In Review

The Assault on Truth by Peter Oborne

Oborne, once hired by Boris Johnson, explains ‘how lying has become endemic in political culture’

The Assault on Truth by Peter Oborne

“I have been a political reporter for almost three decades,” writes Peter Oborne in his new book, “and I have never encountered a senior British politician who lies and fabricates so regularly, so shamelessly and so systematically as Boris Johnson.” Oborne, a Fleet Street veteran, has long been interested in political mendacity, said Michael Burleigh in the Literary Review. His previous books include The Rise of Political Lying, in which he catalogued the distortions of the Blair era. The Assault on Truth sets out to examine “how, under Boris Johnson and his soulmate Donald Trump, lying has become endemic in political culture”. 

Oborne’s cataloguing of Johnson’s dishonesty is sober, precise and only “occasionally repetitive”, said William Davies in The Guardian. While many of the untruths he covers are well-known – Johnson’s fabrications as a young journalist; the exaggerated claims of the Leave campaign – his assiduous charting of the PM’s lies is nonetheless valuable. And what makes this “dossier” all the more gripping is that Oborne and Johnson once shared the “same cultural and professional milieu”: as editor of The Spectator, Johnson hired Oborne as a political commentator.

Oborne has performed “a spectacular U-turn” on this issue, said Tim Adams in The Observer. He remained a close associate of Johnson for many years. In 2016, he praised him and Michael Gove as the “two most brilliant politicians of their generation”. Not until spring 2019 did he have a change of heart about both Johnson and Brexit. The best one can say about Oborne’s “reverse-ferret” is that it gives this book a “bracing convert’s zeal”. His “scathing insider’s analysis” of Downing Street’s private briefings and anonymous smears should be “required reading” for those interested in politics.

Simon & Schuster 192pp £12.99; The Week Bookshop £9.99

The Assault on Truth by Peter Oborne
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