If you follow politics, you have probably seen the controversial Labour campaign adverts which personally attack Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Of course, it’s right to point out that the number of Police Community Support Officers has fallen by 50%. It’s right to point out that many serious offences don’t go to trial for up to three years and that 99% of reported rapes don’t end up in court at all.
It’s right to point out that offenders are more likely to be addicted to drugs when they leave prison than they were when they went in.
All of these are verifiable facts, and they all paint a damning picture of a Conservative Government which has talked tough on crime whilst underfunding the criminal justice system from top to bottom.
But the Labour party chose not to focus on these statistics, instead claiming that the Prime Minister doesn’t think child abusers should go to prison.
Even former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett could see that this was wrong, saying: “When I heard about a tweet from the Labour Party’s official account suggesting that Rishi Sunak was somehow responsible for failing to ‘lock up’ criminals who had abused children, I immediately thought: My party is better than this.”
Keir Starmer should have apologised for crossing the line between robust debate and dirty tricks. But instead, he has ‘doubled down’, saying that he “stands by every word” of these attack ads.
This is a dangerous moment for our society.
In 2016, the Brexit campaign revealed that many voters pay more attention to shocking statements than to true statements. Brexit campaigners like Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak knew it was a lie to say that the UK sends £350-million per week to the EU, yet they wrote it on the side of a bus and repeated it endlessly because they knew that the lie would generate publicity for their campaign.
Since then, we have seen Conservative MPs, Ministers and Prime Ministers become ever-more eager to bend the truth. This brings us to a cross-roads as a society: Do opposition parties fight lies with the truth, or do they fight lies with more lies?
As a Liberal Democrat, I believe that democracy is meant to be a battle of ideas, not a battle over alternative realities! We have successfully campaigned to protect Cornwall’s Fire Control Room and won the argument for restrictions on holiday homes by relentlessly focusing on the facts. But if the Labour party doesn’t share this commitment to the truth, then a Labour Government will follow in the footsteps of the Conservatives, telling us that everything is fine whilst the country continues to fall to pieces around us.