The truth, the whole truth

The truth is something a lot of politicians seem to have some difficulty with, especially the whole truth (except for a few politicians who seem to have no difficulty promoting mistruths).

Trade Minister Todd McClay learnt a lesson this week about what can happen about not being up front with the truth.

Audrey Young: Harsh lessons about telling truth in politics

Two politicians found themselves in trouble this week, one for not telling the truth, and the other for telling the truth.

Both were damaging.

Todd McClay’s failure to tell the truth reflects badly on him as Trade Negotiations Minister rather than his party. He has held that job for only six months but he has been a minister for three years.

He mishandled a media story that floated the notion of a trade war by the Chinese Government with New Zealand in retaliation against a possible inquiry into Chinese steel imports. It turns out that he and his officials had had enough information since the end of May to cast doubt on it. But he gave the story legs by denials about the Government then two different admissions as to what he knew and when.

McClay gave answers to questions that may have been technically correct in terms of a Chinese Government trade war but were misleading in terms of what he actually knew about comments made by a Chinese importer.

The Opposition tried to paint the political failings of the minister into a story about the failure of the Government to take threats of a trade war seriously. But the facts did not support the claim. Key himself had been kept in the dark by McClay.

Being publicly castigated by the Prime Minister and forced to apologise will be a lasting blight on his career. If in doubt, tell the truth, the whole truth.

It certainly reflected poorly on McClay, and it also added some taint to National.

I don’t expect we will ever get many politicians prepared to tell the whole truth unless it benefits them, but telling a decent chunk of the truth, and not misleading or telling lies, should be an essential.

The truth is important, even though we can’t expect to always get the whole truth. Nothing but the truth should be a basic minimum of elected representatives.

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17 Comments

  1. Whence comes “the taint that breaks the ShonKey’s back”?

    “Nothing but the truth should be a basic minimum of elected representatives.”

    Yeah, right!? We’d have to invent another name for it because it wouldn’t be politics any more …

    Reply
    • Corly

       /  30th July 2016

      I little disrespectful towards our PM, PartisanZ. If Andy was going to introduce my nose to the proverbial at the next election, I wouldn’t be calling him a perpetual loser.

      Oh, well. Each to their own I guess.

      Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  30th July 2016

    What did McClay have to gain?Makes no sense.

    Reply
  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  30th July 2016

    “Nothing but the truth should be a basic minimum of elected representatives.”

    A thoughtless banality taken literally. There is a lot expected of elected representatives that has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of facts. Writing meaningless cliches is not analysis.

    Reply
    • duperez

       /  30th July 2016

      Weekend sport well underway even before a ball is thrown, kicked or hit.

      “Nothing but the truth should be a basic minimum…” is a thoughtless banality? Is saying that a thought out, dead set truth?

      Were the utterances of Judith Collins about a trip to China thought out truths?

      Blazer asks what Todd McClay had to gain. What did he have to lose?

      McClay’s gain/loss according to Audrey Young is him being publicly castigated by the Prime Minister and forced to apologise. Truth as a political function, a political plaything and commodity, truth not in itself being of value.

      Our gain/loss is well understood. We saw that with the support of Collins at the time. The Minister of Justice no less, playing fast and loose.

      That makes it a surprise now to see Young picking on poor Todd. Is that too a thoughtless banality, meaninglessly pro forma with a plaintive look towards a horse that has bolted?

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  30th July 2016

        Apply to your own comment. Is it nothing but the truth? No, it is full of questions, opinions, discussion. Were you allowed to write nothing but the truth most of it would be deleted. A silly cliche designed to end thought rather than provoke it.

        Reply
        • duperez

           /  30th July 2016

          A most puzzling reply. Of course my comment was full of questions, opinions, discussion. Thought provoking stuff I would have thought. But it ended up being called a silly cliche “designed” to end thought. What?

          “Nothing but the truth should be a basic minimum of elected representatives” drew your wrath.

          Maybe it’s a personal thing. I expect everyone to be honest. That includes our elected representatives. That particularly includes a Minister of Justice. You know, the person responsible for the justice system which has people as part of one of its core precepts attesting to something being honest.

          A positive view of reading your comments would have them being an affirmation of my comment about truth being a mere commodity. Who cares if a politicians lies? Do we only care if the person is on the other side of the political fence?

          What I’ve written is truthfully my opinion and my questions. Delete away.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  30th July 2016

            I could be wrong, but I interpreted Alan’s comment: “A silly cliche designed to end thought rather than provoke it” to be in reference to the final two sentences in PG’s post, duperez – not to your post in reply to his. o_O

            Reply
  4. Corky

     /  30th July 2016

    Before we signed a trade deal with China we should have researched how Chinese do business. Russell Peters explains literally how it is.

    From 1.40

    Reply
  5. Gezza

     /  30th July 2016

    IMO, politicians in tricky situations, unless forced by hard evidence that requires them to be completely frank & honest, will always tend to answer tricky questions with what I personally refer to as ‘the hole truth’.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  30th July 2016

      Journalists spend their careers trying to trap politicians into a misstatement. Some politicians inevitably become so gun shy they try to avoid any concession or revelation at all. Winston does it by attacking the journalist. Others grasp at technicalities or ambiguities. The more skilled apply their arsenal of confusion, distraction, false leads, truth and blank refusals to serve their political needs successfully.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  30th July 2016

        Agreed. Although I must admit to enjoying the many spectacular failures we have come to know – such as when Bill “did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky”, and when Tricky Dicky said “I am not a crook”.

        Reply
  6. I listened to a RNZ Media commentary this morning by an Australian Journalist who was at an organised meeting of academics and journalists here in NZ. She said that the old system of check, recheck and get confirmation of data is no longer the process used by Journalists today. Their imperative is to be the first to publish, particularly in digital media. Before, it was usual to seek comment from an opposing point of view so as to build in “balance” to the story by e.g. comments as to the veracity of the information published.
    I always suspected that this was now the case, what you read in digital media stories nowadays is unprocessed information and open to interpretation. What about the profession of Journalists? Already dead, now being cremated!

    Reply

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