BY SCOTT CRESWELL
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, seen here in the garden of 10 Downing Street, was recently called out by Labour MP Dawn Butler as a liar in Parliament.
Honesty, Openness, Objectivity, Selflessness, Integrity, Accountability, and Leadership by example are the seven Nolan Principles which all of those in public life must follow. But the first of those seven is key. An honest government is one that is working with the aims of the electorate in mind. So, when Labour MP Dawn Butler was forced to leave the House of Commons after stating that our Prime Minister has lied on several occasions, what has happened?
When Dawn Butler challenged the Prime Minister on his fantasist claims that the economy has grown by 73% since this government came to power over eleven years ago, and that NHS investment has dramatically increased since 2010, why is this considered an offence when the fully independent fact checker Full Fact have shown Johnson to be wrong?
Once upon a time, dishonesty and lying at the dispatch box was a matter of resignation that could easily have destroyed the reputation of a minister, prime or otherwise. In 1963, John Profumo, a minister in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government, was found to have lied at the dispatch box about a love affair with model Christine Keeler, who was romantically linked to a Soviet military expert. Profumo’s lie destroyed his career, and also played a major factor in bringing down Macmillan himself.
Forty years on, there was Iraq. Whether you believe that Tony Blair led to us war on false pretences or not, look at the drama that it created. Blair’s infamous claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction was found to be untrue, based on false intelligence. A huge debate sparked about whether Blair lied on purpose, and it will forever remain a stain on his once-popular character and New Labour as a concept.
Why are these two cases somehow relevant today? Both Profumo and Iraq contributed heavily to the downfall of political careers and governments at elections (as is the case in both 1964 and 2010). Lies, or the assumption of a lie in the case of Iraq, once had such power, but now, the roles of the accused and the accuser have been reversed. In this age of populism and limited integrity in those who govern us, facts are the enemy.
Many sighed deeply with relief when Keir Starmer defended Butler. Yet, he too, as Leader of the Opposition, would be prone to similar treatment by the House if he repeated her comments directly at Johnson. It’s blatant and clear that significant reform is needed desperately. What’s worse is that this is not a contained example of Johnson’s deceit. Do I have to mention a certain figure on the side of a bus?
Despite Trump’s election defeat last November, populism continues to thrive in their war on reality. Yet, there are signs of rejection. The Chesham and Amersham by-election, a complete embarrassment for the Tories, is a sign they are being rejected in their home territory. Voters, even moderate small-c conservatives, are beginning to wake up to Johnson’s reckless style of government. In order to counter it, Keir Starmer and Labour need to argue for fundamental parliamentary change that allows for a government to come under tough scrutiny.
Before the age of Brexit, one lie would mean the end. Since Johnson’s election as Tory leader just over two years ago, Honesty, Openness, Objectivity, Selflessness, Integrity, Accountability, and Leadership by example have been ignored by the Prime Minister and the establishment so that he can continue to lie. It’s time for the opposition parties to unite, fight, and revive it.
Image - Flickr (Number 10)