From Boris Johnson’s parties to Keir Starmer’s pledges and Nicola Sturgeon’s referendums, recent British history is a monument to the art of political untruths. All sides roundly accuse the others of fake news, disinformation and spin.

Accusations of lying are so endemic that there is little value in comparing the honesty of various competing political parties. To argue that the SNP are less fraudulent than the Tories, that Holyrood is mildly less mendacious than Westminster, does nobody’s intelligence any credit.

What does matter to me is the comparable political effect of lying. Conservatives like Johnson can go years without comeuppance because nobody really expected truth from them in the first place. Dishonesty was ultimately Johnson’s downfall, but this was less about his public legitimacy – nobody ever voted for his honesty – than about the embarrassment his lying brought to insiders at Westminster.

Of course, plenty of right-wingers lie with abandon. They condemn NHS waiting times then present deportation flights to Rwanda as an answer. They proclaim family values then sneak around behind their partners. They pretend to scorn elites in public then suck up to them in private. But I’m tired of complaining about that, because moaning about Tory fibs isn’t just lazy - it’s also a form of intellectual dishonesty.

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It’s dishonest, most of all, when it implies that lies and spin are the reason for persistent social inequality or for the left’s electoral weakness. If only politicians would tell the truth! If only media wasn’t biased! But is the other team’s dishonesty really an explanation for the predictable invisibility of left-wing solutions at elections like nationalisation, pay rises and proper trade union rights?

I know my own perceived shortcomings as a socialist: I’m part of an over-educated, professionalised middle class which has emerged, via social mobility, from working class, immigrant roots. But that’s hardly unusual in left wing spheres. In nearly all advanced economies, there’s a notable gap between the left, in the broadest sense, and the working-class.

Yet the gap is only a symptom of a deeper problem. If right-wingers are dishonest with the public, left-wingers can be guilty of (sometimes well-intentioned) dishonesty with ourselves, which in turn breeds garbled communication and public mistrust. Too often, we are confused, even tortured about what the left should stand for.

I can list three areas of self-harming, typical lefty dishonesty that I have been guilty of myself.

Firstly, we are too often dishonest about what it takes to form a majority. It’s this dishonesty that made Bernie Sanders supporters squeamish about his appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast. It’s this same dishonesty that made Jeremy Corbyn supporters shudder at the possibility of accepting Brexit.

Having shrunk away from those tasks of majority formation, bursts of left-wing revival die down and leave the road clear for your Joe Bidens or Keir Starmers to march back into power, leaving us to complain about the consequences from the sidelines.

Truthfully, I believe there is no prospect of a purified “politically-correct” majority. The biggest and best campaigns acknowledged this. When I participated in Stop the War, it wasn’t an uncomplicated “lefty” campaign: anti-war branches might feature an eclectic array of Christians, Muslims, Hasidic Jews, conspiracy theorists, libertarians, military families, student Marxists, radical feminists and assorted others. And it was all the better for it.

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A second damaging dishonesty is to claim that socialists, somehow, can do without priorities. The accumulated wisdom of the contemporary political age consists in the phrase, “no hierarchy of oppression”.

Therefore, as anyone could be harmed or victimised, every issue is now a political priority. This sentiment may be held in good faith, but it is not politics. Sadly, very few left-wing intellectuals are willing to admit the need for priorities: figures like Jim Sillars, who have made the case for prioritisation, are disowned.

Lastly, in Scotland, there’s a dishonesty about a progressive and radical case for independence, a decade on from the referendum campaign.

Of course, not all left-wingers support independence, and not all independence supporters are left-wing. But there’s little doubt that the two became entangled during the 2014 campaign, with its anti-austerity, anti-Trident, anti-war flavour.

Given the breakdown of the Sturgeon era, it’s high time for an honest inventory of our investment in independence. What was it about? What was it for?

In truth, unionists were never entirely wrong to say that independence might be turbulent or economically destabilising. It could even open our country to greater corporate capture, especially if Andrew Wilson’s Sustainable Growth prospectus remains intact.

If anyone asked me, would independence make us better off?, I could probably weasel my way out of telling the truth, like a shiny, suited politician: isn’t the UK itself highly unstable in this era of Brexit? Look at our economy, the Tories can’t be trusted with our future! And so on.

But these would be dishonest deflections rather than actual answers. And people can spot this a mile off.

If the independence movement wants to restore respect after so many broken promises in our name, we must start by admitting the harshest truths: radical change is not without cost. And the “official” vision for independence, founded on Sturgeon’s myths and moonbeams, might have been yet more disastrous than our current British disorder.

Still, options are actually limited. There is no possibility of injecting new life into Westminster’s democratic malaise.

If passivity and security are your aims, stick with the current system, but know that the problems of a failing economy will get gradually worse. If you believe, like me, in the necessity of a harsh, thankless task to start democratic revival from scratch, and in holding our elites to account, that task starts from Scotland because our political rhythms are Scottish.

Don’t get me wrong: our everyday constitutional battles remain mired in dishonesty. Phoney wars over second referendums, drugs, gender, marine conservation and bottle deposit schemes are all themselves symptomatic of the malaise of devolution rather than violations of it.

The SNP-Green coalition are playing a dishonest game too. But rather than just challenge our politicians, I want to challenge myself and any like-minded readers to rise above it and be more honest about what change might mean and look like.

It’s only when we speak honestly to ourselves that we can be authentic with everyone else.