Fully 12 seconds had elapsed before the prime minister began lying, which might not seem like much, but he smashed his personal best.

Last time the British public were treated to the craven, shambolic, fully North Korean embarrassment that is “People’s PMQs” on Facebook Live, Boris Johnson told his first lie within just eight.

Back then, he had begun proceedings by saying he would be taking questions “unmediated and unpasteurised” from the general public, before turning to his iPad to go through the “unmediated” questions the general public had been asked to submit to his mediators an hour before, for mediation.

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This time, on the 12 second mark, he found himself saying the unmediated questions mediated by his mediators were going to be “really difficult.”

Oh, prime minister, if you have to say it.

Who of us is to say if the questions chosen were “really difficult”? “What are you going to do about homelessness?” was one of them. Homelessness we would learn, is really bad. We wouldn’t learn much about the fact it is roughly eight times badder than when the Conservatives came to power nine years ago, but then why would we?

We can but wonder whether the unmediated questions, mediated by Mr Johnson’s mediators, had been deliberately mediated so as to choose only the “really difficult” ones. If that is the case, it will have to remain one of life’s great mysteries why some of the following really difficult ones just didn’t make the cut:

“Why did you lie to the Queen? Neil Rowlingson, Postmaster, Burwell.”

“Do you agree that it is wrong that anyone who stands in contempt of parliament to hold a role in government, such in the capacity of a special advisor? Simon Sleath, Teacher, Bristol”

For some reason, none of Mr Johnson’s mediators let this really difficult question slip unmediated on to the prime ministerial iPad. It is tough to understand why.

One possible explanation is that it refers explicitly to Dominic Cummings, who likes to fire government staff that don’t actually work for him and then have them marched out of 10 Downing Street by armed police. 

Which, of course, is not to say that none of the unmediated questions, mediated by the Downing Street mediators, were not really difficult.

Nor is it to say that 14 full minutes of a sham that would be too shameless for the Kim Jung dynasty to bother with, should not count as proper public scrutiny.

But it is, perhaps, worth noting that by the time the farce began, Mr Johnson should have faced 40 minutes of actual, unmediated questions at the despatch box of the house of commons at prime minister’s questions.

After that, he was due to face at least 90 minutes of questions from all of the heads of the House of Commons various select committees, something prime ministers are compelled to do at least twice a year.

But none of those things happened, because Mr Johnson has suspended parliament, a course of action that, on Wednesday morning, was declared unlawful by the Scottish High Court, a verdict which the government is now appealing.

Still, at least there’s Geraldine. “Are you planning on signing us up to staying in the EU after 31 October which will leave this country in even more debt than it already is?” Geraldine wanted to know.

“Good point, Geraldine!” says the prime minister, jabbing his finger at the camera.

Geraldine’s unmediated question, unmediated by Mr Johnson’s mediators, just so happened to chime exactly with Mr Johnson’s current Brexit lie.

That staying in the EU is costing the country “£250m a week” (down from £350m a week), and so we must leave now or saddle ourselves with debt.

The fact that the no deal Brexit that is his current plan will, according to the government’s own analysis, shrink GDP by at least five per cent, around twenty times this amount, is not something Geraldine is allowed to know, because he continues to refuse to publish the documents.

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But that, of course, is why he has shut down parliament, in favour of sitting in his office like a tragic Colonel Gaddafi tribute act, avoiding MPs, avoiding questions, and lying down somebody else’s smartphone.

These are the times in which we live. These are our politics. They are the bleakest they have ever been.

The independent


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