Newspaper removes claim but defends MP saying his piece ‘could not be reasonably read as a serious, in-depth analysis’
The Telegraph has been forced to correct a column by Boris Johnson after the Brexiter MP and potential Tory leadership candidate falsely claimed a no-deal Brexit was the most popular option among the British public.
The claim was made in a column (£) published in January but has since been removed from the online version after a complaint by a member of the public to the press regulator Ipso.
An online correction said: “In fact, no poll clearly showed that a no-deal Brexit was more popular than the other options. This correction is being published following a complaint upheld by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.”
In its defence the Telegraph said Johnson was “entitled to make sweeping generalisations based on his opinions”.
It also suggested that claims in Johnson’s column should not be taken seriously as the piece “was clearly comically polemical, and could not be reasonably read as a serious, empirical, in-depth analysis of hard factual matters”.
Mitchell Stirling, a statistician from Reading, said he made the complaint because he felt “a potential prime minister shouldn’t be able to make things up in a weekly column”.
“I complained because Johnson’s article went beyond him referring to anecdotal evidence around the popularity of no deal and saying it was becoming more popular (which it was) but to saying that polling was showing it was the most popular opinion by some clear margin. Both of which were not backed up by any polling done by a BPC [British Polling Council] member.
“To exaggerate like that is clearly out of the Trump/Bannon playbook but because it was in print and the phrase used by Johnson was so strong contrary to the lack of evidence that I as an avid poll watcher knew didn’t exist, I knew I had a decent case.”
Johnson receives £275,000 a year for his weekly Telegraph column, a sum he once referred to as chickenfeed.