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Johnson’s lies put May on spot

by Sam Ashworth-Hayes | 17.09.2017

Boris Johnson has doubled down on his decision to repeat Vote Leave’s lie that we send £350 million a week to the EU, accusing an independent statistics watchdog of deliberately misrepresenting his words and demanding a retraction.

David Norgrove wrote to the foreign secretary to express his concerns over Johnson’s Telegraph article. The Chair of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) said he was “surprised and disappointed” that Johnson had “chosen to repeat the figure”, and called it “a clear misuse of official statistics”.

Instead of accepting the rebuke, Johnson’s spokesman stated that the foreign secretary had received assurances from Norgrove that the letter referred only to the Telegraph’s headline – which he did not write – and that his article was “absolutely fine”. The UKSA immediately responded that it had given no such assurance, and “has not changed the conclusion set out in [Norgrove’s] letter to the foreign secretary”.

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Johnson’s spokesman escalated again saying he stood by their account of the call, adding that Norgrove “must have amnesia”. The foreign secretary has now demanded a retraction, saying he was “surprised and disappointed” that the UKSA letter was “based on what appeared to be a wilful distortion of the text of my article”.

He also states that it was “a complete misrepresentation” to say he claimed £350 million “might be available for extra public spending” – a statement that would surprise anyone who remember’s his battle bus.

Johnson’s attempt at a defence focuses on the so-called rebate on our budget contribution that Margaret Thatcher famously negotiated and that we never send to the EU. He wrote: “As for the rebate… it only forms part of the EU’s financing arrangements with the agreement of all the other EU Member States.”

This is wrong. Although the rebate was adopted by all the other member states, it can only be changed with the agreement and ratification of all member states, which includes the UK. Is Johnson really ignorant of this?

The foreign secretary’s lie has put Theresa May on the spot. If she allows Johnson to keep his job, she’ll undermine our independent statistics watchdog and allow post-truth politics to run wild and further pollute our national life.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

10 Responses to “Johnson’s lies put May on spot”

  • Simple answer. You can generally trust a public service official with no axe to grind. However you can rarely trust a politician who invariably have hidden agendas in their baggage, and you can NEVER trust Boris who’s an inveterate ‘truth forgetter’.

  • The general consensus is that Johnson is safe because May weakened herself by going for a general election for frankly opportunistic reasons – and then being outmanoeuvred by Jeremy Corbyn who let’s not forget is a campaigning MP. She appointed three of the most useless (though that includes that loon Jacob Rees-Mogg) MPs in Johnson who has no grasp of detail whatsoever (my guess is that she was relying on the fact he was in last chance saloon territory and the ability of FO civil servants to bring him up to scratch), Davis who also seems to treat everything as a joke and appears to have done no work on Brexit at all over the last year – then there’s Liam Fox. May appointed all of these idiots who she was well familiar with. I originally thought that she did it because of their role in the Brexit campaign, on the basis of they got us into this mess, then they can contribute to sorting the mess out. However, I suspect that wasn’t her rationale at all. Heaven only knows what her rationale was other than appeasing the hard Brexiters/Ukippers. I’m afraid it may be a case of her having made her bed having to lie on it unless she gets sufficient support in cabinet because this was an appalling breach of cabinet protocol and has potentially undermined May’s speech in Florence in a few days – and the ability to get the talks back on track [I really don’t know if Davis et al are incompetent or are being deliberatively obstructive]. If May has anything to take things forward (and I’m not convinced on this one) she could summarily fire Johnson and ask to speak before the European Parliament which might mollify them a bit. Maybe we might get somewhere then. It’s about time May et al realised that we have very little power here and we need to do some actual negotiating, which means turning up prepared for meetings, having something to negotiate with and showing willing, which has not been the case so far.

    • @ “keith goodall”.
      It would seem that you have a selective memory, and are VERY inadequate when it comes to arithmetic, “You lost the vote” is a lie. 17 million xenophobic racist isolationists, out of a total population of 65 million, is not a majority, You forget what Nazi Farage said in March 2016, “If the result is a 52% to 48% for staying in the EU, then the battle will not be over”. Don’t deny he said that, send me your email and I will send a scan of the 3 newspapers that reported it. As to get behind your country? Which country? Scotland and Northern Ireland that voted to remain in the EU, or England, apart from some sane areas, which voted to Quit regardless of the damage that would be caused. Anti-democrats such as yourself are a disgrace to Britain.

    • Ha Ha Ha! Typical brexiteer retort. “You lost”.
      My friend, we all lost, as you will soon find out.
      I’m waving my flag for the UK. God save the queen! What I’m not doing is shutting up, we have freedom of speech in this country. Unless we’ve suddenly become North Korea?

    • Keith, what a childish retort. Why are we ‘traitors’ for not agreeing with Brexit, esp. in its current iteration? I have some stark news for you. You are almost certainly in a minority on at least one issue. Or do you always agree with the majority position whatever that may be in order to noted seen as a ‘traitor’?

      Besides, if / when Brexit goes awry, will YOU be willing to take your share of the responsibility?

  • Sounds to me like the Foreign Secretary is taking his cue from Donald Trump – misrepresent and then double down on the misrepresentation when he’s challenged.

    Of course,’ misrepresent’ may not be strong enough…

    p.

  • Boris Johnson fits the description of a cockwomble very well, but he is also a bumbling, hopeless, useless, incompetent, character who is a perfect political charlatan.
    Like his boss, who, by her decision to make him Foreign Secretary, was demonstrating how she is possibly the most incompetent PM in living memory.
    Or maybe she is clever, by surrounding herself with more political charlatans, as model copies of herself, who pose no real threat to her position!