Thanks to the public’s incredible support, my film has now soared past 35 million views. In the process it has exposed archaic parliamentary rules and procedures which are no longer fit for purpose, a Speaker of the House powerless to act and a stubborn public service broadcaster determined to look the other way.
Despite being reported as far away as New Zealand, the BBC’s silence has been deafening. There is so much about the BBC which I love. I still believe we need it, and I am one of many who want it to be strong and independent. But at the moment, it is not doing enough.
Thankfully other broadcasters are stepping up. The film itself has been broadcast and debated on Good Morning Britain – by Susanna Reid and Alastair Campbell – and raised with Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, by Kay Burley on Sky. In doing so, those journalists have played a significant role in educating the public to the fact that Boris Johnson has misled Parliament over and over again – and driven a cart and horses through the Ministerial Code.
Let’s not forget just how serious that is. Once upon a time, ministers would be expected to resign if they broke it. Just recently Douglas Ross – the Tory leader in Scotland – said the prime minister should resign if it was determined that he broke it. The rules apply equally to everyone. If Johnson is allowed to lie unchecked in Parliament, others will surely be emboldened to do the same.
When I think of my late parents, I remember above all else their unwavering honesty. They would never have lied to or misled anyone – and I believe the overwhelming majority of people in this country hold the truth in similarly high regard. Why, then, should we expect less from those holding high office?
In April, the film inspired an alliance of six opposition party leaders to take action. They urged the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, to allow a vote on an inquiry into Johnson’s “consistent failure to be honest”. They want Sir Lindsay to let them table a motion saying that Johnson’s conduct should be referred to the Committee of Privileges, on the grounds that deliberately misleading MPs is tantamount to contempt of Parliament.
The charge was led by Caroline Lucas, and was co-signed by five other parliamentary party leaders – among them Ian Blackford of the Scottish National Party) and Sir Ed Davey of the Liberal Democrats. The only name lacking was Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader. He was invited to join, but declined.
Thankfully, in July, one Labour MP did have the courage that Starmer lacked. Dawn Butler stood alone in Parliament, quoting from my film and calling Johnson a liar. When she bravely refused to withdraw her accusations, she was expelled from the Commons. In doing so, she exposed archaic parliamentary rules no longer fit for purpose – rules which protect those who lie and punish those who call those lies out. This cannot be allowed to continue.
Earlier this month Butler again seized the initiative by tabling a motion – already signed by 90 MPs – to put an end to Johnson’s lying in Parliament once and for all. Writing in the Metro, she said that “the prime minister should no longer be the guardian of the ministerial code, as he has shown a lack of morality to do so.”
The House of Commons, she continued must “take over responsibility from Boris Johnson, which would mean that MPs would collectively decide whether alleged breaches should be investigated and determine whether ministers have broken the rules. This would be a big change to our political system, but one that I believe is sorely needed, as the status quo is eroding our democracy.”
So to those who apathetically say “35 million views; so what?” I say this: the film has sparked questions in Parliament; it has empowered the public by lending a voice to their anger and frustration; a coalition of opposition party leaders have been inspired to take action; and our archaic parliamentary rules have been exposed as no longer fit for purpose.
This is just the start. The public is now, finally, waking up to the lies. They care. The house of cards is starting to wobble. So let’s keep going. If this film is ruffling this many feathers at 35 million, imagine what might happen when we hit 50.
The author, Peter Stefanovic, is a lawyer and campaigner.
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