A novel experience, on Wednesday at noon, when the prime minister rose at the despatch box for what is known as Prime Minister’s Questions. Boris Johnson is over three months into the job but has only got round to doing it the once.

The last time it happened, technically, was three weeks ago, at the precise moment he was giving his party conference speech, an unfortunate timetabling clash that was the direct consequence of his having tried and failed to shut down parliament. 

That was considered a democratic outrage, at the time, but anyone tuning in today could hardly fail to see the upside in such a strategy.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

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The purpose of these occasions, we are led to believe, is for the whole house and, in particular, the leader of the opposition, to scrutinise the government by asking the prime minister difficult questions.

Traditionally, Johnson’s tactic in such situations, over many years in public life, has been to create what he calls a “blonde wall of noise” – to just overwhelm all would-be challengers with a tornado of bluster.

That doesn’t work so well in the House of Commons as it does in television interviews, but he has a new tactic, which is equally effective. And that is just to lie.

It really works. How can anyone hope to land a blow on you when you’ve liberated yourself from even the most basic requirement to say anything that anyone might conceivably think to be true.

There he stood, stating with complete clarity, on many occasions, that the government is still committed to “leaving the EU by October 31st”. As he spoke, the Conservative Party was sending out a little tub-thumping email to all its members, saying “Labour has delayed Brexit again”. He also spent the morning both in a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn, where the two of them failed to agree on a new timetable for Brexit, and on the phone to EU leaders, discussing the request for a delay to Brexit he had personally sent them, in a letter he had refused to sign, like an unimaginably petulant toddler.

It was, in its way, Prime Minister’s Questions in the style of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. That movie loses much of its dramatic tension once death stops becoming an obstacle to life. How much edge is there to be found in a sword fight, for example, when the vanquished party just pops over the edge of the world and then comes back reborn?

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UK news in pictures

Shape Created with Sketch.
UK news in pictures

1/50 23 October 2019

Thirty-nine bodies have been found in a lorry container in Essex, police have said.

The discovery of 38 adults and one teenager was made at an industrial estate in Thurrock.

Police said they believed the lorry had come from Bulgaria and entered the UK at Holyhead, in Wales, on Saturday.

Essex Police said it had launched a murder investigation after its officers were called to Waterglade Industrial Park, in Grays, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

A 25-year-old-man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder

2/50 22 October 2019

Ships out at sea before the sun rises off the coast of Whitley Bay, Northumberland

3/50 21 October 2019

Hundreds of students take part in the traditional Raisin Monday foam fight on St Salvator’s Lower College Lawn at the University of St Andrews in Fife. The messy display is the culmination of a weekend of festivities where first years say thank you to their more senior student “parents” for mentoring them

4/50 20 October 2019

Wales players celebrate after beating France in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Japan. Warren Gatland’s side had to battle after France’s fast start but capitalised on their rivals’ ill discipline to squeeze into the semi-finals, 20-19

5/50 19 October 2019

People gather in London to join the Final Say march for a people’s vote

6/50 18 October 2019

Protesters on Whitehall in London during an Extinction Rebellion climate change protest

7/50 17 October 2019

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands during a news conference after agreeing on a Brexit deal, in Brussels

8/50 16 October 2019

A man walks his dog through the fallen leaves in Clarkes Gardens, Allerton in Liverpool

9/50 15 October 2019

Police officers carry away an activist as Extinction Rebellion protesters block a road with a caravan in central London

10/50 14 October 2019

Queen Elizabeth II sits with Prince Charles on the Sovereign’s throne ahead of delivering the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament

11/50 13 October 2019

Great Britain’s Joe Fraser competes on Parallel Bars during the World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. He claimed GB’s second gold with his victory. The 20-year-old from Birmingham nailed his routine to score 15.0 then watched as a series of rivals failed to live up to his total

12/50 12 October 2019

St Helens players celebrate with the trophy after they won the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford in Manchester. They beat Salford Red Devils 23-6

13/50 11 October 2019

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailed in Tehran since 2016, holds his daughter Gabriella during a news conference in London. Their five-year-old daughter has arrived back in Britain, after making the “bittersweet” decision to bring her home

14/50 10 October 2019

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Thornton Manor. Their meeting focused on further Brexit proposals

15/50 9 October 2019

Wales survived an almighty scare against Fiji to secure quarter-final spot at the rugby world cup. Warren Gatland’s side recovered from a 10-0 deficit thanks to a hat-trick from Josh Adams

16/50 8 October 2019

Protesters dubbed the Red Rebels at Millbank at the junction with Great College Street, during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Westminster

17/50 7 October 2019

Final preparations are made in front of a reproduction of Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’, ahead of the opening of for the ‘Michelangelo: A Different View’ exhibition at Hull Minister

18/50 6 October 2019

A car drives through a flooded street in Whitley Bay in Northumberland

19/50 5 October 2019

Thousands took to the streets of Edinburgh today to march in support of a second Scottish independence referendum

