A campaigner whose viral video about Boris Johson’s lies in parliament has been watched more than 30 million times has said the prime minister should resign, as he has broken the ministerial code numerous times.
Speaking to NationalWorld, trade unionist and lawyer Peter Stefanovic said our democracy is “put at risk” by lies and false statements in parliament, as he welcomed news that a petition to make lying in parliament a crime reached 100,000 signatures.
The petition, which has now hit the threshold at which MPs will be required to debate it in parliament, was inspired by a video Stefanovic put together to highlight “a pattern of behaviour” by the PM.
The video has been viewed more than 31 million times at time of writing, and was shown to viewers of Good Morning Britain by guest host Alastair Campbell earlier this year.
The video was also referenced by Labour MP for Brent Dawn Butler in June, which led to her being ejected from parliament for breaking the convention of not referring to other MPs as liars, or accusing them of lying.
Stefanovic says that, just as the act of lying in a court of law is covered by the crime of perjury, a specific crime should be created for wilfully misleading or lying to parliament.
He said: “As lawyers we look at the crime of perjury in our courts which is taken very seriously. The very foundation of our legal system depends on trust and it depends on credibility and that same principle should apply, if not more so, to our political institutions because if they are undermined by lies and false statements then our democracy is put at risk.
“That’s essentially what we’re seeing under the Boris Johnson premiership.”
‘People have had enough’
He also criticised the speaker of the house, Lindsay Hoyle, for “having it both ways” and selectively enforcing the “archaic” rules of parliament on lies and misleading statements.
“The speaker of the house is doing nothing about this at all. He can’t have it both ways. He can’t say no honourable member would deliberately mislead to or lie to the house and then look the other way while the PM tells barefaced lies in the House of Commons.”
Stefanovic says the video has been so widely-viewed because it has become a kind of protest.
He also believes that while there have been accusations of dishonesty levelled at previous prime ministers, the response to this video shows how uniquely dishonest Boris Johnson is.
“I think people have had enough,” he said. “The driving force behind the film is the public, and it has become a public protest at the rampant lying that we’re seeing in parliament at the moment.
“In the past we’ve always seen PMs being accused of being untrustworthy on one issue or another, but we’ve now reached a situation where the PM has normalised lying in the Houses of Parliament.”
“The majority of people in this country are inherently honest, so how on earth can it be acceptable for the prime minister to do this over and over again?”
The video shows clips of Johnson speaking in parliament and making a number of claims which have been independently verified as false.
One example is Johnson’s claim that the economy has grown 73% under the Conservatives since 2010. This is untrue as the real figure is closer to 20%, and the 73% figure refers to growth since 1990.
Johnson has broken the ministerial code ‘over and over again’
Stefanovic says it is irrelevant to some extent whether the PM is knowingly lying in each case, because he has consistently refused to correct the record, which is a breach of the ministerial code.
“The ministerial code says if a member inadvertently gives false information to parliament then they’ve got to come back and correct the record, and if they don’t do that then they’ve lied to parliament.
“My video is accurate, it’s been fact-checked, he has said these things that are patently false.
“So the ministerial code says he should come back and correct the record, but he has steadfastly said that he won’t. That’s where he’s broken the ministerial code, not once, but over and over again.
“When we talk about correcting the record, it really is about the historical record, because when future historians look at Hansard, they will see his uncorrected statements and assume they’re true.”
This, says Stefanovic, makes it a resigning matter. And he’s not alone in this view.
He points to Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who previously said in an interview with Andrew Neil that if the prime minister were to be found to have broken the ministerial code, he should resign.
Ross has also previously called for Scottish first minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to resign over allegations that she had broken the ministerial code and lied to the Scottish Parliament.