Boris Johnson has driven a cart and horses through the ministerial code and put democracy “at risk” by “telling barefaced lies to Parliament”, the creator of a viral video highlighting the prime minister’s falsehoods has said.
A film by Peter Stefanovic, a lawyer affiliated with the Communication Workers Union (CWU), which compiles a number of untruths told by Johnson in the House of Commons – on topics as wide-ranging as emissions and poverty – has attracted more than 15 million views.
The video, posted on Twitter, helped inspired calls for an inquiry into Johnson’s “consistent failure to be honest” by six opposition parties in the Commons, led by Green MP Caroline Lucas.
In the letter, MPs expressed “deep concern” that Johnson’s alleged inability to be truthful is harming the reputation of the Commons.
“This is not a question of occasional inaccuracies or a misleading use of figures: it is a consistent failure to be honest with the facts, or to correct wrong information at the earliest opportunity when misleading information is given,” they wrote. “This, we believe, amounts to a contempt of the house.”
Referencing comments by Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who said on Sunday that Johnson should “of course” resign if found to have breached the ministerial code over the funding of the lavish renovation of his Downing Street flat, Stefanovic said his video proves the prime minister has “already broken [the code] over and over and over again”.
‘He’s broken the ministerial code every week‘
Speaking to TLE, he said: “That was the whole point of my film. Not just to show that Boris Johnson has, week after week, been giving inaccurate information to MPs – and then refusing to come back and correct the record. He’s broken the ministerial code every week.
“Why are we concentrating on speculation over whether Johnson broke the code over the flat refurbishment? He’s already broken it. So what are we going to do about it?”
Wow! We did it!! 15 million views!!— Peter Stefanovic (@PeterStefanovi2) May 4, 2021
By working TOGETHER we have sent a message to UK media that if they won’t hold this Prime Minister to account for his relentless lying we will damn well do it ourselves!
When will you catch up @BBCNews @BBCBreakfast? pic.twitter.com/PlvEkEij1V
Although the video has received coverage in some corners of the British press – even gaining significant traction overseas – Stefanovic hit out at the BBC for its reluctance to report on the video and its consequences.
“The reason I’m hitting the BBC is for one very important reason: I’m paying for them, we the people are paying for the BBC through our license fee,” he said. “They’re a public broadcaster. If anyone is going to pick this up and hold Boris Johnson to account, it should be the BBC.”
‘BBC must have seen it’
If the BBC were to cover the film, Stefanovic added, “it would get it into the mainstream” – but he is at a loss to explain why the Corporation hasn’t done so.
“They must have seen it – it’s been viewed 15 million times. I’ve tagged them in it a million times. Why are they refusing to broadcast it, comment it or even acknowledge its existence? You’ll have to draw your own conclusions.”
He believes Labour should jump on the film, too. “Every single opposition party leader stepped up on the back of my film and signed that letter apart from Keir Starmer,” Stefanovic said. “Why he hasn’t signed it, I don’t know.”
Starmer was invited to sign the letter, organised by Lucas, but declined, with a party source suggesting that Labour does not usually join initiatives launched by other parties.
“My response to that would be how about putting the country first,” Stefanovic said. “There are a number of Labour MPs out there who have shared the film and supported was we’ve done here, but I don’t recall seeing a single member of the shadow cabinet tweeting or commenting on the film.”
‘Westminster bubble’ issues
Johnson has sought to dismiss the scandals acclimating at his doorstep as “Westminster bubble” issues. Asked why voters should care about his video, Stefanovic urged them to “think about your mum and dad”.
“When I think about my parents and growing up, I always remember how stoically honest they were,” he said. “They wouldn’t deliberately lie to people or deceive people. I look back, and I was certainly told things that I didn’t agree with – but I never questioned the honesty and integrity of the person telling me those things.
“I think we’re losing something very precious as a result of this prime minister who has crossed the line from what was vaguely acceptable to what is completely unacceptable now,” he continued. “If the guy at the top plays fast and loose with the truth, then those below him become emboldened to do the same.
He added: “My background is in law. The very foundation of our legal system depends on trust, credibility and honesty. The same principle should apply to our political institutions.
“If those institutions are undermined by an endless drip, drip, drip of false statements and untruths, that’s when our very democracy is put at risk. That is ultimately what we are seeing on Boris Johnson’s watch.”