20/50 4 October 2019

A 12ft sculpture of a gorilla, entitled ‘Gorilla Apocalypse’, created by Luke Kite entirely from scrap car bumpers and panels discarded in the last decade is on display at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire

21/50 3 October 2019

Police stands in front of the Treasury building during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London

22/50 2 October 2019

Ex-Thomas Cook employees demonstrate in London after delivering a petition calling for a full inquiry into Thomas Cook’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses

23/50 1 October 2019

A road in Alum Rock, Birmingham is flooded after persistent heavy rain

24/50 30 September 2019

Two tourists pose for pictures in front of Union and EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London

25/50 29 September 2019

A sheep on London Bridge as Freemen of the City of London took up their historic entitlement to drive sheep over the bridge, which was once London’s only river crossing

26/50 28 September 2019

An Aldabra giant tortoise is fed watermelon as a treat at the Malvern Autumn Show, at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in Worcestershire

27/50 27 September 2019

Gallery assistants pose with an artwork entitled ‘Devolved Parliament’ by British artist Banksy, during a press view in London ahead of Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, as part of the Frieze Art Fair

28/50 26 September 2019

England’s Jonathan Joseph is tackled by United State’s Marcel Brache during their group match at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England scored seven tries on their way to winning 45-7

29/50 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

30/50 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

31/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

32/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

33/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

34/50 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

35/50 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

36/50 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

37/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

38/50 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

39/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

41/50 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

42/50 12 September 2019

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne attempts to stop a boundary in the fifth Test

43/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields

44/50 10 September 2019

The peloton rides past the Angel of the North during stage four of the Tour of Britain from Gateshead to Kendal

45/50 9 September 2019

A penny farthing cyclist rides past St. John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, London

46/50 8 September 2019

Australia celebrate the wicket of England’s Craig Overton, which meant they won the fourth test and retained the Ashes

47/50 7 September 2019

Manchester City celebrate after Caroline Weir scored during their Women’s Super League match against Manchester United at Etihad Stadium. The WSL attendance record was smashed with 31,213 people watching the first Manchester derby of Women’s Super League era – nearly six times the previous WSL record

48/50 6 September 2019

A bull bumps into a plain clothes police officer (left) while being walked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen. It coincided with the publication of Lord Bew’s review and an announcement of extra funding for Scottish farmers

49/50 5 September 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cuts the hair of David Torrance MSP raising £1000 for the charity Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

50/50 4 September 2019

Australia’s David Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by England’s Stuart Broad during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester

1/50 23 October 2019

Thirty-nine bodies have been found in a lorry container in Essex, police have said.

The discovery of 38 adults and one teenager was made at an industrial estate in Thurrock.

Police said they believed the lorry had come from Bulgaria and entered the UK at Holyhead, in Wales, on Saturday.

Essex Police said it had launched a murder investigation after its officers were called to Waterglade Industrial Park, in Grays, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

A 25-year-old-man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder

2/50 22 October 2019

Ships out at sea before the sun rises off the coast of Whitley Bay, Northumberland

3/50 21 October 2019

Hundreds of students take part in the traditional Raisin Monday foam fight on St Salvator’s Lower College Lawn at the University of St Andrews in Fife. The messy display is the culmination of a weekend of festivities where first years say thank you to their more senior student “parents” for mentoring them

4/50 20 October 2019

Wales players celebrate after beating France in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Japan. Warren Gatland’s side had to battle after France’s fast start but capitalised on their rivals’ ill discipline to squeeze into the semi-finals, 20-19

5/50 19 October 2019

People gather in London to join the Final Say march for a people’s vote

6/50 18 October 2019

Protesters on Whitehall in London during an Extinction Rebellion climate change protest

7/50 17 October 2019

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands during a news conference after agreeing on a Brexit deal, in Brussels

8/50 16 October 2019

A man walks his dog through the fallen leaves in Clarkes Gardens, Allerton in Liverpool

9/50 15 October 2019

Police officers carry away an activist as Extinction Rebellion protesters block a road with a caravan in central London

10/50 14 October 2019

Queen Elizabeth II sits with Prince Charles on the Sovereign’s throne ahead of delivering the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament

11/50 13 October 2019

Great Britain’s Joe Fraser competes on Parallel Bars during the World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. He claimed GB’s second gold with his victory. The 20-year-old from Birmingham nailed his routine to score 15.0 then watched as a series of rivals failed to live up to his total

12/50 12 October 2019

St Helens players celebrate with the trophy after they won the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford in Manchester. They beat Salford Red Devils 23-6

13/50 11 October 2019

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailed in Tehran since 2016, holds his daughter Gabriella during a news conference in London. Their five-year-old daughter has arrived back in Britain, after making the “bittersweet” decision to bring her home

14/50 10 October 2019

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Thornton Manor. Their meeting focused on further Brexit proposals

15/50 9 October 2019

Wales survived an almighty scare against Fiji to secure quarter-final spot at the rugby world cup. Warren Gatland’s side recovered from a 10-0 deficit thanks to a hat-trick from Josh Adams

