Rory Stewart has called Boris Johnson the “most accomplished liar in public life” in a personal swipe against the prime minister in an article in the Times Literary Supplement.
Stewart, who was of 21 rebel Tory MPs fired for voted against Johnson’s Brexit agenda last year, accused Johnson of being an opportunist who created the “historical forces” that saw him into No 10.
Stewart’s stern analysis rebukes many of the claims put forward in a recent biography of the prime minister by Tom Bowler which he intimates ‘excuses’ the prime minister’s questionable behaviour.
The former Tory leadership contender said that Johnson was the “most accomplished liar in public life” and perhaps “the best liar ever to serve as prime minister”.
“Some of this may have been a natural talent – but a lifetime of practice and study has allowed him to uncover new possibilities,” Stewart points out.
“He has mastered the use of error, omission, exaggeration, diminution, equivocation and flat denial. He has perfected casuistry, circumlocution, false equivalence and false analogy.
“He is equally adept at the ironic jest, the fib and the grand lie; the weasel word and the half-truth; the hyperbolic lie, the obvious lie, and the bullshit lie – which may inadvertently be true.
“Because he has been so famous for this skill for so long, he can use his reputation to ascend to new levels of playful paradox.”
He recounted how as minister of state he saw Johnson, foreign secretary at the time, shirk responsibility for policies he professed to endorse on an “almost daily” basis.
“He knows what the right thing to do is but acts against his better judgement through lack of self-control,” Stewart claims.
“He is, in Aristotle’s words, like ‘a city that votes for all the right decrees and has good laws but does not apply them’.”
He says the public is “fully aware” of Johnson’s tendency to lie and voted for him because of a general distrust in politicians to tell the truth and that his bumbling nature “flatters us by allowing us to feel we always know more than him”.
Stewart concludes: “Unless we begin to repair our political institutions and nurture a society that places more emphasis on personal and political virtue, we will have more to fear than Boris Johnson”.
LBC radio host James O’Brien tweeted: “The longest and most loaded pause I’ve ever experienced in an interview came when I asked Rory Stewart whether Boris Johnson was dangerous. He’s not pausing now…”
Tom Chivers wrote: “This Rory Stewart essay about Boris Johnson is just as much fun as everyone says. It’s like watching someone get kicked to death with ballet shoes.”
Mike Buckley, a Labour adviser, added: “Rory Stewart’s destruction of Boris Johnson, richly deserved, is also about us. Well said.”