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Liars of the year: Our rundown of the terrible pork pies that disgraced and degraded public life in 2023

After holding off some formidable competition, Michelle Mone has claimed the coveted title of The New European’s Liar of the Year for 2023

Image: TNE

The Sunday Express

The Tories’ cheerleader-in-chief had an eye-catching front-page splash in July with “£12 trillion Brexit trade boost”. The paper claimed the £12tn boost was coming to the UK as a result of joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a trade area which includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Twelve trillion pounds would indeed be a huge boost to the UK’s economy, given its GDP is currently around £2tn a year. But it is not true – the paper calculated its valuation by simply adding together the annual GDPs of all the current members of the agreement. By the same logic, the UK would have lost £16tn of trade by leaving the European Union.

In fact, even the government’s own estimates indicate being in the bloc will only add 0.08% to the size of the UK’s economy in 10 years. Conversely, the Office for Budget Responsibility, which provides forecasts for the government, has previously said Brexit will reduce the UK’s potential economic growth by about 4% in the long term.

Jake Berry

“I’m completely relaxed about people being removed [to] Rwanda. Many other countries around Europe, including Denmark, other countries in the European Union, do it. I don’t think they’re regarded as a bastion of right-wing politics,” the former Tory Party chairman told the BBC’s Politics Live in March.

No countries in the European Union remove migrants to Rwanda, neither then nor now. In September last year, emboldened by Britain’s deal with the African country, Denmark declared its intention to send asylum seekers there. But in January the Danes backed down when it was made clear that the European Commission viewed the policy as a breach of European law, which risked Denmark’s exclusion from EU cooperation on asylum.

Lee Anderson

In August the Tory deputy chairman hit out at claims that he had spoken against MPs taking second jobs paying £100,000 a year in the light of him doing exactly that at GB News. He told Politico: “I never said that. You will never find a quote of me saying that.”

In fact, on November 4, 2021, Anderson wrote a statement on Facebook addressing the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal, saying: “We are paid handsomely for the job we do and if you need an extra £100,000 a year on top then you should really be looking for another job.” The statement is still available on Anderson’s public Facebook page (he now says that it doesn’t count as he was talking about lobbying).

Still, it wasn’t his most expensive lie of the year. In October he agreed to pay £1,870 to the British Medical Association strike fund after reposting an article from MailOnline suggesting that Tom Dolphin, a doctor, had claimed payment from the NHS while taking industrial action. Dolphin, however, was not on strike but was a consultant covering the shift of a junior doctor who was.

Grant Shapps

Then energy, now defence secretary, he defended Boris Johnson’s resignations honours list in June, saying: “I think Gordon Brown in his resignation list appointed 50 new peers – 50 new people to the House of Lords. We’ve seen a very small number from this current list.”

Except Gordon Brown, like his predecessor, Tony Blair, did not issue a resignation honours list at all. Shapps may have been confusing resignation honours with dissolution honours, which are issued from the monarch after the dissolution of parliament. Unlike those handed out by Boris Johnson to Conservative MPs, Tory-supporting journalists and like-minded people he brought into No 10, these are cross-party.

Robert Jenrick

The former immigration minister told the Commons in April: “The United Nations is operating in most, if not all, of the countries surrounding Sudan… the best advice clearly would be for individuals to present to the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees]. The UK… works closely with the UNHCR and we already operate safe and legal routes in partnership with it. That safe and legal route is available today.”

Unfortunately, then as now, there are no “safe and legal routes” for Sudanese refugees into Britain. It is possible for the UNHCR to recommend a Sudanese refugee be settled here, but only if they were under threat of persecution in the country they have fled to from Sudan. A statement from the UNHCR, issued shortly before Jenrick spoke, read: “[The] UNHCR wishes to clarify that there is no mechanism through which refugees can approach UNHCR with the intention of seeking asylum in the UK. There is no asylum visa or ‘queue’ for the United Kingdom.”

When SNP MP Alison Thewliss read this statement to Jenrick in the House of Commons, he said he would not correct his statement because “whatever the honourable lady may be quoting from her iPhone, I would prefer to take at face value what I have heard”.

Jacob Rees-Mogg

The former Leader of the House claimed in May that Brexit had enabled the UK to aid Ukraine, telling Sky News: “We were able to show global leadership over Ukraine. Putin would probably have invaded Ukraine successfully if the UK had been bound in by the requirement of sincere cooperation.”

Brexit, of course, had no impact on the UK’s ability to deliver arms to Ukraine. In fact, seven EU countries – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – have made proportionally bigger contributions of military support to Ukraine. And the notion that “Putin would probably have invaded successfully” without UK intervention seems fanciful given the US led opposition from the start.

Incidentally, Rees-Mogg also said this year: “The BBC seems to have given up even the veneer of impartiality so I would encourage people to tune into GB News for sensible and balanced reporting.”

Boris Johnson

Not being a frontline politician any more did not stop the former prime minister’s fibbing. In March he told the Global Soft Power Summit: “We were outside the European vaccines programme, we were able to do things differently. We approved a vaccine faster than any other country… that was a totally massive thing. I would say Brexit saved lives.”

