Learning to lie a lot less

Perhaps the saddest comment I read about the General Election was a tweet on polling day from someone who I admire: “Genuinely think the only way Labour will ever win another election is by learning to lie a lot better”.

Forgotten, perhaps, amongst the surprise result is the assessment from the Institute for Fiscal studies that the neither of the main parties set out “an honest set of choices” in their manifesto, and both presented a misleading picture of the impact their polices would have over the next parliament.

It is clear to anyone following the election campaign (and the referendum prior to that) that many of the statistics presented were murky to say the least. Living where I do – the only Labour ward in a Lib Dem/Conservative battle-ground – the leaflets we received from all three parties were copious and regularly deliberately misleading.

“They can’t win here,” Labour and the Lib Dems shouted about each other, both presenting colourful graphs illustrating what happened last time – the Labour one adding in font size 2 that their ‘last time’ was the London Mayoral Election. Meanwhile the Tories bizarrely banged on about their record on school funding – in a Borough in which every parent of a school aged child had recently received a letter from their Headteacher describing the state of school funding as horrific. Who you gonna believe?

The fear, expressed succinctly in a tweet, that politics can only be dominated by those willing to bin their integrity, is something which resonates strongly for me with the world of charity.

Exaggeration, manipulation, shock and fear have, for years, been used to generate funds – everyone knows that a picture of a hungry child raises more than a healthy one. On occasions the messages portrayed contradict the beliefs of the charity, and sometimes the ‘ask’ is far detached from what the money needs to be spent on. On trains, on TV, in flyers, on Facebook, in the street – a lot of fundraising still mirrors the NSPCC’s Full Stop Campaign from the 1990s, surely both the most and least successful campaign of that period, raising oodles of cash and putting a stop to remarkably little.

The approach of many campaigning in the recent election was that ignoring integrity is the most effective way to achieve success. A small number of charities have taken the same approach. But a charity without integrity becomes just a business getting unfair tax breaks. In difficult times, it is those many charity leaders who lie a lot less who get my vote.