Truth in Campaigning; Must we?

Boris Johnson has been committed for trial and must appear in court over allegations he lied to the public about Brexit.

The case is a private prosecution, brought by businessman Marcus Ball, who used crowdfunding to raise the money to file the case at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

The prosecution alleges that Mr Johnson’s statements were irresponsible and dishonest.

“It is alleged that Mr Johnson acting as a Member of Parliament and as the Mayor of London made statements concerning the cost of European Union Membership, which were false, misleading and which abused public trust,” the group said in a statement when the case was filed.

The allegations relate to claims that Mr Johnson made in the lead up to and aftermath of the 2016 European Union referendum, when he was one of the leading campaigners for Britain to leave the bloc. Britons voted by 52 to 48 per cent to leave.

“During both time periods outlined above, the (proposed) defendant repeatedly lied and misled the British public as to the cost of EU membership, expressly stating, endorsing or inferring that the cost of EU membership was 350 million pounds ($AU640 million) per week,” the application against Mr Johnson said.

Leave campaigners said the money would be better spent on health services, but the UK Statistics Authority wrote to Vote Leave in 2016 to argue the claim was misleading and undermined trust.

The authority said the figure failed to take into account payments made to the UK from the EU, and the contribution to the treasury of trade and business stemming from the EU single market.

Opponents argued the ‘350 million pound’ claim became symbolic of the divisions caused by the referendum.

The offense, if proven, can carry a sentence of life in prison and has been used since the 13th century to prosecute public officials.

(The above is taken from an ABC Online posting )

Johnson’s defence, according to his lawyer, appears to rest on the fact that “It is submitted that the facts alleged by the applicant do not come close to establishing a qualifying breach of duty, None of the acts complained of took place in the course of Mr Johnson’s direct parliamentary or mayoral duties, but in the course of political campaigning.”

So it seems that he will be claiming that lying during an election campaign is acceptable and legal and that the lying should cease only once a person is elected. This is a case which could have implications for a number of other Democracies.

In a recent event, lies, mistruths and evasions were used to steal a national election in the Southern Hemisphere. The Johnson case should be closely watched for any possible fall-out in any other jurisdiction.

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