Since 2012, regulation 174 of the EU’s human medicine regulations allowed the UK to temporarily approve vaccines in the event of a pandemic. Our ability to approve a vaccine quickly had nothing to do with Brexit. Oh, and let’s not even start on those missing WhatsApp messages…

Kemi Badenoch

The business secretary is the darling of the Tory grassroots, largely by telling them what they want to hear, regardless of whether it’s true or not.

As the UK’s new trade deal with Australia and New Zealand came into force in May, she boasted: “Businesses up and down the country will now be able to reap the rewards of our status as an independent trading nation and seize new opportunities, driving economic growth, innovation and higher wages.”

But while it may drive growth, innovation and higher wages, it’s unlikely to be in the UK. The government’s own calculations estimate that the deal will make a negligible long-term contribution to the British economy, forecasting it will increase UK GDP by only 0.08%, or £2.3bn a year, by 2035.

Similarly, when three of the world’s largest carmakers told the government in May it needed to renegotiate its Brexit deal with the EU to change rules they said threatened UK electric vehicle production, Badenoch told the Commons: “This is not to do with Brexit; it is to do with supply chain issues following the pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine.” But this was not true. The firms had said they would struggle to meet the “rules of origin”, which require 40% of an electric vehicle’s parts by value to originate in the UK or EU in order for it to qualify for trade without tariffs. The problem was entirely Brexit’s making.

Rishi Sunak

When the prime minister entered Downing Street in 2022 he did so vowing “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level” of his administration. In actual fact, he has kept up a routine of fabrication, falsehoods and fiction every bit as much as his predecessor-but-one, Boris Johnson – but he gets away with it largely due to combing his hair and tucking his shirt in.

One of Sunak’s most oft-repeated lies of 2023 has been to routinely insist that crime is 50% lower than when the Conservatives took office. But the statistic leaves out millions of offences. Since figures for fraud and computer misuse were not separately recorded until 2017, Sunak chose to strip these out of the data completely when making his claim. Yet in 2022, these accounted for around 4.4m of around 9m total offences.

In May, Sunak latched on to an investigation in the Daily Mail that appeared to show lawyers charging thousands of pounds to submit false asylum and human rights claims for immigrants to the UK, accusing the Labour Party, which was not even implicated in the Mail’s reporting, of being “on the same side” as the alleged miscreants. Even his own supporters distanced themselves, with ConservativeHome founder Tim Montgomerie saying it was “unbecoming from a prime minister”.

In September, amid a scandal over school repairs, Sunak denied cutting funding as chancellor, saying it was “completely and utterly wrong”. But analysis of Department for Education spending by the independent National Audit Office showed that government spending on school rebuilding programmes was £765m in 2019-20. After Sunak became chancellor, this dropped to £560m in 2020-21 and £416m in 2021-22, a cut of 45.6% in two years. The same month, as he sought to roll back green policies in the wake of a string of by-election defeats, Sunak tweeted: “We’re stopping heavy-handed measures: Taxes on eating meat. New taxes to discourage flying. Sorting your rubbish into seven different bins. Compulsory car sharing.” None of those things could be stopped, as they never existed.

One of Sunak’s favourite lies throughout the year has been to claim that the Labour government in Wales had imposed a “blanket” 20mph speed limit on the nation’s roads, despite it not being true – while it has changed all roads that were 30mph to 20mph, this did not apply to any others. If a road has a limit of 40, 50, 60 or 70mph, then it remains as such. Confronted by ITV Wales’ Adrian Masters that the limit was not “blanket”, Sunak replied: “Well, I don’t think that’s quite right.” It was.

And to top off a year’s lying, just last month Sunak’s team posted a video on social media in which the PM boasted that “debt is falling”. Except it isn’t. According to the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, debt as a share of the size of the economy is only due to fall between 2026-27 and 2027-28, in line with the government’s own fiscal rules. Meanwhile data from the Office for National Statistics shows underlying government debt rose to 89.3% of GDP at the end of September, compared with 83.4% a year earlier.

That “integrity, professionalism and accountability” seems an awfully long way away.


The couple behind the PPE Medpro scandal aren’t just our Liars Of The Year for 2023 – they have retrospectively been awarded the title for 2021 and 2022 as well. That is because former Conservative peer/lingerie magnate Mone and her businessman husband have spent much of the past three years denying their involvement with a company that won UK government PPE deals during the pandemic via Mone’s access to a VIP lane.

They lied and lied – at one point Mone threatened to sue this very newspaper for defamation over the claims – until this weekend just gone, when – whoopsy! – it turned out they had been involved all along. In a Prince Andrew-style interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, Mone and Barrowman finally admitted they had been telling porkies, claiming this was to protect their family from media attention.

When it was put to Mone that she had admitted lying to the press (and therefore lying to the public, as the press disseminated her untruths), she replied: “That’s not a crime.” A police investigation into the couple is ongoing, but for now they are our Liars Of The Year.

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See inside the Merry Crisis edition

Image: The New European/Getty

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