By Denzil McDaniel

“Actually, the press aren’t here,” said Boris Johnson, waving his arms towards the, er, press who were filming the scene as the Prime Minister was challenged by a father whose child was in hospital.

The cameras continued to click, but BoJo wasn’t fazed, leading me to wonder if he was a fan of Nazi propogandist, Joseph Goebbels who said: “Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it an eventually they will believe it.”

Johnson’s relationship with the truth is such that even his friends and colleagues don’t try to deny it, and we have the remarkable spectacle of a lawyer in court describing the British Premier as “the father of lies.”

Even more remarkable that we have a Prime Minister found guilty of misleading the Queen, able to brazen it out.

This column is not about the mess Johnson finds himself in, or the Brexit conundrum, but the fact that the Prime Minister gets away with being such a serial liar and what does that say about the honesty and integrity of public life?

Indeed, what does it say about us all.

Politics, as we know, is a dirty old game, and it would be so unfair to brand as liars all the many honourable politicians who are in it to make a difference. But politics in particular does have a reputation for being economical with the truth.

Another Tory MP, Michael Fabricant once taught chemistry and physics and recalls advice given to him by his department head:

“To capture the attention of a bunch of testosterone-fuelled 14-year-olds, your lesson should be 20 per cent facts and figures and 80 per cent humour and entertainment. I have found that works equally well in the House of Commons!”.

Maybe that’s we, the public, want. It would certainly seem that we have already made up our minds on anything from Brexit to our own history. All we need is a few choice phrases or soundbites from a politico or journalist, or even a post on that paragon of all truth Facebook, to confirm what we already feel. Even if those phrases aren’t strictly true.

We’re on dangerous ground if we are now in an era where lying isn’t a shame any more, indeed Boris is a “jack the lad” for getting away with it.

Let’s not all adopt a lofty high moral tone and let’s admit most of us all been guilty of telling the odd porky.

But lying in public life now is at a whole new level, and certainly miles away from my granny’s advice to “tell the truth and shame the devil”; such advice being centuries old and even used by Shakespeare.

Like common decency and other old-fashioned values such as kindness and generosity, telling the truth, at least the whole truth, just doesn’t seem important in public life any more. So the authorities engage in managing the information we get. Sometimes they don’t outright lie, just tell as much of the truth they get away with, or simply shut down telling us anything at all. Or put a spin on things. Or when challenged by families seeking answers, engage in a policy of deny, delay, death; that is waiting until those seeking the truth either get fed up or die, to put it


Remember how hard it was for the families of children killed in hospitals over the years to find out what happened; and even when a public inquiry found out a serious cover-up, what’s been done about it. Lessons learned about candour don’t seem to have filtered through to the families of the Muckamore scandal.

If you’ve been watching the television series “Peaky Blinders” you’ll see an era in the early part of the last century when people fought for control in a brutally violent way.

Nowadays, it would seem that words are just as potent, maybe more potent, a weapon.

It’s an era where people use social media to mock and insult without feeling accountable for their actions; a time when radio phone-ins encourage crackpots to sound off and when commentators deliberately bully and insult to demean others of a different viewpoint.

There’s something particularly distasteful about the treatment of climate activist Greta Thunberg, who dramatically warned adult world leaders that if they failed future generations “we will never forgive you.”

People may have different views on climate change and are entitle to challenge Greta, but the nature of attacks on a 16-year-old is personal and disturbing.

Toby Young tweeted calling her a “furrowed-browed little soothsayer” and Piers Morgan, the great attention seeker, called her a little drama queen. The president of the United States, Donald Trump sarcastically mocked her. As only he can. A 16-year-old!

Trump leads the way in the manipulation of the truth. Nowhere more so than his disdainful dismissal of anything in the press that he doesn’t like as “fake news.”

In a world which needs a traditional and responsible press more than ever, people who want to muddy the clear waters of truth will use the tactic of shooting the messenger, smearing their motives and even this week as Trump sat beside Johnson, he accused an American reporter of asking Boris a “very nasty question”.

It was actually a legitimate question about the Supreme Court ruling.

The 11 judges are at the very top of their experience and knowledge and ruled on the law. Even they, though, are being accused of bias by political pygmies and the independent judiciary has previously been branded “enemies of the people.”

As someone tweeted: “If judges won’t make decisions that I agree with, they should be replaced with judges who will.” Watch out for this. It’s rife.

Robust debate, it seems to me, is fine. Differences of opinion and even differences of interpretation have been with us for ever. Deception in politics and in life are hardly new, spin is not a new phenomenon.

But now there seems to be such a sinister and cynical manipulation of the facts that one wonders who or what to believe any more.

Those engaged in working with victims of domestic violence will tell you that a major problem now is “coercive control” and it’s pretty horrible to watch people in public life engaging in it, bullying through words and even using half-truths and even blatant untruths to push their own agenda.

And yet, the scoffing, nasty weaponising use of words seems an acceptable part of life now.