Tuesday 12 April 2011

Exaggerated hyperbole

On the basis of their performance so far, it looks to me as if the Lib Dems are going to be struggling to keep their daily wastewatch going through the whole period of the election.  I’m not sure that it was a particularly good idea in the first place to focus on alleged Labour-Plaid waste; it’s too much like motherhood and apple pie for me.  After all, no-one is going to stand up and say that they’re in favour of waste are they?
(Although, actually, the Tory Finance spokesperson came close to doing so a month ago, when she criticised ‘excessive waste’.  The conclusion which I drew is that ordinary non-excessive waste is OK.  That’s what happens when people use superfluous adjectives in pursuit of a nice-sounding phrase.)
But back to the Lib Dems.  Their little series hasn’t even started particularly well. 
The example that they gave us on Day 2 was that Labour-Plaid had lost 31 laptops, 10 Blackberries and 6 mobile phones.  To make this stand up as a valid accusation, they would need firstly to show that that is a very poor performance in relation to any other body of similar size (because, like it or not, all organisations suffer such losses from time to time), and secondly to demonstrate exactly how the politicians in charge were responsible for and/or could have prevented such losses.  Failed on both counts.
Then, on Day 7, they told us that Labour-Plaid had spent too much on external consultants, whilst recognising that expert advice is sometimes necessary.  So, Goldilocks, how much is ‘just enough’?  Answer was there none.  All they can really say is ‘less than the other parties’.
Criticising waste is easy, and it may even grab a few headlines.  But fighting a Welsh general election on the premise that a Lib Dem Government would lose fewer laptops serves only to demonstrate a paucity of real ideas. 
The problem though is wider than that.  I suppose that the Lib Dems really are too irrelevant to deserve the effort of a serious media debunking of this sort of stuff.  But I’ve seen all the parties making statements which are open to serious challenge and getting away with it. 
There are times when it looks as if the media see their responsibility as just reporting what people are saying, but they’d be doing us all more of a service – and perhaps making the election a bit more interesting – if they were to start dissecting the exaggerated hyperbole and forcing people to defend their glib statements.

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