Why don’t politicians give straight answers?

Why don’t politicians give straight answers?  Could it be because we won’t let them?  They can’t ever be wrong – or admit they were – because the media will call them incompetent and we all shake our heads and tut disapprovingly and mumble into our collective coffees.  They can’t change their minds because the media will say they are indecisive – cue another bout of head shaking and coffee mumbling.

So how are politicians supposed to learn and adapt?  Take the enormously unpopular “Poll Tax” here in the UK.  We used to set local tax based on the size of the building you lived in.  This meant a person living alone in a large house paid a huge amount for local services like refuse collection of which they used only a fraction.  In contrast houses with multiple occupants crammed into a modest home (for which read poor people splitting the rent) produce more waste than might be expected for a house that size but don’t pay extra.  Getting individuals to pay seems like a fair idea doesn’t it?

When the initial figures were calculated it seemed to support this fairness as it appeared we were all going to pay a fair share.  But in reality was four times as much as the calculation.  It turned into a train wreck because we were all paying more and the lack of means testing meant low paid people rammed into tiny bedsits were getting demands for money they couldn’t possibly afford.  The policy could have been altered or abandoned at this point but it was a “flagship policy” emblematic of the Conservative values of fairness, independence and responsibility.  The media would have had a field day.

We should have a “just culture” like the RAF where admission of failures is encouraged.  Honest errors are accepted as part of the endeavour, investigated and lessons are learned which prevent a repetition.  Flight training of course involves making in flight mistakes in order to learn how to recover.  Blame and recrimination are not part of this recipe; an acceptance of human frailty and acknowledgement of a problem to be fixed certainly are.

It is worth noting that we aren’t talking about people who hide their mistakes and get caught.  We are discussing people who show integrity by admitting a mistake and who show a sincere desire to rectify it and learn from it.  I heard another, possibly apocryphal, aviation story a few years ago.  A ground crew member used the wrong fuel in an aircraft and the takeoff was aborted, safely on this occasion.  The pilot located the guy, who naturally figured he was in for some abuse.  But the pilot said he understood that mistakes happen, confirmed the guy was highly unlikely to make the same mistake twice and asked him to be his personal re-fueler in future.

This makes sense to me – I wonder why it doesn’t to journalists?

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