Boris johnson

Who decides which politicians are liars? 

This week the Welsh parliament has been debating a law that would ban politicians from lying. Assuming it ends up on the statute books, any member of the Senedd, or candidate standing to be a member, found guilty of the new criminal offence of ‘deception’ will have to give up being a politician for at least four years. What could possibly be wrong with that, you ask? The vital question, as with all efforts to ban bad speech, is who decides? After all, part of the art of being a politician, dating back at least as far as the Roman Senate, is to massage the truth to promote whatever side

What does Boris want?

11 min listen

Newspapers today reported that Boris Johnson is going to campaign for the Conservatives in Red Wall seats. Responding, Nadine Dorries wrote on Twitter: ‘There’s no thawing of relations, no plans to campaign. Sunak not spoken to Johnson for over a year.’ So are the stories true? What does Boris want? Max Jeffery speaks to Kate Andrews and Isabel Hardman.

Do we really need this unsubtle and irrelevant play about Covid?

Pandemonium is a new satire about the Covid nightmare that uses the quaint style of the Elizabethan masque. Armando Iannucci’s play opens with Paul Chahidi as Shakespeare introducing a troupe of players who all speak in rhyming couplets. A golden wig descends like a signal from on high and Shakespeare transforms himself into the ‘World King’ or ‘Orbis Rex’. This jocular play reminds spectators with a low IQ that Orbis is an anagram of Boris. The former prime minister, also labelled the ‘globular squire’, is portrayed as a heartless, arrogant schemer driven by ambition and vanity. He retells the main events of the pandemic with the help of an infernal

Can I stay in Britain?

Brexit Britain, for all its flaws, has been welcoming to me. When the UK was a member of the European Union, the only way to control immigration was to crack down on non-EU visas. Ten years ago, Americans like me who studied in Britain and wanted to stay needed to earn £35,000 a year (which would be £47,000 now). That was unrealistic for a recent graduate. After Brexit, Boris Johnson brought back the old post-study visa, giving us two years to find work and requiring a more achievable minimum salary of £26,000. Finally, international students who won places at British universities could meet their EU equals as, well, equals. We

Has WhatsApp ruined government?

13 min listen

WhatsApps between officials in Boris Johnson’s government have been centre-stage at the Covid inquiry this week. Is the app encouraging on-the-hoof policymaking and nasty briefing?  James Heale speaks to Katy Balls and Guido Fawkes chief Paul Staines.

Did Boris’s No. 10 have a women problem?

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Today the Covid inquiry heard from Helen McNamara, former deputy cabinet secretary (who infamously supplied a karaoke machine for one of the government’s lockdown parties). Her evidence suggested that the government’s pandemic response had a women problem – from not properly understanding lockdown’s impact on domestic abuse to not considering that PPE is designed for male bodies, not female. Is that fair? Cindy Yu talks to Katy Balls and Isabel Hardman. Produced by Cindy Yu.

Letters: Boris Johnson’s doublespeak over Ukraine

Whose victory? Sir: Politicians are often accused of engaging in doublespeak, and I fear in the case of Boris Johnson’s article (‘Bombshell’, 16 September) the accusation may be valid. According to our former prime minister we’re to believe two contradictory assertions; firstly that a Russian victory risks an immediate and existential threat not only to Russia’s neighbours but to the broader West. Then secondly, that the victory of the Ukrainian armed forces is as inevitable as night following day. Those two positions cannot both be true – either the outcome of the war is still in the balance, or Ukrainian victory is assured. I fear a degree of romanticism has

Rory Stewart is a fish out of water

Rory Stewart is one of that almost extinct species in the modern Conservative party, a one-nation Tory. He is also – or was (until Boris Johnson kicked him out) – a politician with hinterland. He had been places and done things before getting himself elected in his late thirties, entering parliament in 2010. Disillusion rapidly set in: Too much of our time was absorbed in gossip about the promotion of one colleague or the scandal engulfing another. Even four weeks in, I sensed more impotence, suspicion, envy, resentment, claustrophobia and schadenfreude than I had seen in any other profession. It is made clear to him from the outset that rebellion

In praise of Boris’s nemesis: the great crested newt

Britain is not blessed with an abundance of amphibians. There are just seven native varieties. The loss of ponds – whether in gardens, farmland or in areas earmarked for development – has seen a dramatic decline in habitat for one of the seven in particular, the great crested newt (or GCN for short). Its rarity means it is protected by law, making it an offence to kill, injure or capture one, or damage its habitat. That is why for construction firms, road builders and, most recently, Boris Johnson, no newts is good news. The discovery of GCNs at Johnson’s Oxfordshire pile meant planning permission for a swimming pool was refused.

Should vintage comedy be judged by today’s standards?

The British sense of humour is a source of power, soft and otherwise. The anthropologist Kate Fox observed that our national motto should be ‘Oh, come off it’, and a patriotic raised eyebrow has been cited as our chief defence against demagogues. We see ourselves through a comic lens, a nation of Delboys and Mainwarings, Brents and Leadbetters, Gavins and Staceys. But despite comedy being as central to British culture as music, books on it have few equivalents to Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming (on punk), Rob Young’s Electric Eden (folk rock) or Simon Reynolds’s Energy Flash (rave). A nice fat volume about our national comic self-image by an astute music

Letters: How to reform the NHS

How to reform the NHS Sir: During the pandemic I and millions of others went out every week and clapped for the NHS (‘National health disservice’, 8 July). But if you’ve experienced it lately, it’s a dystopian nightmare. Appointments regularly cancelled, paperwork missing, 1950s administration. It appears the only thing being managed at the NHS is its decline. A working group of trusted business leaders should consider ‘best practice’ at excellent private and public hospitals in the UK and across Europe, and implement reform of the service immediately. The Tories don’t have the bottle or anyone with the talent to get this under way. All the reform talk is coming

What, if anything, have dictators over the centuries had in common?

