The Assault on Truth: Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and the Emergence of a New Moral Barbarism by Peter Oborne - review by Michael Burleigh

Michael Burleigh

The Lies Have It

The Assault on Truth: Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and the Emergence of a New Moral Barbarism


Simon & Schuster 192pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

There are many journalists in Britain whose opinions one would not miss if they ceased to be published. Peter Oborne isn’t among them. He is a lucid and compelling writer, he knows the key personalities and has read some books, all of which means his work has a kind of easy gravity. Oborne is a Fleet Street veteran who spent decades working as a political commentator for the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator. The main question he seeks to answer in this book is how the ‘sunny, liberal, optimistic’ Boris Johnson who hired Oborne at The Spectator has degenerated into the head of one of the most discreditable and dysfunctional governments in modern British history.

Oborne sets out how, under Johnson and his soulmate Donald Trump, lying has become endemic in political culture. Once upon a time if you lied, you walked, as John Profumo did; if you misled the Commons, you apologised and corrected the record immediately. Not any more: even the most incompetent Cabinet ministers, whether Gavin Williamson or Robert Jenrick, can linger on regardless of their failings.

Throughout, the focus is less on Trump than it is on Johnson, whom Oborne describes as ‘the genteel English country cousin of the monster in the White House, able to sugar-coat his lies with the legacy of an expensive classical education’. This is just as well: having incited a mob

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