From the campaign trail - disinformation in politics

9 Apr 2024
David Cornish

One of the things that I’ve always wrestled with in the middle of a political campaign is that I just know I’m not a politician!

All my working life was spent communicating with the public (or ‘customers’!) in an open and honest way and I find myself at a loss to understand why politics needs to be different. It seems to me that to give people facts is to give them a choice. Simply making stuff up just to annoy people can be a highly effective political tool in the short term, but eventually just debases the whole political process.

Let’s take a current example of the rebuilding of California Crossroads. For sure, it’s a controversial project, with some residents facing disruption to journeys that range from the niggling to highly annoying. The local businesses are also facing a tough time of it.

But this project has been years in the planning, it’s not some recent invention by the LibDems; as is being falsely claimed by people who seem to want to win a vote at any cost to their own ethics. 

This project was conceived with a genuine sense of vision and championed by local Conservative councillors in order to repair the road and rejuvenate the whole area. However, rather than reassure the community about the funding for the project, its purpose and how long it would take, local Conservative campaigners have taken every opportunity to cause upset, have a moan, criticise council officers and generally to promote as much discord and anger as possible. I just don’t understand that mentality.      

When I’ve told people the truth about the crossroads project, they may still not like it (and that’s fine) but at least they fully understand the background and feel that they have the facts.   

Another pet area for deceiving people is Planning. Generally, most people don’t want further development and that’s understandable. There are times when the whole community, including councillors get together to oppose a particular development, for genuine reasons, and that can be highly effective.

But there are other times when local councillors know that there are no real grounds to challenge a planning application. Then we have a choice; to explain the situation to residents and work with everyone to make a development as acceptable as possible, or, to pretend that we can ‘campaign against it’ and deceive people into thinking it can be stopped when it can’t, especially when councillors campaign against plans that they had previously endorsed just to win a few votes. Then it’s no wonder that residents get angry at ‘the system’ and lose faith in democracy.          

Then let’s look at the Barkham Solar Farm. This is another long-term, innovative project, championed by a previous Conservative administration. Lo and behold, as an election approaches, they are suddenly turning against it, seeing a cheap opportunity to be ‘against’ something, rather than to promote a future source of clean energy and much needed additional income for the council. 

It is a tragedy for local politics that otherwise well-meaning people develop a mindset that the only way to get elected is to be against everything and provoke as much anger and discontent as possible in the hope that it will persuade people to vote for them.

Surely, it is the duty of everyone standing for public office to simply tell the truth and inspire people to vote for them. Telling a positive story breeds faith in our community and our politics; the opposite destroys it.

I’ll end with a positive example of my own. For reasons not to bore you with, a week or so ago, I found myself in the Royal Berks Hospital for a couple of nights, one of which was spent in A&E due to a lack of beds. Once on the ward, it became immediately clear how many beds were occupied by people who needed to be either at home or in a care home. It was also clear how hard the NHS staff were working with, in at least two instances, Wokingham Borough Council, to get those folks out of the hospital asap. 

I am very proud to say that it remains a top priority for the LibDems to protect our Adult Social Care budgets. To do so has a very clear benefit not just to our residents who need a hand, but also to our NHS who are doing such a brilliant job but need all the help they can get to move people out of hospital and free up beds. That’s the story I shall be telling on the doorstep; I’ll leave the moaning to others.          

This website uses cookies

Like most websites, this site uses cookies. Some are required to make it work, while others are used for statistical or marketing purposes. If you choose not to allow cookies some features may not be available, such as content from other websites. Please read our Cookie Policy for more information.

Essential cookies enable basic functions and are necessary for the website to function properly.
Statistics cookies collect information anonymously. This information helps us to understand how our visitors use our website.
Marketing cookies are used by third parties or publishers to display personalized advertisements. They do this by tracking visitors across websites.