A former journalist has started up a fundraiser to build a website recording the UK government’s lies.
Peter Oborne, 63, said he is planning to gather a team of researchers together with journalism graduate Millie Cooke, to research and analyse political communication which he says “poses a threat to democracy”.
Oborne previously worked for the Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Spectator and The Express and wrote a books on “political lying”, the latest one being The Assault on Truth, which he said is about “the lies of Boris Johnson”.
‘Enormous expansion of lies’
He told The London Economic: “I first got the idea shortly after Mr Johnson became prime minister.
“I thought there was an enormous expansion in the number of lies by the prime minister compared to Theresa May or David Cameron and it was so striking that I thought it was important to record these lies.
“I also thought it was important to show how the mainstream media were either abetting these lies or kind of helping them publish them.”
‘Almost every day’
He set up a website in 2019, but the running costs were too high and so was the workload. “It was a full-time job, Johnson was lying so much, I can see it’s almost every day,” he told TLE.
He said that he paid for the website from his own pocket, and it was “well-read”, with 200,000 visitors within three months.
But he estimates he needs £12,000 to resume the work, which he labels as a “public duty”.
“It’s almost a public duty to record them so that they are on the public record,” he said.
He explained he always gives the government a chance to justify their statements, but claimed “they tend to not answer”. “I don’t just write that they are lying,” he said.
He added: “I think if you care about public life, you care about Britain, it’s very important that we have an honest public domain, people vote for the government on the basis of false information.
“It’s a chance to bring honesty in the public domain.”
Asked whether he thinks the UK media holds power to account, he said that is not the case “as a general rule”. “It’s actually a manifestation of power. They see their jobs as to disseminate lies,” he continued.
One of the reasons why he thinks this is the case is that newspapers “have a political line” and some of the biggest ones “supported the Johnson government in the 2019 general election”. He also thinks the BBC “won’t tear on the government”.
“Journalists also need to have access to power and you will be denied access if you ask difficult questions, so there is a price to be paid,” he added.
But he thinks there are several hundred lies from the current government so far, and that once they are caught up with the present, they are aiming to publish up to date information on a weekly basis.
He said: “Lies pose a threat to democracy because a mature democracy must treat people as adults performing judgements.
“And if people base their judgements on lies, they are treated as children, and that diminishes democracy.”
The government has been contacted for comment.