Johnson turns the truth on its head about Britain’s response to Ukraine’s refugee crisis Zoe Williams

SSince 2015, Boris Johnson has told a nervous House of Commons when asked by the Prime Minister: “We have done more to resettle vulnerable people than any other European country”. It didn’t make sense, so maybe it was a mistake. Poland has taken in 1.2 million Ukrainian refugees, Hungary 190,000 and Germany 50,000. By Tuesday we had taken 300. Maybe he didn’t mean Ukrainians because he hadn’t updated his browser? Perhaps he meant Syrians, 621,000 of whom were granted refuge by Germany; 29,000 from Great Britain. nope Or maybe he said it by accident? But then he kept saying it. Could it have been an outright lie? A tricky move, in Parliament.

Not exactly: he was referring to the number of people taken in under a resettlement scheme over the last seven years, where UK figures outstrip those of other nations. Overall, our numbers are absolutely overshadowed by much smaller neighbors.

In other words, the same old Prime Minister came into Parliament, in other words, with the same old maneuver of turning something technically true into an untruth by taking it out of context. But it’s not the same old world anymore. When you stand up and intentionally mislead, call the worst the best, turn facts upside down, it all sounds a bit Putin-esque.

He had a few more lines – that he doesn’t believe in letting refugees in without screening, and that conservatives must be human and have refuge in their blood, because look how many on his front bench are of refugee descent. These were both weaker but less murderous and dictatorial.

So many members from so many parties stood up to challenge Johnson on Britain’s response to the refugee crisis. SNP’s Ian Blackford gave a compelling and expert account of how far we have fallen. Ed Davey infuriated Johnson as he rattled through British visa centers in Eastern Europe, steaming from city to city in frantic under-denial. One of the most impressive speakers was Julian Smith of the Tory benches, whose voice trembled slightly as he asked when his own party would show some humanity.

Keir Starmer took a different tack, as they say at casting: the Chancellor’s actions on fuel bills were nowhere near enough to do justice to the situation, so “when is the Prime Minister going to force the Chancellor to turn around?” It was an odd one Winkel dispelling the error between Johnson and Sunak and it was obvious he wasn’t expecting an answer.

But it turns out it was just fancy footwork ahead of his main attack: BP has 9.5bn they know what to do.” His call for a windfall tax on energy company profits is probably as close to grassroots radicalism as he is willing to sail.

Johnson responded that if you tax these companies, those costs are simply passed on to consumers. It was ironic that right after that they had some pointless nonsense about nuclear power (a leader who didn’t build nuclear power plants blamed an opponent who was never in government for failing to build nuclear power plants). This answer to Windfall Tax – what’s the point of taxing businesses when the consumer always pays? – is radioactive for Johnson.

It’s only going to sound worse as fuel bills go up. Maybe it was because Johnson was starting to garble his words in recognition of this, or maybe in some corner of his limbic brain he was thinking that if he sped up his speech, time would pass faster. Eventually he found out it was the other one. Starmer found a mischievous mojo in his replies, all “coming out” and “does he expect us to buy that?”

Two questions from Johnson’s backbenchers were downright odd. Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark asked if the Prime Minister would like to join him in wishing World War II veteran Colin Bell a happy birthday. Why yes, Boris Johnson would love to do that. His answer was so stuttered, his relief so audible, that he sounded a breath away from joining the song.

Richard Holden, MP for North West Durham, wanted to know if the Prime Minister would do him the honor of opening it when his constituency’s new Cottage Hospital is built? It’s nothing new for a backbench chancer in a hurry to ask a silly question to give a thrashing leader rhetorical respite, but these were on a whole new level, reaching for desperate patriotic bass tones, promising photo ops and, who knows, maybe an opportunity to dress up as if you’re dealing with a…well, maybe not an autocrat: but autocrat-neighboring.

About Ellen Lewandowski

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