In The Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson wrote, "I cannot stress too much that Britain is part of Europe, and always will be.” I could have sworn we just voted out of the European Union and that he was the man rallying the troops under the Eurosceptic banner. But then again, in the post-Brexit landscape, the truth seems to have become increasingly flexible.
The Prime-Minister-in-waiting attempted to calm Brits worried about their finances. "People's pensions are safe, the pound is stable, the markets are stable, I think that is all very good news." Not such good news was the actual truth, of course: in actuality the pound remains at a 31 year low against the dollar, RBS and Barclays shares were briefly suspended, and Goldman Sachs predicted that Britain would experience a recession in 2017.
Pre-Brexit Johnson promised greater controls on the number of migrants entering the UK. The next week, he wrote that migrant numbers won’t fall. Instead the UK will introduce an Australian-style points based immigration system. The very system in which the economy, not the government sets immigration targets. In fact counties which have adopted a points-based system have higher levels of migration.
He also stated that the UK would continue to be a part of the European single market. That same single market that we would have to pay contributions to, and abide by rules set by the EU, in order to be a part of. This is a far cry from his assurance to Brexiteers that the UK could “take back control” of its own laws and finances.
During the Leave campaign, Johnson promised that much-contested £350m extra a week for the NHS. Remainers called bluff on this figure and now it turns out that there are “no guarantees”.
This truth-stretching about Brussels was not confined to the referendum campaign. During his time as Brussels correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, a former colleague recalled that “Johnson’s half-truths created a new reality … correspondents witnessed Johnson shaping the narrative that morphed into our present-day populist Euroscepticism.”
But then what did we expect from a man who has been fired not once but twice for lying? In 1988 the young Johnson was sacked from The Times for fabricating a quote in an article, and in 2004 he was “relieved of his duties” as shadow arts minister of the Tory Party for allegedly lying about an extra-marital affair.
Nor was his tenure as Mayor of London free from broken vows. He promised to totally eradicate rough sleeping on the streets of London by 2012; rough sleeping doubled under his leadership. His 2008 manifesto promised there would be manned ticket offices at every station; the former Mayor closed all of London's ticket offices. He aimed to reduce transport fares; they increased by 4.2 per cent on average and subsequently rose in line with inflation.
Now we face the risk of having a man who has a track record of playing fast and loose with facts as the front runner in the Tory leadership race. Democracy can only function when we have facts to base decisions on. We’ve paid the price of casting votes based on half-truths; hopefully Tory members won’t run the risk again, or the whole country will suffer.
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