Boris Johnson faces call for law against lying in politics

Exclusive: Poll finds almost half of voters have lost trust in politicians in past year

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 20 April 2022 09:57
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Boris Johnson will today face calls for a law requiring politicians to tell the truth, as a new poll shows trust in the political system has plummeted in the past 12 months.

The survey for think tank Compassion in Politics found that almost half of voters (47 per cent) said their trust in politicians to tell the truth had decreased in the past year, compared to just 3 per cent who said it had increased. A further 32 per cent said they did not trust politicians previously and still do not now.

An overwhelming 73 per cent said they would back a new law requiring all politicians to ensure that all public statements they make are, to the best of their knowledge, truthful and accurate – with penalties who are repeatedly shown to have lied.

Plaid Cymru leader in Westminster Liz Saville Roberts will today challenge Mr Johnson at prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons to give her support to a Lying in Politics Bill.

The move comes after Mr Johnson became the first sitting prime minister to be found to have broken the law, and a day after he told MPs that he did not deliberately mislead the Commons when he said last December that Covid lockdown rules had been followed at No 10.

The poll lays bare the extent to which the revelation of a series of parties during lockdown in Downing Street and elsewhere in Whitehall has dealt a body-blow to voter trust in politicians’ truthfulness.

Just 3 per cent of those taking part in the survey said their trust had increased over the past year, and a further 11 per cent said they trusted politicians to tell the truth before and still do now.

Lack of trust was widespread across all parts of society, with 31 per cent of Conservatives saying they have lost trust, compared to 6 per cent who said it had increased. Some 56 per cent of Labour supporters and 58 per cent of Liberal Democrats said their trust in politics had declined over the period.

And there were high levels of lost trust among Remainers (53 per cent) and Leavers (45), men and women (both 47 per cent) and all age-groups and areas of the UK.

Some 14 per cent of those questioned said they trusted Conservatives to tell the truth more than other political parties, compared to 20 per cent who trusted Labour most and 32 per cent who said they did not trust any party.

A “lying in politics bill” was backed by 71 per cent of Tory voters, 79 per cent of Labour supporters and 77 per cent of Liberal Democrats.

Ms Saville Roberts said: “A constant low-level hum of mistrust has been present in Westminster politics for decades. But under Boris Johnson, it has drowned out all voices of reason, with cabinet ministers and the prime minister himself not merely spouting half-truths and white lies, but also committing to entire false narratives that we all know to contradict reality.

“The public are not stupid. We all know that Boris Johnson knowingly attended parties at Downing Street. We all know he drank wine and laughed with colleagues while the rest of us were denied the same privilege.

Yet cabinet ministers are wheeled out to defend the indefensible – smearing their own reputations in the process.

“Plaid Cymru has long called for legislation making it illegal to intentionally deceive the public. With parliament stymied from holding the government to account for lying – even if only to point out that mere fact – a law against lying in politics is more necessary than ever.”

The co-director of Compassion in Politics, Jennifer Nadel, said that more than 200,000 Britons have now signed a petition backing a law against lying in politics.

“We need politicians who are open, honest, and transparent,” said Ms Nadel. “Politicians who respect the public and are committed to serving them.

“If the current system is not producing that level of leadership, the system needs to change.

“Our proposal – to make it a requirement that politicians are honest with the public – would apply the same rules to Westminster that already exist for businesses, doctors, teachers, and many other workplaces.

“Why should there be one rule for us and another for politicians? Our politics has already sunk as low as it can go thanks to the repeated use of lies, mistruths, and misrepresentation – it’s time someone threw it a lifejacket.”

Pollsters Opinium questioned 2,004 UK adults, weighted to be nationally representative, between 6 and 8 April

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