New suit. New hair. Same lies. Well, not the same ones actually. There were new lies too. There always are. Whatever the subject, whatever the question, the prime minister will find a way to lie about it.
At this point it would be apposite simply to rename the weekly House of Commons sessions “Prime Minister’s Lies”, if only for the acronym. What did you do this week? PMSL at PMLs. It is the only psychological coping strategy.
Angela Rayner had to stand in for Keir Starmer, who – 24 hours after his most recent relaunch –has tested positive for Covid and has had to self-isolate for what is understood to be the eighty-eighth time.
Starmer rules the Labour Party in much the same fashion as King John VI of Portugal, when the royal court was formally transferred to Rio de Janeiro; the only difference being Starmer’s Rio de Janeiro is his upstairs back bedroom.
Anyway, back to the lies. Angela Rayner had the temerity to tell the prime minister he had claimed, in October, that fears about inflation were “unfounded.” “I said no such thing,” he replied.
The world moves pretty fast, these days. So naturally, by the time he had sat down, the clip of him saying this exact thing, in a television interview on Sky News, had resurfaced. “People have been worried about inflation for a very long time, and those fears have been unfounded,” Johnson said then.
So, you know, just another one to add to the ledger there. Another blatant lie, breezily told at the despatch box of the House of Commons.
Not that long ago, the Labour MP Dawn Butler got into a tremendous amount of bother for calling Boris Johnson a liar in the House of Commons and refusing to withdraw the remark, arguing that to withdraw it would be to tell a lie herself. Everything, in the end, must be degraded to Johnson’s level.
Rayner also asked him about rising energy bills, and specifically his promise, made in the EU referendum campaign, that “energy bills will be lower.” He said this in a column in The Sun newspaper, featuring not only his byline but also a little graphic of him dressed up as a musketeer.
This was also raised at the Downing Street press conference on Tuesday night. Johnson’s answer, frankly, a lie for the ages. Not a blatant lie, but a misrepresentation so ridiculous as to be far worse.
The promise, made in 2016, that energy bills would be lower was, of course, itself a lie, in the sense that it was a promise that could never, ever be kept. But underlying it was a vague truth – that the EU does not allow member states to charge less than 5 per cent VAT on fuel bills, and outside the EU the government could scrap this charge.
Leave won that vote, you may recall, and five years later, the man who wrote, very clearly, that “energy bills will be lower” is now the prime minister; there’s an unprecedented energy crisis and he’s not done the thing he said he would do.
Having been so hopelessly exposed, Johnson’s only response is to blame Remainers. He claimed on Tuesday night that it is “paradoxical” for anyone who voted to remain to expect Johnson to keep the promises he made. He told Rayner the same. That expecting him to do what he said he would do and cut VAT on fuel, was “effrontery”, it was “bare-faced cheek”.
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He made a promise on Brexit. He won. He’s now the prime minister. He’s broken it and, in his golden-wallpapered world of lies and absolutely nowhere else, this is, apparently, evidence that “Labour can’t be trusted on Brexit”.
And this, yet again, is the remarkable thing. Why isn’t he any better at this lying business? Having told as many as he has, for as long as he has, can he not see that he really can’t get away with claiming that his own lies are proof that someone else can’t be trusted?
And the answer is no. He can’t. And it’s why his party, and his country, have very clearly seen through him, as everybody who’s ever known him does in the end. The precise circumstances and the intricate details might not be clear just yet, but the outcome will be the same. It will end as it has done every other time before – with Johnson kicked out of the house.