But of course they are not all the same. Just as ordinary people are not all the same. Sometimes some politicians consciously lie. I think Tony Blair did before the Iraq war. I don't think he did it for personal gain. I think he did it because of arrogance. He genuinely thought that he had a better understanding of geopolitical realities than the rest of us and he was pursuing the greater good in manipulating the truth to make sure we destroyed Saddam Hussein's regime. He told us with great sincerity words that amounted to: "Trust me as Prime Minister. If you were able to read the intelligence reports I've got you'd know that British lives are at risk and we have to go to war to get rid of these weapons of mass destruction." It did not seem to occur to him that when the great British public found out there were no such weapons then it would seriously damage the trust that people place in their political leaders.
Yet his deliberate lie for what he took to be the greater good is not the norm. Most politicians try tell the truth as they see it. That is what makes some of them so very dangerous. Michael Gove for example genuinely did believe that he was just about the only person who really understood how to reform education. He seriously did want to ensure that everyone had the same life chances as he did. That is precisely why he was so dreadful at the job. He believed his own propaganda. He seriously thought teachers knew less about teaching than he did. He was so convinced that elected local authorities are evil people who are out to wreck education and self selected heads of academy chains are the cutting edge of enterprise that it never occurred to him that not all academy heads might be entirely honest or searingly brilliant at their jobs. That is why Gove lost his job in education. Some academies did a very good job. Some of them didn't. When the scandals about ludicrously high salaries, inept governing bodies, religious fanatics being given government money to teach bigotry to young children, and simple incompetence mounted he had to be sacked with an election coming on.
People who believe that they have the one truth and that everyone else is mistaken are very dangerous. Hitler was a sincere vegetarian. Stalin took extreme personal risks to rob well protected banks and gave all the money he took to the communist party. Mao thought his Great Leap Forward would usher in the communist utopia and had the first people who bravely reported the famine that killed around 30 million people shot for getting in the way of that utopia with their petty bourgeois criticisms. Never trust anyone who lacks doubt. The liars are bad but the conviction politicians can be even worse if they don't know how to listen and learn.
That is one of the things that has been so very damaging about the referendum campaign. I genuinely believe that the country will be worse off, the environment will be worse off and we will lose many valuable rights if we leave the EU. But I don't believe that everyone who disagrees with me is the spawn of the devil or that under no circumstances could we make an exit work. I've met many individual members of the Brexit campaign including UKIP members who are convinced of the alternative but prepared to engage in open minded debate and to accept that the country might be able to accommodate people who hold more than one political view.
I would however be lying if I didn't also say that in the last few months of campaigning I have encountered some people with a very different approach and the political atmosphere has changed for the worse during the campaign. I have been involved in street campaigning for years and normally it is fun as you give and take views and engage in some lively banter. This time round there has been an anger and a visceral hatred in some of the interactions I've had. Many people genuinely seem to believe that leaving the EU will solve all their problems. Suddenly with one bound we'll be free and magically the rest of the world will decide to buy more of our goods, the NHS will be fixed, there'll be a home for every British hero and those bloody immigrants who've caused all our problems will be got rid of. We have had three months of UKIP setting the political agenda and determining what we debate. In running that debate they and their allies have sometimes got carried away and their anti-immigrant rhetoric has been unpleasant. But none of them have said anything remotely as bad as some of the things I've heard from ordinary people in the streets or in the white working class pub that I go to once a week for the music.
The really frightening things about this campaign is what it has unleashed in the minds of folks who have seen their livelihoods and their lifestyles undermined by the steady destruction of reliable well paid employment for working class men. Particularly in the regions. For example I was told two weeks ago that it wasn't possible to go to London anymore because it had now been taken over by the Muslims but it would be alright after the referendum because we would start taking our country back. I've also been told in all seriousness that every child in the country will be forced to be a Muslim within ten years and voting out will prevent that.
None of us know what was in the mind of Jo Cox's killer. But it is emerging that he was an enthusiast for the far right and a witness has clearly described him saying Britain First as he was being arrested. It therefore seems reasonable to assume that part of what was going on in his mind is that he somehow thought he was saving the nation from the evil of a woman who preached tolerance for immigrants and international co-operation in the EU. By definition this is not a normal thing to believe or a normal thing to do. Almost every single out campaigner will recognise it for what it is - deeply warped. It is also worth saying that the left has its own fair share of damaged people who do horrible things.
But we do have to ask the question. Is there any possibility that the atmosphere in which this referendum campaign has been conducted has encouraged an increase in intimidatory behaviour and a reduction in tolerance and understanding? The main thing that has always made me proud to be British is that it is a very tolerant nation that likes to laugh at itself and doesn't like it when anyone takes themselves too seriously. I leave it to people's own judgement to decide which way to vote to strengthen and enhance that tolerance and which way to vote to empower intolerance. But whatever way the vote goes let's try and all accept that our opponents were rather more well intentioned than we normally like to give them credit for. Otherwise whatever the result we will lose the best of British traditions. Open minded tolerance.