AND there he goes again. Another week, another Prime Minister’s Questions, another display of error, misleading statements, false claims, sophistry and, yes, let’s just say it, outright lies.
Boris Johnson’s relationship with the truth is about as reliable as a Novak Djokovic visa exemption. Let’s tot up this week’s “untruths” (a very handy phrase for a media that seems incapable of calling him out for what he is). During Wednesday’s session in the House of Commons Jofnson said that he had never said inflation fears were unfounded (he had; Sky News had the clip and posted it), that Labour was committed to taking the UK back into the EU (it isn’t), that Labour is going to renationalise the energy sector (it has no such plans at the moment), that Labour wanted a Christmas lockdown (it didn’t), that income equality, economic inequality and poverty are down in the UK (they’re not), that the government’s warm homes discount was “worth £140 per week” (it isn’t, it’s a one-off winter payment) and that his government has built nuclear power stations (it hasn’t yet; Hinkley Point, financed by private money actually, won’t be completed until 2026).
Now, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Not all of these “untruths” may have been deliberate. It’s possible that his errant warm homes discount claim may simply be down to the fact that he’s too lazy to actually read his briefing notes properly.
But the simple fact is that nearly every week the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom stands up in the House of Commons and says something that isn’t true.
We shouldn’t be surprised. This is who he is. This is what he has done for his entire professional life as both a journalist and a politician. That is why he was sacked by the Times (for making up a quote) and by Michael Howard, after Johnson told the then Tory party leader that claims that he had had an affair leading to a pregnancy and an abortion were an “’inverted pyramid of piffle” (as you may have already guessed, they weren’t).
Boris Johnson lies. That’s what he does. That’s what he has always done.
The real problem with this, of course, is in how we respond to this reality. Too often, too many of us shrug our shoulders and say it’s par for the course. Politicians are all the same. They all lie. Why should we expect any better?
But that is a dangerous course to steer, baking in a public cynicism towards civic discourse, one that allows the worst habits to flourish amongst our politicians and doesn’t demand better ones.
Boris Johnson deserves to be called out for all his errors and, let’s be charitable, “misspeaking.” There should be consequences to his actions. Because they’re dangerous. We only have to look across the Atlantic where , we are told, nearly half of Republican voters, influenced, no doubt, by the statements of another liar, Donald Trump, believe that Joe Biden’s election in 2020 was illegitimate.
The truth is that a political culture that accepts lying as a matter of course is an unhealthy, possibly dangerous, one.