How a Professional Liar Changed British Politics Forever
The rise and fall of Boris Johnson should be a warning to us all, writes Kyle Taylor
The following is an excerpt adapted from Kyle Taylor's new book published by Byline Books' - The Little Black Book of Lying Boris Johnson, with a foreword by Dawn Butler MP and an afterword by Peter Stefanovic. It's available now at littleblackborisbook.com
When Boris Johnson began his rise to power you wouldn’t have been alone if you thought of the entire thing as a bit of a laugh. The floppy hair, the foppish nature, the cheeky grin. He seemed different. This didn’t seem like politics as usual. Yet what sat just beneath the surface was the most political, most ruthless, and most self-serving politician in modern British history.
Boris Johnson isn’t alone. He’s part of a growing global cohort of narcissists who will say and do anything for power and then say or do anything to hang onto it, even if it means becoming completely detached from truth. In fact, it requires it because the most effective way to build and maintain support in modern politics is to become the arbiter of truth yourself, or to simply create so much uncertainty around truth that people don’t know what to believe.
For those who have followed the saga of Boris Johnson closely it’s easy to wonder how he continued to rise when it was overwhelmingly obvious that he was a compulsive liar and a charlatan. The bed of nails principle helps to explain it. You may have seen a performer lie on a bed of nails before. It seems impossible but because the weight of the person is distributed over so many nails, there’s not enough pressure on any one individual nail to break the skin. It’s the same in politics. If there are tons and tons of scandals, lies, and half-truths, each one a metaphorical nail, none breaks the skin so the politician survives, as Boris did for so long and as Trump did for so long as well. Meanwhile, if there’s just one nail, like Hillary Clinton’s fake email scandal, it goes right through.
The impact of this, however, extends far beyond Boris Johnson’s own survival. It rewires our politics. We stop being sure of what is true and what isn’t. With so much uncertainty, we look to the individuals on our ‘side’ to help us make sense of the world. Over time, that shared reality that binds society together – the facts from which we all operate – disappear and we suddenly find ourselves living in different truths and different worlds, unable to function as a society anymore. We’re Leavers or Remainers. We’re “woke” or we’re “anti-cancel culture”. Bill Gates nanobotters or anti-vaxxers. No matter the issue, there are two tribes and we must be in one. We spend endless hours on social media attacking the “other” and commiserating with “our people” who know “the truth”.
It often feels like there is no way back and that is the real effect of the self-serving politician. He doesn’t care, as long as it keeps him in power. Boris Johnson’s impact on our politics, our culture, and our country is only just beginning to be felt. The long shadow of his degradation of public life and of truth itself will be his legacy. Indeed, it must be his legacy. We cannot let Johnson rewrite his own history. We must ensure that he - and those like him - is remembered for what he was: a liar who presided over the breakdown of a nation in pursuit of his own self interest. He doesn’t deserve to write history any more. It’s our turn now.
The Little Black Book of Lying Boris Johnson is available now at littleblackborisbook.com
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