There’ve been lies aplenty in 2018, a year perhaps defined by the phrase “alternative facts”. Trump has made over 6000 false or misleading statements during his presidency whilst Theresa May’s premiership has involved almost constant back peddling and U-turns.
But for bare faced, audacious dishonesty my lie of the year comes from Prisons Minister Rory Stewart, who claimed that 80% of the country supported May’s Brexit deal despite it being impossible for him to know this as no polling had been conducted in the few hours since the deal had been announced.
Whilst Trump spews his lies over Twitter, where rebuttals are drowned out by the incessant noise of the platform, Stewart lied live on radio 5, to a presenter experienced in on-air debate, and predictably faced immediate opposition.
Stewart didn’t follow his party leader’s example of telling a lie that will only later be revealed to be untrue, when it can be blamed on “unforeseen circumstances”. He apologised and backtracked on his statement just over a minute after he’d introduced it, ironically with the phrase “to be honest”.
He didn’t try to hide his partisan motivation for creating the statistic, saying he invented it purely to “illustrate what [he] believes”, in an astonishing display of misplaced honesty beautifully juxtaposed with his earlier bare faced dishonesty.
Stewart’s appearance on 5 live sums up our political era. Rather than bending the truth or slipping a lie in where it won’t be noticed, the Prisons Secretary told a lie that wasn’t just unlikely but impossible to be true, in an environment in which he was sure to be exposed, live for the whole country to hear. One almost admires the courage of Stewart in going through with a plan that even Baldrick would judge to be severely lacking in cunning and subtlety.