Everyone knows Boris Johnson lies. It is his default strategy for extricating himself from each new self-induced mess in which he finds himself. Anyone looking for documented proof need only refer to The Assault on Truth by Peter Oborne (Simon and Schuster, 2021). It’s well worth reading and asking your local library to stock a copy so that others can do so. The Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons must also have been aware of this evidence, but she nevertheless felt obliged under parliamentary convention to eject Dawn Butler MP from the chamber yesterday for pointing out that Johnson repeatedly lied to parliament. Dawn must now be concerned that she could be ejected, like Jeremy Corbyn, from the Parliamentary Labour Party. Starmer expects his MPs to concentrate on purging socialist from the Labour Party, not attacking the government.
The discovery of 800 million barrels of oil 80 miles west of the Shetlands does, however, present Johnson with a dilemma from which it will be very difficult for him to extricate himself simply by lying. Despite the high cost of extracting this oil – perhaps $40 a barrel compared with around $4 a barrel for Saudi Crude – the oil companies, confident that capitalism isn’t serious about confining the increase in global warming to 1.5% and that profits are to be made even from this expensive crude, are keen to start pumping. A decision by the government on whether to grant them a license is due in 50 days. In 100 days Johnson is due to host COP26 in Glasgow – billed as the last opportunity for governments to agree policies to keep global warming under 1.5%. How will he resolve this dilemma? Can he find a solution by lying?
Joseph Goebbels’s strategy for lying was to tell big ones and keep on repeating them until people eventually come to believe them. Under this approach, Johnson could argue that we should continue to open up new oil fields because the government has been so successful in its other green policies. Like Brexit and Covid, the job is done. Eventually, of course, as Goebbels found out, one can find oneself in the proverbial bunker surrounded by the proverbial (in his case real) Red Army. Similarly, claims today that global warming is ‘sorted’ will result in cataclysm tomorrow.
The alternatives to lying that global warming is already sorted are, however, limited. If Johnson refuses the license, he risks being dismissed by his financial backers and his own backbenchers who represent similar interests. Could he grant the license but lie about it? He could claim that conditions attaching to it contained sufficient off-setting – more trees on Shetland etc. Most likely, he will lie about why the decision on the licence must be deferred until after COP 26. Then he could say that he had to issue the license or the UK would be sued in an International Arbitration Court. Quite possibly true by then, but he would have to lie about his responsibility for entering into such trade agreements.
Meanwhile, we are experiencing floods in Germany and Belgium and fires in the USA, Canada and Siberia. Best lie about them being caused by global warming.