TopGuard’s French correspondent, Sylvie de Beauvoire, continues to quiz former Prime Minister, Borys Jvanovich, about lying and false promises. If you haven’t read Part One yet, here it is.
Transcript resumes …
Sylvie de Beauvoir (SB): Shall we turn to the Vote Leave campaign, which placed you at its head in 2016?
Borys Jvanovich (BJ): OK.
The Brexit Referendum
SB: Borys, I know you like a classical quotation. How do you respond to this one from Euripides:
‘When one with honeyed words but evil mind persuades the mob, great woes befall the state’.
Rather sums up your Leave campaign doesn’t it?
BJ: I’m afraid it does, Sylvie. I was doing my best to get people to vote ‘yes’, and we didn’t care how we did it. But as you’ve probably gathered, a lie to me is nothing, it is not even a lie, it’s the way I do business. Means to an end. I don’t get holier than thou about it. Here today gone tomorrow. Tomorrow’s another day. And it was all effective, as it turned out, it was a successful vote-gathering approach in those terms.
SB: We’re not talking about blagging your way through another interview here, Borys, we’re talking about the future of the whole country and its inhabitants, who you are paid to represent. Whether a decision to leave Europe was the right one or not, to encourage people to make that decision based on a pack of lies is unconscionable isn’t it?
BJ: Put like that, yes it probably was.
SB: ‘Probably?’ It certainly was. So you accept the Leave campaign was a pack of lies then, promoted by you, knowingly?
BJ: Yes I do.
SB: It wasn’t just you though, was it? The idea for the £350 million for the NHS lie on the side of the bus is reported to have come from Dominic Cummings. The idea that we don’t need experts anymore came from Michael Gove, or that there wouldn’t be any downsides to Brexit came from David Davies. Most of the false ideas about Turkey joining the EU, bringing up to 80 million Turkish immigrants to the UK, came from Nigel Farage. Jacob Rees-Mogg brought his nonsense about freeing the UK from the undemocratic tangles of EU bureaucracy and regulation. And you brought the false images of the sunlit uplands of Brexit, the falsehoods of the trading benefits of global Britain, the patriotic associations of more UK sovereignty and control of our borders, and you confirmed the Farage message about Turkey.
This was on top of all your previous Telegraph jokes about straight bananas, condoms, and bumbling brussels sprout bureaucrats, which demeaned an organisation which had successfully helped to keep the peace in Europe and raise the living standards and quality of life for many people. But you as campaign leader endorsed and endlessly repeated and amplified all those lies and all that nonsense. It wasn’t just one lie, it was a whole pack of sneers, misinformation and untruths, repeated endlessly, including on social media. An absolutely monstrous and disgraceful set of deceptions on the public.
BJ: A strong account but essentially correct.
SB: Now Brexit has become a total catastrophe for the country, as most experts predicted in 2016. I assume you accept that?
BJ: I do.
SB: But no apology or regret from you about that?
BJ: I can’t do that Sylvie, the people voted ‘yes’ by majority, so I respect that.
SB: True, but on a false prospectus as you agreed above. I wonder what Pericles, one of your favourite classical characters I believe, would have thought.
‘Who makes the fairest show means most deceit’.
BJ: OK, you’ve completely nobbled me with that one.
Your time as Prime Minister
SB: Let me move on to your time as Prime Minister. Before the 2019 general election, appealing for votes, you made several claims: ‘Get Brexit Done’, ‘Fix Social Care’, ‘Levelling Up’, ‘40 new hospitals’, and ‘20,000 more police officers’. All tub-thumped for you by the right-wing press and media. Do you agree?
SB: I put it to you, that these were all totally false promises, knowingly made as such. In the event, Brexit was only ‘done’ in the sense that the Withdrawal Deal and the Trade and Cooperation Deal were rushed through and signed quickly, without any sense that they were done well. They were certainly done with hardly any scrutiny or Parliamentary debate. These were international treaties that would have huge implications for the country and were simply forced through quickly so that you could announce on Xmas Eve that you had kept your promise to ‘Get Brexit Done’. I don’t think anyone is thanking you for that now.
Social Care has not been ‘fixed’. In fact there has been no attempt to fix it at all, and your claim to have a Plan in your back pocket ready-to-go was pure fiction. Levelling Up has been done only in a purely cosmetic way by allocating some money to carefully chosen constituencies to help Tory election prospects, but nothing meaningful or fundamental has been done or even attempted for poorer sections of society. ‘40 new hospitals’ was never deliverable, and nothing like that has been achieved, or even attempted. Pure fiction. More new police officers have been recruited, but only to replace the many experienced officers who had been retired as part of previous austerity measures.
The Tory 2019 election campaign, with you at its head, was another pack of gigantic Borys lies wasn’t it? The so-called ‘massive majority’, achieved by the ‘brilliant campaigner’ was just another massive deceit on the electorate, as noted by Pericles, wasn’t it?
BJ: Yes and yes.
SB: Nothing else to add?
SB: OK. In the early days of 2020, news came through that a new virus was spreading rapidly from China. It first emerged in Europe in Italy, where there were chaotic stories about dire shortages of equipment and medicines. It then spread quickly to other European countries, and the first cases were soon reported in the UK. In early March, the WHO announced a world pandemic, and European countries were introducing lockdown measures and closing public facilities.
The UK Government announced a series of COBRA meetings. But it was reported that you didn’t attend them. You went on holiday after Xmas for two weeks, and then it was reported that you were working at home on your book about Shakespeare and your divorce paperwork. Is that correct?
SB: Here are some figures for Covid deaths (the number of ‘excess deaths’ was higher) between January 2020 and May 2023, from the Economist newspaper: UK, 225,000, France, 162,000, Germany, 173,000, Italy, 190,000, South Korea, 24,000, Australia, 20,000, USA, 1.13 million. A terrible result from the USA, but then they have a terrible privatised medical system and had a crackpot president. A relatively good outcome for South Korea, but then they had good preparations in place arising from a previous outbreak. The UK could have had good preparations in place, but that work was all dropped earlier as part of austerity measures. The UK had the worst outcome in Western Europe, while you were Prime Minister.
Yet you were very bullish about the UK’s management of the disease. You boasted that we had a protective shield around care homes, the fastest rollout of the vaccine, and a world-beating test and trace system. This actually cost the enormous sum of around £37 billion, and the Public Accounts Committee said it was largely ineffective. And there was huge financial fraud through corrupt loans, wasted purchases of useless PPE equipment, and corruption in letting untendered contracts to VIP Lane Tory cronies on a scale we have never seen in this country before. So, a very high Covid death toll, and a huge and scandalous abuse of Government power and waste of public funds.
In connection with his campaign for improved government support for school meals, Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United footballer, made a telling remark:
‘The people making decisions – have they experienced these things?’
Of course, the answer was no. You and many members of your cabinet were either well-off or extremely wealthy, and several owned multiple homes. Twice your government was forced by the weight of Rashford’s campaign and the public support it had, to change course, and provide extra money for school meals when it had previously refused. That was a humiliating and humbling climbdown, wasn’t it? But it showed what the priorities of you and your party were, which was electoral success and finance.
Overall, an appalling record from your time managing Covid as Prime Minister, wouldn’t you say?
BJ: Put that way, regrettably, yes.
SB: Is that all you can say? No acceptance? No regret? No apology?
BJ: The record is there for people to see.
SB: OK, let’s move on.
Transcript paused …
Ed: End of Part Two. Be sure to read Part Three out shortly with the very latest.
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