Back in 2010, a blogger called Primly Stable, who is sadly no longer contributing posts on the waywardness of our free and fearless press, called out the Daily Mail’s tedious and unfunny churnalist Richard Littlejohn over something The Great Man does rather a lot - lying. Dicky Windbag was bang to rights. A complaint was made to the (then) PCC.
And the response was a masterclass in evasion. “The Commission … had to consider the remark in the context of the article in which it appeared. The article had been clearly presented as a comment piece … The Commission considered that the columnist had exaggerated and simplified the example”. And there was more.
“In this instance, on balance it considered that readers would be aware that the columnist was not accurately reflecting the [subject concerned] … but that he was making an amplified statement for rhetorical effect. It was therefore the Commission’s view that, on this occasion, readers generally would not be misled in such a way as to warrant correction under the terms of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.”
Wallop! Case closed. Littlejohn arse duly wiped, nay, thoroughly cleansed. But surely it would not be necessary to excuse such behaviour from a quality paper and one of its most prestigious columnists, would it? Sadly, it would. And to prove my point, made in late 2015 on an al-Jazeera Listening Post item, that IPSO is nothing more than the same old PCC, er, fluid in a differently labelled bottle, that excuse has been made once again.
Except this time it’s not the Daily Mail and Littlejohn, but the Telegraph and London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Mitchell Stirling complained to IPSO after Bozza had claimed that a No Deal exit from the EU was more popular “by some margin” than Theresa May’s deal or remaining in the EU. The error was, he pointed out, that much worse because of the status of the writer.
The Tel’s first response? You guessed it. “The publication said that the article was clearly an opinion piece”. Bozza was, like Littlejohn, allowed to lie for effect. But then came the real jaw-dropper: “It said that the writer was entitled to make sweeping generalisations based on his opinions and that the complainant had misconstrued the purpose of the article; it was clearly comically polemical, and could not be reasonably read as a serious, empirical, in-depth analysis of hard factual matters”.
Well, of course, Tel people, it’s clearly comical that Bozza gets to trouser well north of £250,000 a year while advocating for millions of Britons to become poorer just so him and his mates can make a killing on the markets. I mean, where’s your sense of humour?
Bozza’s whopper was made worse by the Tel trying to mislead IPSO, which has clearly gone down like a cup of cold sick: “The publication had not provided any data which supported the author’s claim either that a no-deal Brexit was the option preferred ‘by some margin’ over the three options listed, or that these represented ‘…all of the options suggested by pollsters’”. Anyone who has complained to the Tel will recognise this.
Even worse was that the bogus claim was used as a headline - “Johnson: no deal is voters’ idea of leaving EU”. Sadly, as campaigning group Hacked Off has observed, IPSO has allowed the Tel to get away with a slyly buried and small Page 2 correction.
But good of the Telegraph to admit that it is paying over a quarter of a million notes a year just to facilitate a congenital liar in living in the style to which he has become accustomed. What is not so good, though, is the implicit admission that Bozza had been lying for many years previously - as had been frequently claimed by his critics.
All those years he spent as the Tel’s Brussels point man, churning out columns making claims about the EU which turned out to be totally untrue, but which invariably influenced the debate over Britain’s future in the EU, and indeed its very presence as a member state. Bozza’s serious lies have had serious consequences.
And as with the vanity buses, vanity cable car, vanity water cannon, vanity study for the Thames estuary airport that is never going to be built, and the vanity Garden Bridge that also isn’t going to see the light of day, Bozza never has to account for any of the waste. Like he doesn’t - yet - have to account for lying his country into becoming an international laughing stock. He keeps emerging from the shit bucket smelling of roses.
Now, though, it’s official that he is a liar. Because the Daily Telegraph says so.
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Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, was highly critical of Boris Johnson's Euromyths when the latter appeared in front of the committee in 2016.
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