TUMBY BAY - Politicians have many annoying habits, perhaps more than ordinary people. Where they get them is a mystery. One can only assume they learn off each other.
At the top of the list is refusing to answer simple questions. How many times have you listened to a politician on television or the radio evading a simple yes or no by waffling until the interviewer gives up?
Politicians of all persuasions do it. They probably think this is clever, but in reality they alienate listeners by demonstrating they are devious and untrustworthy.
It’s the sort of behaviour you’d expect from a criminal caught in the act and making excuses or alibis for the crime. Or denying there was a crime at all.
Another annoying habit of politicians is answering questions by spewing a stream of meaningless numbers, often to do with money.
For some reason they think their credibility can be reinforced by how much they spend or how many people they claim will benefit from that expenditure.
What they don’t explain is precisely where the money is going or exactly who the people are who will benefit.
How they remember all those numbers is mind boggling. What immediately springs to mind is that they are making them up or have memorised them from a made-up script, which often is the case.
Then there is the matter of never admitting they are wrong. How many times have you heard a politician say, “Yes, we got that wrong and we’re sorry, we’ll fix it and try not to do it again”?
Well, don’t interrogate your memory for too long because the answer is most likely ‘never’.
Concessions of error seem to be completely alien to politicians. They do not seem to realise how much they would rise in the esteem of the public if they simply admitted their mistakes.
Being wrong is not a weakness. Being wrong and admitting it is a sign of strength.
And it gets even worse. The convolutions and opacity politicians engage in to avoid admitting a mistake often gets them into such deeper mud as to make retreat impossible.
That’s when they start bending the truth or lying outright. They know they are lying and the interviewer and public know they are lying but politicians keep at it until the interviewer gets tired of it and moves on. Which is what the politicians hoped would happen.
The other tactic they use when they’ve made a mistake is looking around for someone else to blame. Blame shifting is a fine art in politics.
The people they blame are often the most vulnerable, victims of their mistakes. If that fails, or even if it doesn’t, they shift the blame to their political opponents.
How many times have you heard that something has gone wrong because it was the fault of a previous government?
That excuse can be spun out for years, decades even. It is also a very handy way to renege on election promises.
‘We didn’t realise how bad the financial situation was until we got into government and we can’t do what we promised because the previous government left us no money.’
Do they really expect people to believe that?
And what about the ego and point scoring, especially during debates but also in media interviews. Bagging opponents to highlight what they would have you believe is their own superiority but which you understand to be their childishness.
Then there are the political hyenas. At the first sign of weakness in an opponent they savage them publicly until they desist or, better still destroy them and force a resignation.
Turning a minor indiscretion into a political crisis is a real skill of politicians.
It’s also a common tactic to divert attention from their shortcomings. Finding distractions to divert the public’s gaze is a great way to ride out a political crisis.
This can have no reasonable limits and collateral damage to innocent bystanders is ignored or seen as their own fault.
This hypocrisy really comes to the fore when you look at the way politicians look after themselves.
Obscene pay increases, disgustingly generous superannuation packages, allowances and perks above and beyond already generous salaries.
Those deliberations about political perquisites are among the few times governments and oppositions agree with each other.
All this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other ways politicians annoy us.
Like having them hang around only at election time.
Why we let them keep getting away with it is one of the biggest mysteries of our time.