Big Caesars and Little Caesars is an entertaining jumble with no obvious beginning, middle, end, or indeed argument. But there is an intriguing book buried underneath it which asks more or less this: where does Boris Johnson stand in the historical procession of would-be strongmen or, as Ferdinand Mount calls them, ‘Caesars’? How successful was Johnson’s attempt – overshadowed by the Brexit noise, his personal scandals and his Bertie Wooster act – to turn Britain into a more authoritarian state? Even when Caesars are kicked out, they weaken a country’s institutions Mount, now 84, comes at this from a long Tory past that in recent years he has seemed to

How my brother-in-law Boris got me cancelled

Nigel Farage and I don’t have too much in common beyond liking a pint and a cigar. Yet I now discover a link: we are both PEPs, or ‘politically exposed persons’. Such a handle may not be a total surprise to Nigel. (He may not have been surprised, either, when Coutts said that it had closed his bank account simply because he didn’t have enough funds.) But it certainly was to me – especially as I found out from an official at the bureau de change in the baggage hall of Mexico City airport. As I proffered a couple of grubby $100 bills to change to pesos, I filled in

Boris Johnson’s peculiar conservative conversion

In his most recent column for the Mail, Boris Johnson fires a shot at, among other things, ‘the leftie twittersphere’. Lest we forget, that would be the same Boris Johnson that, during his time as prime minister, told us there was ‘nothing wrong with being woke’; who seemed remarkably unbothered about mass illegal immigration; who blithely nodded through the Bank of England printing funny money like there was no tomorrow (you’ll never guess, but it turned out there was, and we are now living in that tomorrow). He even, bizarrely, described the invasion of Ukraine as ‘a perfect example of toxic masculinity’. Hilariously this demand for equal grinding impoverishment for

Portrait of the week: Boris locked out, mortgage misery and Titanic submarine search

Home Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, was ritually buried by the House of Commons voting by 354 to seven to approve the Privileges Committee report that found he had lied to parliament about observing coronavirus regulations. He would have been suspended for 90 days had he not left parliament; as it was, his pass to enter the Houses of Parliament was withdrawn. Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, having remembered an important long-standing engagement, was among 225 MPs who were absent or abstained. David Warburton, an MP who sat as a Conservative until last year, said he was leaving the House. In the King’s birthday honours, Sir John Bell, Ian

Is Boris Johnson a great man of history?

Boris Johnson has always been an enthusiastic proponent of the long unfashionable ‘great man’ theory of history. As he argued in his short biography of Winston Churchill, Churchill was a living refutation of the notion that great men and women are just ‘meretricious bubbles on the vast tides of social history’, a ‘withering retort to all that malarkey. He, and he alone, made the difference’. Boris’s own downfall is a magnificent demonstration – though perhaps not of the sort he would have hoped for – that he was onto something. Character does make a difference. It wasn’t ‘events, dear boy, events’ that did for him – though heaven knows he

Is Boris’s honours list a lesson in cronyism?

11 min listen

Boris Johnson has published his resignation honours list, proposing a number of supporters, long time loyalists and even young staffers to be given peerages and honours. But is this an abuse of a system which should, instead, be about rewarding people for their public service? Cindy Yu talks to Fraser Nelson and Katy Balls. Produced by Cindy Yu.

Margaret Ferrier’s Commons ban could complicate partygate for Boris

Margaret Ferrier has received a 30-day suspension from the Commons for breaching the Code of Conduct for MPs when she broke Covid rules. As the suspension is for longer than ten days, she is now at the mercy of a recall petition and by-election: it’s almost certain that the constituents of Rutherglen and Hamilton West will soon have a new MP. Unusually, 40 MPs voted against the suspension (185 voted in favour), and a high number of abstentions were recorded. Ferrier was sentenced to 270 hours of unpaid work in September last year after she pleaded guilty in a Scottish court to culpable and reckless conduct. Having discovered she was

Is the government heading for a court defeat?

14 min listen

The Cabinet Office has officially triggered a judicial review against the Covid Inquiry – but is this a misstep, if eventually they will lose their legal case against it? On the episode, James Heale talks to Katy Balls and the Institute for Government’s Catherine Haddon. Produced by Cindy Yu.

A dispatch from Ukraine

Last week, I visited Ukraine – Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kramatorsk. Impressions crowded in. Here are a few: When the Russians attacked Kharkiv last year, they strafed a Holocaust memorial on the way into town. It is particularly poignant to see the monument’s large seven-branch candlestick reduced to five branches. Across the road is Kharkiv’s vast municipal cemetery. The war dead are immediately visible among the acres of graves. They lie together, in a square. Above each tomb flutters the Ukrainian flag, as if the dead are mustered for battle. I counted more than a thousand of them, and I am afraid the numbers are fast growing elsewhere. That night, I