Conservative journalist Peter Oborne has come out swinging against the British media and print press for failing to tackle what he calls “lies” by the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and other high ranking politicians.
Oborne, who has written extensively for the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, was speaking during a live assessment of the election debate between Johnson and leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn. The discussion was published later on 19 November by political channel JOE.
“There are certain things which Johnson has said throughout this campaign, and by the way it's not just ‘said’ it it's been pushed out on social media, on Facebook, and so forth, which are completely untrue – like ‘we're building 40 new hospitals’. They really mustn't say that, they aren't [building 40 new hospitals],” he told Oli Dugmore, JOE’s politics editor.
Oborne emphasised the point saying, “He fabricates, he doesn’t seem to care or know about the truth actually, 40 new hospitals – he wheels it out yet again”.
Oborne also said that his father, “had a heart attack 12 days ago. And I’ve been in and out of Salisbury and Southampton hospitals… It brings tears to my eyes just talking about [the care they’re giving him], and it just brings home what the NHS is and what it means.”
Another example he gave of what he felt were falsehoods by Boris Johnson was the claim that “there aren't going to be some checks at the Irish border,” when, he said, “that goes to the heart of how he's ‘gonna do Brexit”.
He argued that sometimes the media fail to point out falsehoods and other times they “amplify false remarks.” Oborne stressed that the media, “won’t use this word lie and if people do lie you should use the word lie.” He said, “there is a convention in the British media, in the BBC, ITV, that they won’t use it.”
“I think that's a problem,” he said, “when the Prime Minister or senior politician lies you should say so and that's why I'm using that word on this programme.”
Oborne proceeded to say that he estimated that there are six new hospitals which this government is scheduled to build or refurbish. “That’s grossly misleading on a key issue like the NHS,” he said.
Meanwhile, in two separate fact checks by the BBC, one published on 31 October and the other published on 20 November, the day after the debate, the BBC pushed back against Johnson's claims, without explicitly calling them "false" or "lies." In the 31 October publication they went as far as to conclude that, "[I]t's not correct to suggest that 40 new hospitals are currently being built."
The veteran journalist famously left his position as the chief political commentator at the Telegraph after he said it had allowed commercial considerations to ‘skew’ its coverage of the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC).
More recently Oborne announced that he would cease his weekly column with the Daily Mail, only a few days after arguing that mainstream outlets such as the Mail, The Times, BBC and ITN were all complicit in perpetuating falsehoods pushed by the government.