WHEN I was a young man, many years ago, politicians generally were considered to be honourable people.

They seemed to take responsibility for their actions and for the words they uttered. Ministers would take responsibility for their departments, and you would reasonably expect resignations when things went wrong, even if they hadn’t personally done it.

How times seem to have changed.

Now, it would appear telling bare-faced lies to the public is not only accepted, it actually appears to be expected and condoned. We have a new ‘normal’ in public life and it’s not one I particularly like.

I won’t dredge up the £350 million a week for the NHS again or the country being flooded with Turkish workers when Turkey joined the EU or the compulsory creation of a European Army (all lies told by senior politicians) or more recently the Operation Yellowhammer documents revealing the dire impact of a no-deal Brexit on the UK which mysteriously went from being ‘base case’ scenario (ie what was expected to happen) to ‘reasonable worst case planning assumptions’ (ie what could happen).

The first claim that continues to irritate me is the ongoing assertion that the 2016 referendum was the ‘largest democratic vote’ in British history. You hear it time and again from Tory politicians, Brexiters on social media and even in the pages of this newspaper and website.

For example Saundra Middleton, Eddisbury Conservatives Association chairman, talking about Eddisbury MP Antoinette Sandbach having the Tory Whip removed last week, said: “Three years since the biggest democratic vote in our nation’s history, we need to get on and deliver on that referendum result and move on as a country.”

The problem is, it wasn’t the biggest democratic vote in our nation’s history so stop saying it was. I refer you to the website fullfact.org, which researched the truth of the matter: “More people (17,410,742) voted to leave the EU in 2016 than have voted for any other single electoral option in British political history.

“That said, it’s not the largest vote in terms of the percentage of people who voted for a single option. Of those who voted, 52 per cent of people voted to leave the EU in 2016, compared to 67 per cent of people who voted to stay in the European Community in 1975, the 68 per cent who voted against changing the electoral system in 2011, or the 55 per cent who voted for the Conservative party at the 1931 general election.”

“Another way of interpreting ‘largest democratic vote’ is the vote in which the most people participated. In this sense, the EU referendum was not quite the biggest vote in British political history.”

In the 2016 referendum, 33,551,983 people cast a vote which was 72 per cent of all people registered to vote. Slightly more votes – 33,614,074 – were cast in the 1992 General Election, which was won by John Major’s Conservative Party. In that election 78 per cent of people registered to vote did so, which is a higher turnout than in the 2016 referendum. Several other General Elections in the 20th century saw a higher turnout too.

But we are now in an age where lies are told and repeated and repeated and somehow they become the new truth. If it just about possible to argue about figures relating to biggest votes, what it is not possible to argue about is a blatant, bare-faced lie told last week by our very own Prime Minister. (Yes, I will single out just one.)

Boris Johnson publicly denied ever saying that money spent on historic child abuse investigations is ‘spaffed up the wall’, when he addressed an assembled press corps in Rotherham.

According to theneweuropean.co.uk, a reporter reminded him of the statement, which he had made in an interview on radio station LBC earlier this year, and asked if he still felt the money was wasted.

Don’t forget, Rotherham was at the centre of a large-scale organised child-grooming scandal from more than 10 years ago, which has resulted in dozens of arrests and which raised investigations into police handling of the initial reports from victims.

But Johnson denied he had ever dismissed the gravity of the issue with that phrase. “Well, that’s actually, not what I said.” said the Prime Minister to the Rotherham Advertiser’s reporter.

But it was exactly what he said, and the video clip of the interview is there on YouTube for all to see and that would include Mr Johnson.

So either we have a Prime Minister who knowingly lies or who has significant short-term memory problems. I’ll leave you to judge which it is. But in my opinion, either should be enough to disqualify him from holding the highest office of state.

If we can’t trust the people who are actually running the country to tell us the truth, who can we trust?