16/50 8 October 2019

Protesters dubbed the Red Rebels at Millbank at the junction with Great College Street, during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Westminster

17/50 7 October 2019

Final preparations are made in front of a reproduction of Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’, ahead of the opening of for the ‘Michelangelo: A Different View’ exhibition at Hull Minister

18/50 6 October 2019

A car drives through a flooded street in Whitley Bay in Northumberland

19/50 5 October 2019

Thousands took to the streets of Edinburgh today to march in support of a second Scottish independence referendum

20/50 4 October 2019

A 12ft sculpture of a gorilla, entitled ‘Gorilla Apocalypse’, created by Luke Kite entirely from scrap car bumpers and panels discarded in the last decade is on display at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire

21/50 3 October 2019

Police stands in front of the Treasury building during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London

22/50 2 October 2019

Ex-Thomas Cook employees demonstrate in London after delivering a petition calling for a full inquiry into Thomas Cook’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses

23/50 1 October 2019

A road in Alum Rock, Birmingham is flooded after persistent heavy rain

24/50 30 September 2019

Two tourists pose for pictures in front of Union and EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London

25/50 29 September 2019

A sheep on London Bridge as Freemen of the City of London took up their historic entitlement to drive sheep over the bridge, which was once London’s only river crossing

26/50 28 September 2019

An Aldabra giant tortoise is fed watermelon as a treat at the Malvern Autumn Show, at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in Worcestershire

27/50 27 September 2019

Gallery assistants pose with an artwork entitled ‘Devolved Parliament’ by British artist Banksy, during a press view in London ahead of Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, as part of the Frieze Art Fair

28/50 26 September 2019

England’s Jonathan Joseph is tackled by United State’s Marcel Brache during their group match at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England scored seven tries on their way to winning 45-7

29/50 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

30/50 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

31/50 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

32/50 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

33/50 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

34/50 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

35/50 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

36/50 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

37/50 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

38/50 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

39/50 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

41/50 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

42/50 12 September 2019

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne attempts to stop a boundary in the fifth Test

43/50 11 September 2019

Storm clouds gather over the pier just off the North East coast at South Shields

44/50 10 September 2019

The peloton rides past the Angel of the North during stage four of the Tour of Britain from Gateshead to Kendal

45/50 9 September 2019

A penny farthing cyclist rides past St. John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, London

46/50 8 September 2019

Australia celebrate the wicket of England’s Craig Overton, which meant they won the fourth test and retained the Ashes

47/50 7 September 2019

Manchester City celebrate after Caroline Weir scored during their Women’s Super League match against Manchester United at Etihad Stadium. The WSL attendance record was smashed with 31,213 people watching the first Manchester derby of Women’s Super League era – nearly six times the previous WSL record

48/50 6 September 2019

A bull bumps into a plain clothes police officer (left) while being walked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory near Aberdeen. It coincided with the publication of Lord Bew’s review and an announcement of extra funding for Scottish farmers

49/50 5 September 2019

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cuts the hair of David Torrance MSP raising £1000 for the charity Maggie’s Centre in Kirkcaldy at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

50/50 4 September 2019

Australia’s David Warner looks dejected after being dismissed by England’s Stuart Broad during day one of the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford in Manchester

And so it is, for us, forced to listen to or otherwise analyse the words of Boris Johnson, when none of them can have any meaning at all, because he knows and we know and absolutely everybody knows that they slipped the surly bonds of truth so very long ago.

That he’ll say absolutely anything, at all.

It is like watching a man delivering election slogans the day after the election is lost. He is, at time of writing, “still committed to leaving the European Union on October 31st” even though he knows it can’t be done.

And now that that can’t be done, even though he’s still claiming he’s going to do it, he and his No 10 pals next ruse is to claim he will be “calling a general election before Christmas”. He’s already tried and failed to call one of those. There’s absolutely no reason at all to imagine anything has changed that means he can just call one now. He can’t.

It’s all just noise and shouting. Say whatever you like in the hope that someone’s listening. Doesn’t matter that none of it’s true because the person who hears it probably won’t know that.

There will be a general election, at some point, and we know that this will be the strategy. Dominic Cummings has done it before and he’ll do it again. Already we have seen the Conservatives’ posters, pumped out on Facebook on Tuesday night and already shared 17,000 times. 

“Boris’s Brexit deal has passed parliament, but Labour have now voted to delay it,” it says.

It is painful to have to point out that if it had passed parliament, it would already be law. It hasn’t even come close to passing parliament. They know it, but they also know the people they want to lie to don’t.

It’s clear, right now, in late 2019, that big electoral events in big democratic countries happen at the mercy of social media, which nobody has yet worked out how to regulate or control.

No one quite knows when the general election is happening, but one thing we do know for certain. It will be yet another thermonuclear explosion of fear, lies and loathing. It is the Cummings way. The rest of us just have to live with the consequences.