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Britain’s prospective leaders: truth versus expediency

The Financial Times reported that during the TV leaders’ debate on November 19th, the Conservative party was accused of duping the public after rebranding one of its official Twitter accounts – @CCHQPress – into what appeared to be an independent fact checking service like those developed by independent organisations and media groups such as the BBC, the Guardian and Channel 4.

A Moseley reader draws attention to Peter Oborne’s perception of ‘a systemic dishonesty within Johnson’s campaigning machine

Oborne cites another attempt to dupe the public: “(Johnson’s) party deliberately doctored footage of the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, to make it look as if he was at a loss for words when asked about Labour’s Brexit position. In fact, Starmer had answered confidently and fluently. The video was a deliberate attempt to mislead voters. And when Piers Morgan tackled the Tory chairman, James Cleverly, on the issue, he refused to accept he’d done anything wrong, let alone apologise”.

Oborne: “As someone who has voted Conservative pretty well all my life, this upsets me. As the philosopher Sissela Bok has explained, political lying is a form of theft. It means that voters make democratic judgments on the basis of falsehoods. Their rights are stripped away”.

He has also charged many of the British media with ‘letting Johnson get away unchallenged with lies, falsehoods and fabrication’. His examination of Boris Johnson’s claims, published on November 18th, includes these instances:

  • Some of the lies are tiny. During a visit to a hospital he tells doctors that he’s given up drink, when only the previous day he’d been filmed sipping whisky on a visit to a distillery. And sips beer on film the day after in a pub.
  • But many are big. Johnson repeatedly claims that Britain’s continued membership of the EU costs an extra £1bn a month. False.
  • He claims he is building 40 new hospitals. Sounds good. But it’s a lie that has already been exposed by fact-checkers, including the website Full Fact.
  • Another misleading statement: “20,000 more police are operating on our streets to fight crime and bring crime down”. Recruitment will take place over three years and do no more than replace the drop in officer numbers  seen since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.
  • Jeremy Corbyn has “plans to wreck the economy with a £1.2 trillion spending plan”. Labour’s manifesto hasn’t been published, let alone fully costed. Johnson’s £1.2tn is a palpable fabrication.
  • The Labour leader “thinks home ownership is a bad idea and is opposed to it”. I have been unable to find any evidence of Corbyn expressing this view.
  • On his potential conflict of interest over his friend Jennifer Arcuri, who received £11,500 from an organisation he was responsible for as London mayor, Johnson said: “Everything was done with complete propriety and in the normal way.” We now know he failed to declare this friendship, and is being investigated by the Independent Office of Police Conduct.
  • Johnson then told his TV audience that Corbyn “wouldn’t even stick up for this country when it came to the Salisbury poisonings” and that he sided with Russia. In the aftermath of the poisonings, Corbyn wrote in the Guardian: “Either this was a crime authored by the Russian state; or that state has allowed these deadly toxins to slip out of the control it has an obligation to exercise.” The Labour leader also stated that the Russian authorities must be held to account.

A friend said gloomily that he learnt nothing new from yesterday’s leaders’ debates. I agreed with that – apart from the production of the redacted NHS dossier, which has been overlooked in many media accounts.

Though I learnt nothing new the debate reinforced my view that one of the two participants is stable, honest, caring and visionary – and that the other is quite different.

 

 

 

 

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