” were to blame. The figure quoted repeatedly, over two years, was £5 billion of “fraud and error” – note the order of those words – in the benefits system. This failed to point out that only 20% of this was fraud, representing just 0.7% of the benefits bill. It’s doubtful that attempts to drive this down further would be cost effective and would run the risk of penalising basically honest people who sometimes make mistakes.
- Immigrants were to blame. Even the Economist, not known for its left-wing sympathies, refuted this in quoting a late 2014 piece of research which, like all previous such research, shows that immigrants continue to benefit the economy as a whole.
- The EU was to blame. Numbers galore get bandied around in the debate, usually by someone (often, but not always, from UKIP) who has found some numbers purportedly showing the direct “cost” of EU membership. Occasionally, a pro-membership voice quotes some numbers about jobs lost if we quit. With the scope for selecting only those “facts” (which are sometimes just oft-repeated assertions) which suit the opinions of the author, any chance of arriving at a reasoned conclusion in all the noise is, frankly, impossible.
The so-called debate between the remaining contenders for the Labour Party leadership seems also to be constrained into a debating space which accommodates these lies. The usual suspects in the media will continue to ensure the dice stay loaded.