Politics

In the News

Boris Johnson and the truth

Mike McCartney

3rd May 2021

How are the latest accusations affecting his premiership?

Latest reports related to the Boris Johnson premiership have been a mixture of upbeat news about a smooth transition out of a national lockdown, and speculation about when the public might see an end restrictions like social distancing, balanced against so much mud-throwing and sleaze that there are questions about whether the PM's time in Number 10 might come to a sticky end.

So what is going on with regards to the latter?

According to Saturday's paper:

"Under the ministerial code, an MP who makes a false statement to the Commons is supposed to correct the record. Johnson has repeatedly ignored this obligation, making a litany of inaccurate claims which he subsequently fails to fix. Seemingly, Erskine May, the sideburned baron who established parliamentary procedure, did not envisage a PM like Johnson.

Is any of this cutting through to the voters? Yes and no.

The latest polls put the Tories 11 points ahead of Labour and on course for victory in next week’s English councils elections, probably a big one. The successful vaccine rollout and the ending of lockdown have undoubtedly helped.

At the same time a video by Peter Stefanovic has now clocked up 13.5m views online. It lays out the occasions when Johnson has made false statements on the record. The range is impressive: CO2 emissions; relative poverty; nurses’ bursaries; and the government’s “record” NHS investment, actually less than funding under Labour.

“The film has resonated with millions of people,” Stefanovic said. “My mum and dad were stoically honest. They didn’t lie. This is true of the overwhelming majority in this country. Now with Boris Johnson we have someone at the top who lies with impunity. Those below him are then emboldened to do the same. The whole system is becoming rotten.”

The counter-view is that Johnson’s deceit is “priced in”. The public has accepted he plays fast with the facts, and yet support him anyway – look at the 2019 general election, when he won a big majority, and the 2016 EU referendum. He is an entertainer, rather than a norm-bound politician, the argument goes, a soap opera character who exists in a half-real, half-fictional realm."

See the full story here: https://www.theguardian.com/po...

Exercises

Explain what is meant by the 'ministerial code' (5 marks)

Research Boris Johnson's potential 'mishandling' of events during his premiership (10 marks)

See, for instance, this opinion piece from the left-leaning Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/co...

And this BBC article from their Political Editor, Laura Kuenssberg:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-...

"Events are the most important factor in determining the power of a Prime Minister." Analyse and evaluate this statement. (25 marks)

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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