In the Great Tradition of Populist Leaders, Boris Johnson Can No Longer Tell Truth From Falsehood

Photograph Source: Mike Finn – CC BY 2.0

When Donald Trump won the US presidential election while lying about almost everything, Boris Johnson expressed deep interest in his success. “He was fascinated by it,” an official in constant contact with Johnson at the time told me. “He kept asking how on earth Trump had got away with it.”

Johnson required no tuition in mendacity since he had practiced it continually throughout his career, but he was nevertheless impressed by Trump’s expertise in selling falsehoods.

Johnson’s own record of duplicity in word and deed is, in my view, unrivalled in British politics: “He has mastered the use of error, omission, exaggeration, diminution, equivocation and flat denial,” wrote Rory Stewart, who was a minister at the Foreign Office when Johnson was foreign secretary, last year. “He has perfected casuistry, circumlocution, false equivalence and false analogy. He is equally adept at the ironic jest, the fib and the grand lie; the weasel word and the half-truth; the hyperbolic lie, the obvious lie, and the bullshit lie – which may inadvertently be true.”

Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).

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