£350m a week. That was the amount that Boris Johnson claimed UK was sending to the EU. He asserted that if UK left the EU, the British government would have that much more money to spend on funding the National Health Service (NHS).
As it turns out, that assertion is a blatant lie. As Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), who also campaigned for Leave, admitted on British national TV:
The Leave campaign was characterised with such lies. And simplistic statements. As The Guardian put it:
“Johnson and Gove are the worst journalist politicians you can imagine: pundits who have prospered by treating public life as a game. Here is how they play it. They grab media attention by blaring out a big, dramatic thought. An institution is failing? Close it. A public figure blunders? Sack him. They move from journalism to politics, but carry on as before. When presented with a bureaucratic EU that sends us too many immigrants, they say the answer is simple, as media answers must be. Leave. Now. Then all will be well.”
I can’t help but be reminded of Dr Chee Soon Juan. Why? Let me explain.
Dr Chee is known for making spurious claims, misrepresenting numbers, and over-simplifying issues. In the latest Bukit Batok by-election, he claimed:
“In all of last year, the Government only created 100 jobs. Yes… you heard it right. 100 jobs for citizens and permanent residents that means one job per constituency.”
Dr Chee then followed that with the alarmist claim that everyone in Bukit Batok would have to fight for one job. As I have explained here, that is rubbish. DPM Tharman also called Dr Chee’s claims out as bullshit, asking him to “have a sense of reality”. And then Dr Chee claimed that $800 billion had gone missing from our reserves. He made those alarmist claims based on some “report” by some economist. But Dr Chee himself said that he doesn’t quite understand the economics of it.
DPM Tharman had a wonderful response to Dr Chee’s alarmist claims:
“Then why do you spread fear? If you don’t understand, then do your homework”.
But that wasn’t the only time that Dr Chee misrepresented statistics. After the Bukit Batok by-election, he claimed that a “pre-election survey conducted between 30 April to 3 May 2016 by Blackbox Research showed that Bukit Batok voters found SDP candidate Dr Chee Soon Juan to be the better candidate than his PAP rival Mr Murali Pillai.”
Again, as I have explained here, that was a rubbish claim. The survey doesn’t reveal whether Bukit Batok residents thought which candidate was the better candidate. It asked why Bukit Batok residents would vote for their candidate of choice. But what the survey did reveal is that more Bukit Batok residents have a positive impression of the PAP candidate than of Dr Chee. And that a whole lot more residents had a negative impression of Dr Chee than of the PAP candidate.
But never mind what the survey or statistics actually say. Dr Chee will twist them any-oh-way he likes and wants, and paint whatever picture he wants. Even when he doesn’t really understand what he is talking about. So long as it is alarmist, catches attention and advances his cause.
That. Is completely the mendacity of Boris Johnson.
As DPM Tharman has said time and time again, in many parts of the world demagogues and populist politics hold sway. What Rudyard Kipling said of the demagogues of his age applies to countries like UK today:
I could not dig; I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?
Hopefully demagogues will not hold sway in Singapore. Hopefully Singaporeans won’t be the mob that is pleased by lies, that neither we nor our young would be angry because we were defrauded by such demagogues.
[Featured image: photo from AFP]