Honesty: a political health hazard

Thursday 7 April 2011 1:56 AM

A senior politician admits serious error on national television, and the nation's collective lower jaw hits the dirt.

After the necessary analysis from commentators and letter writers on Kevin Rudd's already immortalised Q&A gambit, we would be remiss to let this instance pass without asking questions larger than the Kevin & Julia soapie. Why is such transparency at the top so clock-stoppingly rare?

Is it because politicians are fundamentally untrustworthy, as current popular discourse avers? Or is it rather because our democracy is so, err, "robust" that honesty has become a political health hazard? In modern politics, it just doesn't do to admit failure. Not if you want to extend your time in office, that is. Our culture has become far too unforgiving of human frailty. Admit misjudgement, and howls of "Incompetence!" will erupt, with demands for resignation or sacking. Few of us would accept in our own professional lives the standard of perfection we demand of those we elect to govern us. Mention a mistake and you'll be sent packing at the next election, that is if your poll-obsessed party machine hasn't dumped you first.

Don't blame the pollies. They're just dancing to our tune.