The truth: bending it like Boris

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Johnson has been rapped over the knuckles by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) for repeatedly quoting erroneous and misleading figures on child poverty.

The OSR is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority watchdog, and they were responding to a complaint from the End Child Poverty Coalition (ECPC). The story is all over the newspapers today here, here and here.

All the reports quote Ed Humpherson, director general for regulation at the statistics authority, writing to the ECPC and saying, “Our team has investigated the statements which you highlight (and has reached the same conclusion that these statements are incorrect)”.

I am not sure anyone is surprised.

The BBC’s Reality Check team was “unable to find any evidence” for Johnson’s claim that there are 400,000 fewer families living in poverty than in 2010. In other words he had made it up, as he has been doing for most of his life.

I read once that his first wife was alleged to have said that Boris doesn’t lie, he just has his own version of the truth. I can’t find a reference to that quote now and it’s possible somebody just made that up. And this is the problem isn’t it?

Ushering in our first serious post-truth administration when he entered Downing Street last year Johnson has demonstrated that, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, previous politicians never really rose above a bit of misrepresentation. But the prime minister is in a league of his own.

Johnson is the sort of person Oscar Wilde, in his essay The decay of lying, had in mind when he describes:

“The true liar, with his frank, fearless statements, his superb irresponsibility, his healthy, natural disdain of proof of any kind! After all, what is a fine lie? Simply that which is its own evidence.”

Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying.

With the truth, nobody can bend it like Boris.

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