The candidates are refusing to correct the record on any of the Prime Minister’s false claims in Parliament, Adam Bienkov reports

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Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have been accused of debasing ethical standards in public life after they refused to commit to correcting any of the false statements made by Boris Johnson while he has been Prime Minister, Byline Times can reveal.

The journalist and author Peter Oborne and the author and former political advisor Richard Heller wrote to both candidates for the Conservative Party leadership last week, asking them to commit to correcting a long series of false claims made by Johnson in the House of Commons.

Oborne, who has sought to compile every false claim made by Johnson’s Government, urged the two candidates to make a clean break from their predecessor and help to restore public trust in the Government.

“The urgent and overwhelming priority of your premiership is to restore the trust of the British people in their government”, Oborne and Heller wrote.

“Your party has given you both your present chance to lead it only because Boris Johnson destroyed that trust by a total indifference to the truth. 

“We are therefore inviting you to commit yourselves as the first step in your government to correcting all the extant false statements put out by Boris Johnson.”

Under the Ministerial Code, ministers are required to correct the parliamentary record on any false statement they have made “at the earliest opportunity”.

However, Johnson has refused to do so, despite fact-checkers repeatedly pointing out his false claims in the House of Commons on multiple subjects since 2019.

Neither candidate has responded to repeated requests from Oborne, and this paper, to comment on the letter.

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This comes as Johnson is under investigation by the House of Commons Privileges Committee for allegedly misleading Parliament about parties held in Downing Street during the pandemic.

The Prime Minister had told MPs that there had been “no parties” during lockdown and that COVID rules were followed “at all times”.

If the Committee finds that Johnson deliberately misled the House and is in contempt of Parliament then he faces suspension and even a potential recall motion, which could see a by-election in his constituency.

Johnson’s potential successors are under pressure from his allies and supporters to quash the investigation before it concludes. Truss told a hustings event earlier this month that she would vote to end the investigation if such a vote were held.

Government whips have also told Conservative MPs that they will have the power to reject any recommended suspension.

‘Degrading Standards in Public Life’

Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner told Byline Times that Truss and Sunak’s refusal to correct Johnson’s false claims showed that both candidates “have no intention of repairing the debased ethical standards in Downing Street”.

“Instead of committing to correct Boris Johnson’s catalogue of lies, Liz Truss attacks the media and says she would vote to shut down the investigation into whether he misled Parliament while Rishi Sunak fawns over his failed record as Prime Minister”, Rayner said.

“Boris Johnson toxified the Tory Party from top to bottom and degraded standards in public life while Conservative MPs not only propped him up but aided and abetted him.

“Instead of offering a fresh start, the candidates vying to be Prime Minister have no intention of repairing the debased ethical standards in Downing Street. Only Labour will clean up politics and restore public trust in the wake of Tory sleaze and scandal with our plan for an independent Ethics and Integrity Commission.”

Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner. Photo: PjrNews / Alamy

Oborne, who is an award-winning journalist, former chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph, and a former colleague of Johnson’s at the Spectator, told Byline Times that he was “shocked” by Truss and Sunak’s failure to respond to his letter.

“If either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss took integrity seriously they would make a very important statement that they want to turn their back on the systemic dishonesty of the Johnson Government and make a pledge to correct the record as the Ministerial Code demands,” he said.

“And by refusing to agree to correct the record, Sunak and Truss are sending out the unequivocal message that they don’t want to govern in that way and that Johnson’s record of deceit will continue.”

Oborne also writes a monthly diary for the Byline Times newspaper.

Oborne and Heller’s letter in full

Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP 

Rt Hon Liz Truss MP  

Dear Prime Minister in waiting, 

Your party’s Members of Parliament made you are the final contenders for this position. Regardless of the remaining stages of the campaign, we are certain that you will agree on one thing. The urgent and overwhelming priority of your Premiership is to restore the trust of the British people in their Government. Your party has given you both your present chance to lead it only because Boris Johnson destroyed that trust by a total indifference to the truth. 

We are therefore inviting you to commit yourselves as the first step in your Government to correcting all the extant false statements put out by Boris Johnson. For ease of reference, you may use this link to an up-to-date compilation. It identifies those which are on the record of either House of Parliament: as you know, the Ministerial Code requires these to be corrected at the earliest opportunity. Recent events have shown that the Code can be ignored by a Prime Minister without scruple and we invite you also to bring forward proposals to correct this.  

Whatever promises you make in the campaign, if you have any understanding of the current problems of our country at home and abroad you must know that you will have to ask the British people to accept painful adjustments in their way of life to overcome them. They will not accept this from you if you show them the same standards of veracity as Boris Johnson. Your Premiership would then become an empty prize and a short one. 

Yours sincerely, 

Peter Oborne   

Richard Heller 


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