Boris Johnson column rapped by press regulator for ‘significant inaccuracy’

Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit claim was inaccurate, official watchdog rules

Ipso ruled that the ex-foreign secretary had breached accuracy rules in his Telegraph column

Boris Johnson has come under fire from the press regulator after he inaccurately claimed that a no-deal Brexit was the most popular scenario among voters.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) ruled that the former foreign secretary breached accuracy rules in his Telegraph column when he said polls showed no deal was more popular “by some margin” than remaining in the EU or Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

According to reports ” Mr Johnson is paid £275,000 a year to write the weekly column.

In their defence, the newspaper argued the column was “clearly comically polemical” and “could not be reasonably read as a serious, empirical, in-depth analysis of hard factual matters.”

He wrote: “Of all the options suggested by pollsters – staying in the EU, coming out on Theresa May ’ terms, or coming out on World Trade terms – it is the last, the so-called no-deal option, that is gaining in popularity. In spite of – or perhaps because of – everything they have been told, it is this future that is by some margin preferred by the British public.”

But a reader complained, saying no poll available at the time of publication backed up Mr Johnson’s claim.

The newspaper argued the column, written by the favourite to be the next Prime Minister, was “clearly comically polemical, and could not be reasonably read as a serious, empirical, in-depth analysis of hard factual matters.”

But regulator IPSO today upheld the complaint, ruling that the article breached clause 1 of the Editors Code of Practice – Accuracy.

The ruling read: “Columnists are free under the Code to campaign, be partisan, and express strong opinions using hyperbole, melodrama and humour.

“However, there remains an obligation under the Code to take care over the accuracy of any claims of fact. In this case, the article made a factual claim; in considering whether this claim had a basis in fact, the Committee first turned to the content of the five polls.

“The publication had not provided any data which supported the author’s claim either that a no-deal Brexit was the option preferred “by some margin” over the three options listed, or that these represented “…all of the options suggested by pollsters”.

“Instead it had construed the polls as signalling support for a no deal, when in fact, this was the result of the publication either amalgamating several findings together, or interpreting an option beyond what was set out by the poll as being a finding in support of a no deal Brexit .

“This represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1 (i).

“The reference to the polling was not material to the author’s polemical argument.

“However, it was a significant inaccuracy, because it misrepresented polling information.

“The publication had not offered to publish any correction and this meant there was also a breach of 1 (ii)”

The newspaper have been ordered to publish a correction in the paper’s regular corrections column and as a footnote online.While the column was referenced on the front page, the inaccuracy itself appeared on Page 18.

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