Distrust in politics is turning more and more people to the opiate of celebrity, the refuge of apathy, and the anger of the margins.
If I found out a doctor was lying to me, prescribing me some medicine I don’t actually need, then I would never go to that doctor again. Yet when politicians lie, they seem to just get re-elected anyway.
It’s time to ask: why do we keep re-electing proven liars?
Over the last few years, the problem has got worse. With fake news, distrust in experts, and tailored search engine results feeding our own opinions back at us, the need for a way to cast our votes based on facts not fiction has never been greater.
Over the next few years, deepfakes - fraud videos in which politicians appear as if they are saying something they never actually said - will make this a whole lot more difficult.
It’s time to introduce consequences for dishonesty. Trust.gov is a new idea to help improve the quality of our politics. It will do that by helping us as voters make evidence-based decisions. Here’s how it will work:
By law, to be eligible to stand in a general election, a party will have to submit ten pledges to trust.gov. Unlike the vague promises usually hidden away in manifestos, these commitments must be specific and measurable. Every year, an independent public body - call it the Trust Commission - will assess whether each pledge has been met, partially met, or not met at all.
The pledges will be listed on the Trust.gov app, highlighted in green for met, amber for partially met, and red for not met at all. Their status will also be published in every national newspaper once each year by law.
Very occasionally, truly exceptional circumstances such as economic crisis or war might mean a party fails to meet a Trust.gov pledge. When pledges are not or partially met, the political party will be allowed to submit a brief summary to Trust.gov explaining why. We, the voters, will be able to make our own decision.
Slowly but surely, Trust.gov will help squeeze at least some lies - and probably some liars too - out of politics.
At a time of widespread disillusionment, its in all parties’ MPs' interests to be seen to be taking steps to building trust. It favours no particular party: if they implement the promises they chose, it looks great, if they don’t it looks bad.
And if they don’t want to, this idea could readily be implemented by an enterprising individual or organisation reading this article.