HONESTY is the best policy, they say. Trust, decency and respect are the building blocks of civilisation. Speaking from a high-minded philosophical plane, Thomas Jefferson said: “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
Now allow me to bring you crashing back down to earth, to the land of cavemen that is modern society. Let’s take a snapshot look at a few of the big stories from the past week and see how “honesty” fared against its evil rival “lies”.
Unsurprisingly, not terribly well. Am I over-reacting? Not according to Lord Agnew of Oulton who shook up the sleepy red benches of the House of Lords when he accused the Government of “lamentable” and “woeful” ineptitude by writing off a staggering £4.3 billion in fraudulent payments from Covid emergency funds. He then promptly resigned. The stunned silence was deafening, a few of his fellow peers even woke up, briefly.
In the same week as billions of pounds faced being flushed down the lavvy, the Tory Government’s new hardline approach to jobseekers on Universal Credit kicked in, where those on benefits are being told to look outside their chosen field after four weeks rather than three months. Fail to take any old job, and you’re metaphorically whipped into submission by harsh sanctions.
So what does this say? On the one hand, fiddle the books, rip off the taxpayer and get rewarded . . . handsomely. On the other hand, lose your job through no fault of your own and get punished . . . severely. In short, lies win the prize, fibs earn you quids. Honesty? That’s a mug’s game.
Many will argue lavishing welfare benefits discourages work, so that cutting them makes people look harder for a job. So naturally there will be little outcry over the Tories’ strict work policy.
Such a lack of sympathy, however, is short-sighted and not a little prejudiced. Having occupied the ranks of the unemployed, I’m pretty sure not everyone on benefits is sitting about watching Loose Women all day. Universal Credit isn’t a malingerer’s charter. And the one-size-fits-all get back to work – any work – mindset is nothing short of a disgrace.
In other news, this time from across the Pond, in the showdown between Joe Rogan and Neil Young there was only ever going to be one winner. By sticking with their populist shock jock over the principled music legend, Spotify gave two fingers to the facts and offered a warm berth to dangerous anti-vax falsehoods rather than a classic rock catalogue. Lies go two-nil up.
And, of course, who can forget the titan of the untruth himself, our less than trustworthy leader Boris Johnson. As he untangles himself, Houdini like, from the Partygate imbroglio and continues to have his cake and eat it, integrity will be left to wither on the vine of Tory self-preservation and double standards. A three-nil victory to the Big Fat Liars United.
So where does that leave us? Up the creek without a paddle, quite frankly. Welcome to a world of Del Boys (or more appropriately Boycies) and Arthur Daleys, where pulling a fast one, breaking the rules and getting away with it are to be celebrated.
Honesty? You must be having a laugh. Looking at last week’s news, you can only draw one conclusion: honour, integrity and fairness are for the losers, the mummy’s boys, the naive and the feeble minded. If you want to make a fast buck it pays to be as slippery as a sand eel in a soap factory.
Now, I know a bloke, who knows a bloke…
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