Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has warned it is “impossible” for the government to be held to account when the prime minister “systematically lies at the dispatch box with impunity”, ahead of a meeting to discuss launching an inquiry into Boris Johnson’s conduct.
MPs from six opposition parties are meeting with Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on Tuesday, urging him to allow them to table a vote to refer Mr Johnson’s “consistent failure to be honest” to the committee of privileges.
The action is partly in response to a viral video that has had 13 million views and highlights some of Boris Johnson’s false or misleading statements to parliament, and which The Independent reported on earlier this month.
The video, made by lawyer and journalist Peter Stefanovic, debunks spurious claims Mr Johnson has made in parliament including on the government’s record on emissions reductions, economic growth, nurses’ bursaries, hospital car parking, NHS spending, the Covid-19 test and trace app, and poverty in the UK.
Mr Stefanovic has also routinely asked leading news organisations why they won’t report on what he describes as Mr Johnson’s “lies”, which has sparked wider questions about the ability of the media to hold politicians to account.
Over the weekend former Labour communications chief Alastair Campbell asked a BBC news presenter why the organisation was not covering the issue. Journalist Martine Croxall prompted Mr Campbell to explain why it mattered, asking: “Do voters really care? Doesn’t this just look like the rough and tumble of politics in what’s been an extraordinary year?”
Mr Campbell suggested the impact meant Britain is “becoming a joke because of the standards at the top”.
The five parliamentary party leaders backing Ms Lucas’s call for an inquiry – and last week signed a letter expressing “deep concern” about the issue –are Ian Blackford (Scottish National party), Sir Ed Davey (Liberal Democrats), Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid Cymru), Colum Eastwood (SDLP) and Stephen Farry (Alliance).
According to The Guardian, the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, was invited to sign the letter, but declined. A party source told the newspaper Labour did not normally sign up to initiatives launched by other parties.
Ahead of the meeting with the speaker, Ms Lucas told The Independent: “We have a parliamentary system based on the idea that all members are honourable. But this system breaks down when you have a prime minister who is a serial liar – he’s been sacked twice for it in previous jobs.”
“The normalisation of lying in government is deeply dangerous, and when the prime minister systematically lies at the dispatch box with impunity, it makes it impossible for MPs to properly hold government to account. That’s why I coordinated a letter with five other opposition leaders at Westminster to the speaker asking that we can bring this issue before the House.”
Ms Lucas added: “I’m disappointed in the failure of so many news organisations to pursue this when there are so many examples of it. Some independent journalists like Peter Stefanovic have highlighted it on social media.
“A video he made has been viewed more than 13 million times, so there is huge public interest in this. Newspapers and broadcasters should be following it up. Their silence is letting the Prime Minister off the hook in a way that is deeply damaging to our democratic system.”
Mr Stefanovic told The Independent: “As a lawyer I look at this and the crime of perjury in our courts, which is rightly taken very seriously, because the very foundation of our legal system depends on trust and credibility. That same principle, to my mind, should apply equally if not more so to our political institutions. If those institutions are undermined by lies and false statements our very democracy is put at risk, and that’s what we are seeing under Boris Johnson’s premiership.
“The speaker said in March that all members should correct the record if they make an inaccurate statement to the House, and he quoted the government’s own ministerial code when he said that. That’s simply not happening with the PM and he’s the one who should be leading by example.
“With dizzying hypocrisy Johnson himself once said lying politicians should be made to go on their knees through the chamber of the House of Commons. I hope he has a good pair of knee pads.”
A government spokesperson told The Independent: “The prime minister follows the ministerial code.”
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