Why did Johnson lie when questioned about the govt’s u-turn on school meal vouchers?
Guardian journalist Simon Hattenstone has been pondering over Johnson’s affliction. ‘Mythomania’, he says is the medical term for the condition of pathological or compulsive lying. Hattenstone has come to this conclusion because of Johnson’s recent claim that he hadn’t even heard of Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend the free school meal voucher scheme.
It’s clearly a lie, he explains, because Downing Street had issued a statement only the day before saying that they were going to end the scheme, despite Rashford’s campaign. In this statement, the prime minister’s official spokesman praised Marcus Rashford for “using his profile in a positive way to highlight some very important issues” and then added that “The PM understands the issues facing families across the UK, which is why last week the government announced an additional £63m for local authorities to benefit families who are struggling to afford food and other basic essentials.”
Hattenstone then speculates that Johnson must simply be a compulsive liar because the idea that the PM’s official spokesman does not actually speak for the PM (or perhaps that the PM is not at actually at the steering wheel) is too much to countenance. Hattenstone also finds it difficult to stomach the notion that Johnson doesn’t read any newspapers or watch the news, or pay any attention to any internal briefings.
Of course, any one or more of Hattenstone’s theories, even those he dismisses, might well be true. However, equally true might be the idea that Johnson actually meant to undermine Rashford’s campaign because acknowledging it’s impact would mean that people of influence CAN effect political change in this country.
The last thing politicians like to admit is that they pay close attention to opinion polls. Like polls, when a campaign demonstrates that there is significant support for, or against, a particular government policy, that is not something that they can easily ignore (if they want to see continued support at the ballot box). However, rather than admit that they have succumbed to pressure, they’ll attempt to frame it in a way to suggest that there was a legitimate reason for the u-turn or that they are simply making a magnanamous gesture.
However uncomfortable the lie makes you feel, I’m afraid calling Johnson’s compulsive lying an affliction is the equivalent of handing him a get out of jail free card.