FORGET Sue Gray. You don’t need a civil servant to mediate the truth for you. Trust what you see with your own eyes, and hear with your own ears.

Boris Johnson and his loyalists are waging a relentless war on truth. They’re asking you to believe that a party – which you’ve seen evidence of with your own eyes, and heard testimony about with your own ears – wasn’t really a party. In the world which Johnsonians have created, parties are not parties, truth is not truth, fact is not fact. They’re asking that you believe 2 + 2 = 5. They’re asking you to lie to yourself so they can retain power.

This isn’t the comic world of Alice and the White Queen, of believing “six impossible things before breakfast”. This is an assault on reality. We see pictures of Boris Johnson at a party, in a room full of people, raising a glass, with drinks littered around tables on November 13. Yet Johnson tells the people and parliament that there was no party on November 13. He’s telling you that his reality beats your reality – that his truth counts and your truth doesn’t.

READ MORE: Democracy is not yet safe - despite Macron's victory

This is dangerous territory. We’re edging toward the ‘Big Lie’ moment. Johnson wants us to choose his fiction over our fact. Donald Trump asked his followers to believe his lies: that the US presidential election was stolen, an act which disintegrated American political reality with devastating consequences for American democracy.

Democracy depends upon truth. We need a shared version of what constitutes objective fact if we’re to live together as a group. Extremism, authoritarianism – fascism and communism – depend upon lies, upon the public spurning what we know to be reality and agreeing to myths spun by leaders.

It’s astonishing that we’ve come to such a pass, where even a monstrous creature like Putin would be proud of the assault on truth being waged by our Prime Minister. Putin claims Ukraine isn’t really a country, that a war isn’t a war. These are big, blood-soaked lies. Johnson’s lies come without blood, of course – but in essence he’s asking for the same mental gymnastics that the Kremlin asks: for the public to believe black is white, up is down and left is right.

We’ve lived with political deceit for so long now that we risk forgetting the danger – not just to democracy, but to ourselves – of the kind of lies Johnson and his MPs demand we accept. It’s as if an apple sits upon a table, which we can all see – there the apple is, red and rosy – but they’re telling us that nothing is there, the table is empty. There’s no apple.

The journey into political danger isn’t travelled quickly. It’s always slow, and the first step on that journey is to murder truth. Timothy Snyder is today, perhaps, the western world’s leading historian. Snyder – an American scholar of totalitarianism, in both its fascist and communist iterations – has said clearly that “post-truth is pre-fascism”.

If, he warns, you “clear the field of the idea of factuality, you’re opening the way for the ‘Big Lie’, and the ‘Big Lie’ is the trap that people fall into and leads them to do things, like for example violently storm a parliament, which just happened in the United States, and those things are in fact fascistic and can lead the way to fascism”.

Now, that analysis doesn’t mean that Johnson is fascist or his government is fascist. It means that what Johnson and his government are doing is deeply dangerous to democracy, and can easily be seen as laying the path to somewhere none of us want to go, in an era when democracy hangs by a thread around much of the western world.

The Yale philosopher Jason Stanley says: “Truth is the heart of liberal democracy. The two ideals of liberal democracy are liberty and equality. If your belief system is shot through with lies you are not free … Truth is required to act freely. Freedom requires knowledge, and in order to act freely in the world, you need to know what the world is and know what you are doing. You only know what you are doing if you have access to truth. So freedom requires truth, and so to smash freedom you must smash the truth.”

READ MORE: Angry people = dangerous times

Hannah Arendt, the chronicler of totalitarianism, warned that those who wish to control us must transform their lies into our new reality. To believe the lies of others is to surrender your own witnessed reality – your truth – to the fantasies of another. Such surrender is no less than selling oneself into mental slavery.

It’s as George Orwell said: “The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits atrocities, but that it attacks the concept of objective truth; it claims to control the past as well as the future.”

No matter what happens now. No matter how Johnson’s party – for this is no longer the Conservative Party – responds to Sue Gray’s report, they’ve already embarked upon a war on truth. Moral casualties mount: the dead-eyed Tory loyalists like Grant Shapps and Peter Bone; the Met Police which has debased itself; the newspapers and journalists who’ve rushed shamelessly to defend lies when their only job is to defend the truth.

Johnson has lied enough. Nobody – unless they’ve slept for a decade – needs Johnson’s lies recounted for them. But now he goes one step too far. Extremists always do. Today’s lies aren’t the usual political fare – the massaged numbers and the slippery sentences – his lies ask you to lie to yourself.

The lies of Johnson and his party are intended to get inside your head and stir around your sense of right and wrong, of fact and fiction. It’s one thing to corrupt parliament and politics, it’s quite another to seek to corrupt an individual's sense of self, of truth and lies. Johnson’s deceit is an attack on the integrity of each of us, for he asks us to look at the world and see it not through our own eyes, but through his eyes, the eyes of a man who’d control us, and how we think. Beware where this country goes next.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald