WHEN I was a very little girl my mother gave me a piece of advice I have never forgotten and hope I’ve always acted upon.

I had done something and empathetically denied that I had, although there was no doubt who was the culprit.

Bending down to my height, she held my hands and said firmly: ‘Always remember this. You will not always be punished for your actions. But you will always, always, be punished for the lie.’

In other words, ‘tell the truth and shame the Devil.’

A day of reckoning will come in the wake of the coronavirus but it will be a long time before the cold, spotlight of absolute truth probes this wreckage of lies. And liars.

There has been little shaming of the Devil in this UK government and its shameful, slavish near adulation of PM Johnson by his devotees in both Tory Party and Press. The latter I say in great sadness for I once was so proud of my trade. Once.

It used to be said that journalism is the first rough draft of history. I trust future historians will not take as their template certain right-wing publications and their columnists and produce the ensuing perverse record.

But it is the politicians who rightly must take the weight of their mendacity, their evasions, their omissions. No doubt, when called out after the graves are covered in their first undisturbed summer growth, they will have perfected yet other mantras.

‘We did it for the good of the people. We couldn’t tell them the full truth. We couldn’t panic them. We had to protect them. We had to always give them hope.’

Ah yes….the hope that all front line staff will be given full protective clothing; the hope that testing will be offered to all; the hope that the old, those in care homes, those alone, will be given the same attention as the rest; the hope that there really is a master plan to lead us from the wilderness.

(I say I, we and us, when writing about the UK and I, we and us, when writing about France. It is a form of schizophrenia common to all in self-exile who have a foot in both camps.)

And they will say it stuffed with the righteousness of men and women who thought only of the people, only of the common good, and turn their faces from any hint of self-reproach. Not for them the examination of the conscience, the sleepless night terrors of uncertainty.

Day after day they come to the Downing Street podium, minister after minister in descending order. Some are nervous, eyes flickering, desperately trying to remember the script. Others – well two – grip the podium with hands of steel and faces of iron.

‘Trust me, me, me.'

For a minute, in the manner advised by all tutorials in inspiring confidence, they pause dramatically when asked a straight question, and you think…'Ah, this is the moment he tells the truth.’

No, of course not. That’s only in films. They are merely staking a claim as the next PM.

Instead he repeats: ‘We are led by the scientific and medical advice’ and one sees one of the scapegoats placed in target as they line them up for the inevitable inquiry.

The more authoritarian a government, the more they play the paternal role. The father keeping the children safe. The stern household head setting the rules, not sparing the rod – always for ‘your own good.’

Perhaps I put too much faith in an electorate that voted for Brexit, voted decisively for this present Government and even now, according to the latest polls, believe it is doing a good job.

But as their granny dies alone in her care home, the nursing cousin weeps with fear and exhaustion; when the massaged death figures rise and rise; surely even the most rabid will question?

I know the answer already but I will not give in to total despair.

Those not tempted by lies and promises can be found these days on social media. They do the job many in the Press have seemingly abdicated.

They use video clips to contrast what was actually said with what is now being claimed; they provide references to back up their proof and give provenance. It’s relatively easy to do but seemingly too hard for those ‘professionals’ who day after day at the Press conferences fail to push and push Ministers into truth telling.

But back to the politicians. My trade will have its own day of reckoning and will emerge scorched, changed and, please God, once more, true to its calling.

Will politicians? Unless they find guts and accept we are not children who need to be shielded from bad news, there is no hope – merely a change of government on the endless carousel.

I need to state here I exclude the First Minister and the Scottish Government from this. As far as I – and many others world-wide – can see, they are being transparent and speaking to fellow adults. You’re lucky.

As for the rest – my mother was wrong. There are times when you need to be punished for the action as well as the lie.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.


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