Waving two kinds of trust banner, but is there any honesty?

I am indebted to Howard Reynolds, who earns his living as chief apologist for Carlisle City Council, for cultivating in last week’s Letters column my irascible, gruff and prejudiced reputation. At least, I project a consistent image. This is more than can be said for some politicians who, unlike me, aspire to run the nation.

I am indebted to Howard Reynolds, who earns his living as chief

apologist for Carlisle City Council, for cultivating in last week’s

Letters column my irascible, gruff and prejudiced reputation. At least,

I project a consistent image. This is more than can be said for some

politicians who, unlike me, aspire to run the nation.



Which brings me immediately to that elusive political quality called

trust. This has emerged, after two weeks of ’sleaze’, as an election

issue.



Indeed, you might say that trust is a direct descendant of ’sleaze’

since those who claim it as their trademark - Tony Blair’s New Labour -

are the fiercest opponents of murkiness. It is, I fear, a dangerous

appeal.



In examining it in PR terms, I want to declare an interest. I object to

current politicians asking me to repose my trust in them. They have

forfeited any right to make that pitch after handing over the regulation

of MPs’ affairs, at Nolan’s instigation, to an outside Commissioner for

Standards. How dare they ask me to trust them when they have admitted

that they are not to be trusted in the running of their own official

lives?



The Labour Party’s cheek is all the greater for its enthusiasm for

external regulation.



But let us put that to one side. What do our two main parties mean by

trust? In practice, two different things. The Conservatives implicitly

ask us to trust them to run the UK on the basis of their

performance.



They are wrong to do this apologetically when they have engineered the

best economic scenario this country has known for a good 70 years.



An ebullient party, instead of one weighed down by a minority of silly

MPs and Europe, would also be triumphant over its conversion of Mr

Blair, if no other socialist, to its policies. Hardly a day goes by but

he espouses another facet of Tory doctrine. The latest is privatisation,

which Labour has fiercely fought for 18 years.



That explains why Mr Blair’s appeal to our trust is subtly

different.



He cannot ask us confidently to trust the nation to Labour’s tender

loving care since it has rejected the very idea in four general

elections. Instead he is asking us to trust him to prove that the Labour

leopard has changed its spots, however many doubts, Howard Reynolds

please note, Labour-controlled councils engender.



My conclusion is that, in PR terms, the wrong party grabbed the ’trust’

banner. The Tories might reasonably wave it, although they would be wise

not to overdo it. Instead, it positively inspires Labour’s onward

march.



It is however, an ill-fated standard. Governments pay a heavy price for

causing disillusionment - and the price is all the greater when they

specifically make trust their platform



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