Life

Mary Kelly: How can you tell if a politician is lying to you – and does anyone care anymore?

Has there ever been an election before that has prompted an appeal from Anglican church leaders calling on politicians to "honour the truth". Naturally, they mentioned no names. But here's one: Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson has been found out time and time again as being "economical with the truth"
Mary Kelly

THERE is a somewhat cynical adage that asks: "How can you tell if a politician is lying to you?". Answer: "His lips are moving".

Now, it may have just been a coincidence that the BBC's Question Time Election Special last Friday night featuring Boris and the rest of the motley crew replaced the advertised programme Would I Lie To You?. But you never know. This has been an election like no other, where trust in the body politic has never been lower. Has there ever been an election before that has prompted an appeal from Anglican church leaders calling on politicians to "honour the truth". Naturally, they mentioned no names. But here's one: Boris Johnson.

The PM has been found out time and time again as being, to quote a previous Tory grandee, "economical with the truth". But it no longer seems to matter. When Johnson blithely denied having said Turks would be allowed to flood into the EU during the Brexit campaign, we then saw footage of him saying precisely that. Shrugs of indifference.

Last week, Michael Gove was confronted on Channel Four news with a list of Tory misdemeanours including misleading people by rebranding a party website as an independent fact checker. His response was to attack the reporter as a "left wing polemicist".

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, an impeachment enquiry has found incontrovertible evidence of President Trump having lied about his demands for the Ukrainian president to dig dirt on his political rival, Joe Biden. His behaviour in office has been worse than Nixon's. But back then, Republican party grandees urged Nixon to resign for the good of the country – and he did. Now, Republican politicians are just looking the other way while his supporters chant "fake news" at anything they don't like.

But Jeremy Corbyn has not covered himself in glory this week either, not by dishonesty, but ineptitude. The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, made an extraordinary intervention, calling on his co-religionists not to vote for the Labour leader, whom he accused of allowing anti-Semitism to flourish in the party.

I believe Corbyn has handled the issue badly on a number of fronts and he would've been better simply apologising when confronted several times by Andrew Neil, as he has apologised in the past. But I don't believe he is an anti-Semite, nor does anyone who has worked with him. And sometimes I do wish some religious figures would do a bit more rendering unto Caesar during an election campaign and allow people to make up their own mind.

IT'S been an uncomfortable week too for the Lord Mayor and North Belfast candidate John Finucane, with the revelation that he got a police caution for urinating in the street in June. It has prompted a lot of toilet humour, not least about the inconvenience this leak's timing.

Was he singing "urination once again" at the time, as one wag has suggested? Another joked "urethra for him or against him". But seriously, embarrassing as it was for him, I doubt it will affect his vote, as most people will consider it unlikely that he caused any public outrage at 10.30pm on a largely empty street. Must have been a quiet night for the PSNI. And presumably they're giving out hundreds of cautions on the Twelfth?

I WAS pretty cheered to find support for my contention that good grammar is still important in this world of text speak and emojis. But I hadn't realised it was a factor in the world of romance and online dating. Now, researchers from Tilburg university in Holland have found that a mastery of grammar and good spelling will get you further than TOWIE teeth and a Love Island perma tan.

They discovered that spelling mistakes or even mistyping errors on a dating profile like 'teh' for 'the' and irrEGgular caPITals were seen as sloppy and careless and detracted from the person's perceived attractiveness.

The academics (always referred to as boffins in newspapers) had expected that using emoticons and excessive exclamation marks would be seen as a sign of a warmer personality, but in fact those who used more formal grammar were rated as kinder and more considerate.

A friend of mine who used dating sites confessed to making similar judgments. She was getting along famously via email with one prospective suitor and suggested he was in a gregarious mood that day. "What does gregarious mean?" he asked. Reader, she blew him out.

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