Boris Johnson's lies worked for years, until they didn't anymore

After a life of bluster and concealment through one scandal after another thanks to his prodigious political skills – a potent blend of ...


After a life of bluster and concealment through one scandal after another thanks to his prodigious political skills – a potent blend of charm, cunning, ruthlessness, hubris, oratorical dexterity and Wodehousian bluster – Boris Johnson finally reached the end. It seems that the laws of gravity apply to him after all.

It’s not that he ever deceived anyone about who he really was. Over the years, he has been consistently portrayed as a liar, irresponsible, reckless, and lacking in any cohesive philosophy other than wanting to grab power and clinging to it.

“People know Boris Johnson has been lying for 30 years,” said writer and academic Rory Stewart, a former Tory MP. said recently. “He’s probably the best liar we’ve ever had as prime minister. He knows a hundred different ways to lie.

Unlike former President Donald J. Trump, another politician with an ad hoc and often distant relationship with the truth, Mr. Johnson’s approach has rarely been to double down on his lies or fool himself for consistency by acting as if they were true. . On the contrary, it recasts them to adapt to new information that comes to light, as if truth were a fungible concept, no more solid than quicksand.

Mislead, omit, obscure, brag, deny, hijack, attack, apologize while implying he’s done nothing wrong – the UK PM’s plan to deal with a crisis, critics say , almost never begins and rarely ends, by simply telling the truth. This approach worked for him for years – until it finally didn’t.

His government has overcome scandal after scandal, much of it centered on Mr Johnson’s own behavior. He was reprimanded by the government’s own ethics adviser after a wealthy Tory donor contributed tens of thousands of pounds to help him refurbish his flat. (Mr Johnson has refunded the money.) There were the private text messages he exchanged with a wealthy British businessman about his ventilator-making project at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which have raised questions of impropriety. There has been an almost far-fetched accumulation of embarrassing revelations about how often Mr Johnson’s aides (and sometimes Mr Johnson) attended boozy parties during the worst days of the Covid lockdown, blatantly breaking the rules that the country had set itself.

In the end, the Prime Minister’s various explanations of what he knew, and when, about Chris Pincher, a Conservative lawmaker accused of sexual impropriety, ultimately tipped the scales against him. It was clear that he had once again failed to tell the truth.

“It was discovered,” said Anthony Sargeant, 44, a software developer who lives in the northern town of Wakefield. “What’s annoying is that the signs were there.”

“He was sacked from former journalistic posts for lying,” Mr Sargeant continued, highlighting the time Mr Johnson, then a young journalist, was fired from The Times of London for making up a quote. “Yet there he was, the leader of the Conservative Party becoming prime minister.”

After helping engineer the downfall of his capable but lackluster predecessor, Theresa May, in 2019, Mr Johnson came into office with a forceful mandate for change. His populist message, dynamic personality and easy promises to cut taxes and red tape, free Britain from the burden of European Union membership and restore the country’s pride in itself appealed an audience weary of the brutal fight over the Brexit referendum and eager to embrace someone who seemed to express his own feelings.

But like Mr Trump, who put a more sinister cast on his own populist message, Mr Johnson always behaved as if he was bigger than the office he occupied, as if the damage he was causing were of no consequence as long as he could remain in power. His resignation speech, in which he pledged to remain in office until the Tories could choose a new leader, was notable for its lack of self-awareness and its misinterpretation of the curdled mood of its former supporters.

Born Alexander Boris of Pfeffel Johnson – he started using ‘Boris’ in a sort of rebranding exercise in high school – the future ex-Prime Minister has a long and well-documented history of both evading the truth and to act as if he believes he is exempt from the normal rules of conduct. His many years in public life – as a journalist and columnist, as editor of an influential London political magazine, as a politician – have left a trail of witnesses and victims of his slippery nature. .

When he was editor of Spectator magazine, he lied to the editor, Conrad Black, by promising not to sit in Parliament while working for the magazine. (He did.) When he was first elected to Parliament, he lied to his constituents by promising to step down as a spectator. (He didn’t.) As a lawmaker, he lied to party leader Michael Howard and the news media when he publicly said he hadn’t had an affair with a woman. magazine writer, nor got her pregnant and paid. for her abortion. (He had done all of that.)

In a bizarre incident that he found hilarious but epitomized his general lack of seriousness, in 2002 he ordered an employee of The Spectator to impersonate him while a photographer for the New York Times has arrived take his picture, expecting the Times to embarrass itself by publishing a picture of the wrong person. (The ruse wasn’t discovered until near the end of the photo shoot, when the magazine’s editor found out what was going on.)

When he was Brussels correspondent for the right-wing Daily Telegraph in the late 1980s, Mr Johnson wrote highly entertaining but blatantly inaccurate articles intended to portray the European Union as a factory of petty regulations aimed at stamping out the British individuality – articles that helped establish an anti-European narrative for a generation of Tories and pave the way for Brexit two decades later.

Mr Johnson himself described the experience years later at the BBC like ‘throwing rocks over the garden wall’ and then realizing that ‘everything I wrote from Brussels had this incredible, explosive effect on the Conservative Party’.

“And it really gave me this, I guess, kind of a weird feeling of power,” he said.

In 2016, when he was both Mayor of London and MP, Mr Johnson betrayed Conservative Party leader Prime Minister David Cameron when he led the pro-Leave side of the Brexit debate, contrary to the party’s position. As Foreign Secretary under Mr Cameron’s successor Mrs May, he stabbed her in the back – and set the stage for his own rise to the post – by resign from government and publicly denouncing the Brexit deal she had spent months negotiating.

His feminization and affairs were an open secret during his long marriage to his second wife, Marina Wheeler, the mother of four of his (at least) seven children. They separated when her affair with Tory official Carrie Symonds, now mother of two of the seven, came to light.

He has at least one other child, a daughter born during an affair with a councilor who married when he was (still married) mayor of London in the early 2010s.

“I wouldn’t take Boris’s word whether it’s Monday or Tuesday,” Max Hastings, the Telegraph editor who hired Mr Johnson as a Brussels correspondent, said once. In 2019, when Mr Johnson was about to become Prime Minister, Mr Hastings wrote an article titled ‘I was Boris Johnson’s boss: he is utterly unfit to be Prime Minister’. In this one, he called Mr. Johnson a “cabriolet charlatan” who suffered from “moral bankruptcy” and displayed “a contempt for the truth”.

Mr Hastings, who employed Mr Johnson when the future Prime Minister was in his twenties, was not the first to raise questions about his seriousness and inflated sense of self.

When Mr Johnson was 17 and studying at Eton College, the boys’ boarding school that caters to the country’s elite, his classics teacher sent a letter to Stanley, Mr Johnson’s father.

“Boris really took a disgracefully cavalier attitude in his classical studies,” said Professor Martin Hammond. wroteand “at times appears offended when criticized for what amounts to a flagrant disregard of responsibility”.

He added, speaking of the teenager who would become Prime Minister: “I think he honestly thinks it’s rude of us not to see him as an exception, someone who should be free from the web of obligations that bind everyone else.”

Isabelle Kwai contributed reporting from London.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Boris Johnson's lies worked for years, until they didn't anymore
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