It had not been my intention to post under this heading so soon after that of the first, however a news item today voided my original intention. Apparently today Boris Johnson had a slight difference of opinion with Ken Livingstone, in the process calling him a 'procreating' liar. Andrew Gilligan, Daily Telegraph, posts on the lies it is alleged Livingstone told, including 'evidence' to show that they were indeed lies - who is right matters not in this case.
For so long have politicians lied to us or, in the words of Alan Clark, been 'economical with the actualité', we have become inured to that which they tell us - especially when they are campaigning and/or presenting us with manifestos. This is illustrated by Cranmer in his post today on the subject of the surveillance of emails and telephone calls; a post in which he recalls the manifesto promises made by both the Tory and LibDem parties in the 2010 General Election, coupled with that subsequently issued by the Coalition. If we go back to 2005 further examples of broken promises were illustrated in this post from January 2009.
Some hold that it should be possible to legally challenge political manifestos, yet where this has been attempted courts have held that an elected member ‘ought’ to give considerable weight, when deciding whether to implement policies put forward in a pre-election manifesto. However elected representatives must not treat themselves as irrevocably bound to carry out pre-announced policies contained in election manifestos. Moreover The Court of Appeal held that to hold that the pre-election promises bound a newly elected Government could well be inimical to good government. It was one thing to say that an administration properly and morally ought to have regard to its pre-election promises. It was another to say that it must have regard to them and a yet further thing to say that it must ordinarily act on them. The law went nowhere near that. The Court of Appeal emphasised that it did not wish any encouragement to politicians to be extravagant in their pre-election promises, but when a party elected into office fails to keep its election promises, the consequences should be political and not legal. (source) So we see that pre-election promises are not legally enforceable, which begs the question why do politicians make pre-election promises that they cannot keep? This may be because it is easy to promise dramatic changes to the law when not in Government, but more difficult to make them work in practice. Also, when elected, the party may have more information available to them and realise that the pre-election promises are not very practical. On that last point I would contend that if the required research had been carried out properly then politicians would be aware of the point about practicality. This is especially so where this country's membership of the European Union is concerned and when politicians promise action in an area that is a competence of the EU.
However - bearing in mind the foregoing - the question has to be repeated, namely why cannot a political manifesto be legally challenged - it is, after all, a contract twixt a political party and those they are asking to elect them. In all 'unions' involving people and their relationship with one another two words must be included in those relationships: 'honesty' and 'truth'. Without those two 'basics' any relationship is bound to be fraught with suspicion - which is probably why politics has reached the nadir it has.
Obviously I know not what the 'Old Swan Manifesto' will produce and whilst I am a firm advocate of direct democracy I am only too aware that that system is not everyone's cup of tea. However, if we are to have 'Referism' in respect of the need for taxation, then should we not have that same ideal where the introduction of policies is concerned? Should not there be a statutory period between a Parliamentary Bill passing its final reading and receiving Royal Assent - one that allowed the people to challenge said Act, through the use of referenda, prior to it becoming law?
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