Invited by Paul Brand of ITV to look him in the face and say that he had never lied, Boris Johnson replied: “Absolutely not. I’ve never tried to deceive the public.”
Johnson clearly does not judge his veracity by the same standards that voters have to meet in other walks of life. If they lie their way into an important and lucrative job, they face dismissal and possibly a criminal prosecution for obtaining a valuable advantage by deception.
To Johnson, the truth is a dimly-remembered stranger at a party. “I feel sure we’ve met somewhere before.”
As a journalist and as a politician he has a long history of statements which were either outrightly false or what lawyers would call “reckless as to the truth,” that is, not grounded in reality or evidence.
Such statements have become more and more frequent as he has advanced in his political career, reaching their apogee as prime minister. I have tried to expose them here as they occur and I apologize to followers for my difficulty in keeping up with them.
There are two possible conclusions to draw from his performance towards Paul Brand, each of them alarming.
One is that Johnson is a total cynic for whom truth is instrumental, not absolute. As with Donald Trump, the truth is any assertion which he can make enough people believe for long enough to serve his immediate objectives. As such, the “truth” lasts only for as long as it remains useful to him. After this it will be discarded in favour of some other “truth.” As with new discoveries of sub-atomic particles, the half-lives of such “truths” are becoming shorter and shorter.
The other is that Johnson has entered the same delusional state which regularly overcame Tony Blair, particularly in the run-up to the Iraq war: he now assumes that anything he believes and asserts strongly enough must be the truth.
Whatever the explanation, we now have a prime minister from whom no statement of any kind can be believed without corroboration. If you hear Boris Johnson say “Nice day, today,” look out of the window.