The ‘Why…?’ Test

Posted on: 18th May 2011

Originally posted September 26th 2007

The world of politics is presumed to be where the clever manipulation of fact, fiction and spin are presented. But how can you tell which is which? One of the simplest tests is often overlooked.

It’s a bit like comparing the worst type of fiction with the best classical literature. The difference often is that the main characters in good fiction have plausible motives – jealousy, passion, greed, etc – whereas in poor fiction people behave irrationally and out of character – if they have one.

Well, it is just like that in politics.

Politicians sometimes have to endure claims that they are behaving in an irrational manner. That a political leader ‘wants to destroy rural life’ or that they want to ‘undermine British business’ or that they aim to ‘abandon our cities’.

I often recommend that people who hear extravagant claims such as these simply put them to the ‘why would they want to do that?’ test.

If there appears to be no good reason to behave in that manner then it is probable that the claim has no substance. Likewise, I have heard the claim that I ‘want to hand all powers over to Brussels’ or that I ‘want to destroy local government in Cornwall’. It is difficult to commence an intelligent conversation in the face of such claims without it turning into a pantomime – ‘oh no I wouldn’t’, etc …

So in the ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘how’ and ‘whys’ of politics most of the information can be presented as fact. The ‘what’s’, the ‘where’s’ and the ‘how’s’ can be answered as part of an evidenced-based science. We can get quite close to the truth. But when we search for reasons, a little like Theologians, politicians can end up red faced and steamed up as opinion starts to diverge.

And why do I want to tell you all this? Probably because I am engaged in some dastardly plot and skulduggery to take over the world, no doubt…