Those who follow the pronouncements of Spectator editor Fraser Nelson know that he talks well, but when he deems the occasion demands it, lies badly and shamelessly. This is particularly noticeable when the subject of press regulation - or, in this country, the lack of it - is raised, and he praises sham regulator IPSO, telling anyone in earshot that it is the “toughest press regulator in the Western world”, which it definitely isn’t.
Fraser Nelson: polished, upstanding ... and appallingly dishonest
And after his predecessor, London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, did a little lying of his own at the weekend courtesy of the increasingly downmarket and desperate Telegraph, there was Nelson again, defending not just another of the Barclay Brothers’ properties, but Bozza too. Even when The Blond was called out by the UK’s chief statistician for lying, this too was defended as just fine.
When Bozza’s ill-judged and unnecessary intervention appeared in the Tel, there was Nelson to praise it, whatever it said. He made sure to comment approvingly upon it. “Boris Johnson has finally overcome his stage fright. My blog on his long-overdue Daily Telegraph article”. Oh, and just for good measure, “And here's my Daily Telegraph column, printed yesterday, on how we need to hear a lot more from Boris”.
Yes, in the hermetically sealed world of the right-leaning Pundit Establishment, we need to hear more from an habitual liar whose only concern is the promotion and enrichment of Himself Personally Now. And just to make sure his followers got the message, Nelson Tweeted out an image of the Tel’s front page with the comment “That's more like it”.
But then, David Norgrove, head of the UK Statistics Authority, passed severely adverse comment on Bozza’s creative use of figures, or as most people call it, lying. The £350 million figure was a prize whopper when emblazoned on the side of the Vote Leave bus, and it was no different now. Torn between bothering to do some proper investigative journalism, and saying what was needed to defend Bozza, Nelson did not hesitate.
The Spectator’s piss-poor Steerpike column was duly commanded to back The Blond, and Nelson duly Tweeted “Why is the UK’s supposedly independent statistics watchdog joining the Boris-bashing? Steerpike”. Very good, Spectator people - Norgrove was intervening on the misuse of statistics because that is his job. Clearly, not a lot of people know that.
Meanwhile, Norgrove’s intervention was gaining traction, and the thought that Bozza had once again been caught with his trousers well alight clearly distressed Nelson. Also, his predecessor had come out fighting in his own defence. So the Spectator editor personally took up the cudgels, recycling Bozza’s bilge into a blog of his own. This was duly relayed to his Twitter followers thus: “For once, the £350m figure was used accurately - the UK Statistics Authority misjudged its intervention. Here's why”.
Here’s why the Spectator’s editor is prepared to lie shamelessly, rather than admit that, sometimes, it is better to own up and tell the truth - or keep mouth well shut.
And remember, Fraser Nelson is a respected member of the Pundit Establishment. Now you know how far you can trust all those TV talking heads. As in, you can’t.