Political mendacity is futile

by
01 November 2019

October 31st, 1919.

“IT WAS an age of political lying, but in the profusion and recklessness of her lies Elizabeth stood without a peer in Christendom. A falsehood was to her simply an intellectual means of meeting a difficulty.” So Mr. J. R. Green, writing of the Bright Occidental Star. Those who scan closely the replies to questions in the Houses of Parliament may sometimes think that this abuse was not peculiar to the Elizabethan age. It may be admitted that replies to embarrassing questions are more often evasive than false, but falsehood is not unknown. The method is more than futile. Not only is falseness sooner or later detected, but truth itself becomes suspect, and the Government which resorts freely to evasion and falsehood suffers far more severely in its credit than the framers of ingenious Parliamentary answers seem to think. We are glad that in the course of the W.R.A.F. [Women’s Royal Air Force] inquiry counsel relentlessly pressed his point. He elicited from one of the witnesses the admissions that a Parliamentary answer may be distinguished from a true answer, that a person answering on official matters might “put into a tactful form” what he did not believe in, and that a particular answer given in Parliament on a matter connected with the W.R.A.F. was, as the witness said, “not exactly truthful”, and, as counsel preferred to put it, “frankly false”. A small group of members determined to put an end to official evasion and mendacity by means of persistent supplementary questioning would find its action very heartily approved outside Parliament.

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