The Professors passion for "The Science of Deceit" started here...

Employed by the Ministry (in a covert capacity) to help introduce the law ending dishonest politics, you can see his hand all over the posts of past.

Current political circumstances have forced him to reveal himself and as we speak, MPs are signing up to re-introduce The Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill for debate with over 80,000 voters supporting them.

Posts before Jan '08 are purely for the record (with hindsight they make fascinating reading). Posts after May 13th mark the Professor's return.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Great Political Porkies of Our Time (Pt 1)

There's a few people out there who've said this is little more than an exercise in Blair bashing. There are also a few who've dared us to give examples of misleading/misrepresentative statements/lies.

In an effort to show we're not anti-Blair, we're anti-lying, our first example harks back to the heady halcyon days when Thatcher was little more than a coiffured pimple on Jim Callaghan's bum. This also serves as a great example of how hard it is to legally pin down a lie when you're dealing with wily politicians.

Believe it or not, VAT is a relatively new concept, originally introduced in the 40's it became known as the Value Added Tax we now love so dearly in 1973. As stealth taxes go, it's a cracker. Every purchase you make as a consumer gives 17.5% of its value to Gordon Brown and Co. That means if you work an 8 hour day, five days a week - last Friday, you spent 7 out of 8 hours working for the government (and that's after they've taken a bite out of your salary for income tax and N.I.). If you're paying income tax at 40%, you're working for the government nearly 3 out of 5 days a week .

In Callaghan's day, Britain had one of the highest rates of income tax in the world but VAT was at 8%. Thatcher tabled a motion for a vote of no-confidence in Callaghan's Labour Government and by one vote forced a general election.

In the run up to the election Thatcher promised income Tax cuts, "Bollocks" said Callaghan (bear with me, I'm paraphrasing here), "You can only afford to cut income tax if you double the rate of VAT".

Thatcher's response was steadfast - "We will not double it !"

Thatcher won the election in May and in June, Geoffrey Howe's first budget upped VAT to 15%. Now that's not doubling it. Technically Thatcher didn't lie.

The recent spat between Dominic Lawson and George Osborne (Shadow Chancellor) over Osborne's denial that
Thatcher promised tax cuts in the '79 manifesto is a decent example of Orwell's Ministry of Truth in action. An inconvenient truth and the politicians re-write history.

Here's the cutting from the '79 manifesto.

Would Thatcher have been caught by our "Misrepresentation of the People Act " ? And if not - should she have been ?


  1. Yes, she should. She deliberately mislead the electorate with a statement. Tantamount to a lie in most people's books.

  2. So basically, she cut high rates of income tax and spread the load amongst the rest of us. Charming. Lock her up I say. Wonder what the Holloway posse would've made of her. Better still, what would she've made of them ? Thatcher with a strap-on ? Poor old Denis.

  3. Hmmm, those politicians are so sneaky. As you say, Thatcher did not lie technically, but she did deliberately mislead the public. How would the Misrepresentation of the People act deal with this case?

  4. If there was a law like "the Misrepresentation of the Peoples Act" you'd stop this kind of nonsense.

  5. There was intent to mislead, but the statement was not false in a material particular. I think there really does need to be a factual lie before you should consider prosecution. To my mind, this is an example of sloppy questioning. Had someone asked “Will you increase VAT?”, she would have been forced to either admit it, or refuse to answer.

  6. I'm afraid "Zarathustra" got it right. Despicable and misleading, but not a lie and should've framed the question better.

  7. Not Alistair Campbell28 Feb 2007, 17:44:00

    Poor show on the manifesto - not nearly sexy enough. Shoulda put it in dryer and set it to Spin baby. Aaaaaahhh, if only I'd been around.

  8. Ignoring whether or not Thatcher was being economical with the truth I take issue with the idea of working for the government. We're really working for the state, and with a welfare state we are working for each other's benefit. Unless of course you are so wealthy that you live in a bubble.

  9. I wouldn’t mind working for the state if they didn’t waste so much of my hard earned money...

  10. I agree burlesque. If they were at least spending where they should be it wouldn't be a problem.

    Not sure I agree with earlier comments either, I think the biggest problem is the 'intent to decieve'. Politicians should not be able to get away with this just because we are relying on a member of the press to catch them out with the right question....