Every utterance is not reported on its merits. When asked a question like “are green taxes good for the economy” the answer, as anyone who’s looked at this, or any other issue knows, “it depends”.
Politicians will therefore be asked to elaborate. I’m going to answer that as if I was a junior minister in the Department for Energy and Climate Change:
“So there are some good taxes, and some bad taxes. For example, I am in favour of fuel duty because tax has to come from somewhere, fuel duty’s fair, provides an incentive to drive less, slower, in a more fuel-efficient car and so reduces pollution and congestion; but think the VED is ridiculous. Green Levies on utility bills are regressive and distortionary, but taxes on extracting Oil and Gas from the ground aren’t. There’s a case for state subsidy of renewables & nuclear, but wind-power is ridiculous“
That answer will piss EVERYONE off. The anti-tax, anti-green band of conservatism exemplified by the Taxpayers’ Alliance will focus on support for Fuel Duty. The Daily Mail will report it as “Minister wants you to pay MORE for your petrol“, but the Guardian will contrast the “greenest government ever” with support for cutting green levies on utility bills. In the media hive-mind WINDFARMS=GREEN POLICY so a politician trotting out the summary of my opinions above will risk being branded a “climate-change denier” which will mean being ignored by about a third of the electorate from that day hence.
Papers report politicians in a way to ensure politicians are even less popular than Journalists (which is incidentally why politicians are beating up blameless utility companies right now – the abused victimising those even more hated), by focussing on the comments which will annoy that paper’s readership the most. Everyone thinks the politician in question is “an idiot” who “doesn’t know what he’s talking about“. Everyone’s prior assumption of politicians being stupid, ignorant arseholes, who’re only in it for themselves, or possibly their mates in the Union lobby/city/big business/EU (delete according to taste), is reinforced.
So politicians don’t answer the question. Instead they position themselves on whichever “side” of the debate on which they wish to be reported as being by the media, and utter the soundbite they wish to get into the papers.
And that, in a nutshell is why politicians don’t answer anything to the satisfaction of economists, experts, bloggers or,indeed, anyone paying attention. They can’t, because Journalists don’t report in enough detail. A politician’s comments might get 30 seconds of broadcast news. Even newspaper journalists don’t report in enough detail because we, the public, aren’t that interested in politics. And so we get the politicians (or the caricature of them presented by the media) we deserve.
Meanwhile politicians actually do try to create the best legislation they can, according to their beliefs and principles. And everyone will hate them for it, despite the UK being a reasonably well-governed, orderly and pleasant place to live. Our politicians are obviously doing less wrong than in much of the rest of the world.