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13 November 2019

Peter Oborne’s Diary: Boris Johnson’s NHS lies, my bulging dossier of deceit, and Sunday Times suppression

Johnson says that he’s going to build 40 new hospitals but in reality only six have been allocated sufficient funding. 

My father had a heart attack ten days ago. Ever since, we’ve been in and out of Salisbury District Hospital. He is cheerful and seems to be doing well. It is impossible to praise the nurses and doctors too highly. They are wonderful people. At times like this you realise the National Health Service is our crowning national achievement. The Tories say they are committed to it. Why then, do Boris Johnson and the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, lie about the NHS so much? Johnson says that he’s going to build 40 new hospitals. In reality only six have been allocated sufficient funding for rebuilding programmes. Recently, Johnson said one of these hospitals would be in the highly marginal seat of Canterbury, which the Tories lost to Labour by 187 votes in 2o17. Johnson was lying.

Johnson has announced that £1.8bn of new money would go to the NHS. Sally Gainsbury of the Nuffield Trust wrote: “The truth is that NHS leaders across the country won’t see this billion as extra funding, but rather the removal of a freeze on cash they already have.” If anything, Hancock tells even more fibs about the NHS than Johnson. Last year he cited NHS workforce figures to claim the number of GPs had risen by more than 1,000 between June and September 2018. After complaints  to the UK Statistics Authority, Hancock backed down. Johnson and Hancock promise that the NHS is “off the table” in any trade negotiations with Donald Trump. Given their persistent record of telling whoppers, I can’t see why anyone should believe them.

Listing the lies

Fifteen years ago, I was so appalled by the dishonesty of Tony Blair’s administration over Iraq that I wrote a treatise, The Rise of Political Lying, on the subject. Since then I have kept a dossier of political lies by British governments. This dossier suggests that the scale of lying in the few short months since Mr Johnson became prime minister has risen exponentially to record levels. That’s why I decided to publish my record of the lies, falsehoods and misleading statements made by Mr Johnson and his colleagues.

After weeks of work, my website has finally gone live. It shows that the lying taking place under the Johnson administration is far more serious than anything that has taken place before. Much of it is deliberate, calculated and systematic.

Trojan Horse riding

I went to the Battersea Arts Centre to watch Trojan Horse, a superb play about the so-called Islamist plot to take over schools in east Birmingham and radicalise vulnerable students. The story dominated newspapers and the media for months on end. It was the subject of several official reports, one by the former Met Police head of counterterrorism Peter Clarke. The Cameron government used it as an excuse to introduce into law the sinister concept of fundamental British values. We now know that in reality the Trojan Horse affair was a pseudo-event cooked up between Michael Gove’s Department for Education and his allies in the media.

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The play explains very well how the real conspirators weren’t Islamists. They were the British press and the Tory government. They joined forces in a McCarthyite conspiracy that has destroyed the careers of a large number of Birmingham teachers and undermined the life chances of many British schoolchildren. The organisers invited several of the journalists and politicians who constructed the fake Trojan Horse narrative to join the audience. Not one accepted the invitation. The Trojan Horse affair was a bigger scandal even than the Birmingham Six miscarriage of justice. It will be a long battle to clear the names of the victims and bring the real culprits to account.

A small splash

Last weekend, the home affairs correspondent of the Sunday Times Tom Harper and his colleague Caroline Wheeler produced a story of first-rate importance.

They revealed that nine Russian business-people who donated significant sums to the Conservative Party are named in the intelligence and security committee report that Johnson suppressed on the eve of the general election campaign. Some of these business people have links with the Russian security establishment.

Now let’s try a mental experiment. Let’s imagine that the Sunday Times had obtained a story that nine dodgy Russian businessmen with links to Vladimir Putin had funded Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. It would have been the lead story of the Sunday Times and over recent days entire forests would have been chopped down in order to make way for feverish Fleet Street coverage of Corbyn’s sinister Russian funders. As it is, the Sunday Times splashed instead on palpably fake Conservative claims about Labour’s spending plans. Harper and Wheeler had to make do with page two. With the exception of the Daily Mirror, I have seen minimal follow-up of their brilliant scoop.

Farage’s victory

There has been a lot of high-level Conservative gloating about Nigel Farage’s unilateral decision to stand down his Brexit Party candidates in more than 300 safe Tory seats. This has been portrayed as a total humiliation for the Brexit Party leader, who until earlier this week appeared set on running a nationwide campaign. I don’t see it this way. The truth is that Farage has won. He has been at war with every Conservative leader from John Major to Theresa May. He has now entered into an alliance with Boris Johnson, having turned the Tory party into the Brexit Party. 

Johnson leads an English nationalist movement hostile to parliamentary democracy and the rule of law and driven by a Trumpian narrative about truth. He has driven out traditional Tories such as Philip Hammond, Dominic Grieve and Rory Stewart. He has created a party that Farage is happy to strike a deal with. Can Burkean Tories support Johnson’s Tories come election day? l

Peter Oborne’s website can be accessed at boris-johnson-lies.com

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This article appears in the 13 Nov 2019 issue of the New Statesman, How Britain was sold