SO Boris has told a big fat porkie over the Salisbury nerve agent attack. We know thanks to the boss of Porton Down, who told Sky News on Tuesday the poison was indeed military-grade Novichok probably deployed by a nation-state, but who went on to explain; “We have not verified the precise source, but provided the scientific information to the government, who have then used a number of other sources to piece together the conclusions they have come to.”

Well, lordy, lordy.

READ MORE: Johnson under fire over ‘proof’ in Salisbury poison attack

Now of course, this doesn’t take Putin out of the frame. But this little outbreak of accuracy from Porton Down does flatly contradict claims by Boris Johnson made just two weeks ago when he was asked by a German interviewer how the UK had been able to establish the novichok originated from Russia so fast.

Boris replied: “When I look at the evidence, the people from Porton Down, the laboratory, they were absolutely categorical. I asked the guy myself, I said: ‘Are you sure?’ And he said: ‘There’s no doubt.’ So we have very little alternative but to take the action that we have taken.”

We now know they couldn’t have given that assurance because they weren’t “absolutely categorical”. Boris was making it up as he went along and got found out – again. Congratulations to Sky News for bothering to seek out the right interviewee and Gary Aitkenhead – chief executive of the government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory – for refusing to duck their tough question.

Actually they both simply did what news interviewers and chief executives are paid to do, but we’ve grown so used to lazy, press release-based journalism and scared, feckless public sector “leadership” that this wee stand came as something of a surprise, prompting the usual disinformation from the British Government, which quickly deleted tweets alleging Porton Down’s certainty about Russian manufacture of the nerve agent. One lame explanation was that the British Ambassador to Russia never precisely alleged that. But sharp-eyed social media analysts don’t miss much these days.

Within minutes the Tory Fibs organisation had found and tweeted the actual film of Dr Laurie Bristow saying “There is no doubt the Novichok was produced in Russia by the Russian State” – footage conveniently distributed at the time by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. By the time you read this though, it too will likely be gone.

Foreign Minister Ben Wallace was pushed out for a half-hearted grilling on the phone by Radio 4’s World at One. He asserted that guilt usually requires a motive, opportunity and pattern of past behaviour as well as physical evidence. Purlease. His interview was preceded by a lengthy interview with a defence expert, who spent five uninterupted minutes outlining the myriad ways Russia is “at it” by calling the emergency Chemicals Convention meeting in the Hague today. It’s quite clearly propaganda on all sides, and I’d guess even No voters are not ready to swallow British propaganda hook, line and sinker these days, just cos its dressed up in the Union Jack.

All of this raises some important issues.

Firstly, it adds considerable fuel to claims of BBC bias. Why did not a word of this debacle feature on any BBC Radio news outlet on Wednesday morning, when the story was front-page news in almost every paper and was about to be raised by Russia at an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague? Of course, readers of this paper will be no strangers to allegations of BBC bias. But quite apart from the corporation-wide preference for the Establishment line on everything from indy to armageddon, some other damaging processes are at work. The BBC rarely does what Sky did so successfully this week and tries to get news straight from the horse’s mouth. Far more often, we hear from correspondents we are meant to regard as trusted intermediaries. Trouble is they too often tell us what we already know, tell us what the authorities have said or just describe events instead of analysing them. BBC reports are full of well-socialised, lofty-sounding people who spend a couple of minutes giving us the “where” and “when” of an event not the “who” or “why”. Indeed BBC News is all too often a kaleidoscope of colourful details followed by a few thoughts on what it all means. Surely we pay correspondents to go further and hazard a few educated, researched guesses about why it all happened?

Secondly, why did so many world governments leap to back Theresa May’s hard-line stance without seeing incontrovertible evidence of Russian involvement? Let’s be clear. Putin is an unpleasant, macho, hard-man who has invaded the territory of neighbouring states and brought others to their knees by cutting off oil supplies. Russia is backing Assad and its illegal use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. It is therefore probable Putin was involved in the nerve agent attack. Probable but not certain.

What’s now certain is that Britain’s decision to jump the gun (again) and accuse Putin of direct involvement without hard evidence was taken on the grounds of political expedience. Likewise the decision taken by other political leaders to fall in line. Voters across Europe probably do approve of anyone that’s having a pop at Putin. But that’s why voters don’t lead governments. And it’s also why the whole thing enhances the reputation of Jeremy Corbyn – you know the political leader interesting to BBC News only for being an alleged anti-Semite? It took courage to withstand the phenomenal pressure to back the Tories hard-line. Courage and conviction. Conventional wisdom has it that lefties must occasionally look tough to win votes. Now, none of this distracts from Labour’s continuing and shameful support for renewing Trident. But Corbyn’s hesitation was the right call. Where does this leave his political rivals, including Nicola Sturgeon?

Finally, the Porton Down revelation confirms that British foreign policy is still based on playing hunches and observing patterns – not on hard evidence. Nothing has been learned after Iraq. In response to the story yesterday, a Downing Street spokesman said: ‘This attack in Salisbury was part of a pattern of increasingly aggressive Russian behaviour, as well as a new and dangerous phase in Russian activity within the continent and beyond.’

So Russia’s involvement in the Salisbury attack fits a general pattern and that means it actually happened?

You’d innocently imagine even the British Government would need far more conclusive evidence before indulging in an outbreak of sabre rattling that could bring us to the verge of another cold or very hot nuclear war. You’d also think that basing foreign policy on previous bad behaviour would cause a wee Iraq-shaped alarm bell to ring. After all, as a number of vilified commentators (including myself) pedantically pointed out when the finger was first pointed unequivocally at Putin, Britain has dangerous form on acting first and examining evidence second. You might think the dangers arising from Britain’s pattern of needless belligerence needs some urgent scrutiny too. You’d not be alone.

The really sad thing is that this Boris-orchestrated guddle is what actually lets Putin off the hook. Russia is a land of mafias and violent rivalries, many orchestrated from London where oligarchs and gangsters have banked cash for decades despite pleas for financial control from a succession of earlier Russian leaders. Clamping down makes belated sense. But that’s made all the more difficult by the voracious appetite for dirty money in the City of London, and the uncertainty generated by this week’s events over the British Government’s bona fides.

The strongest gesture would still be compliance with international law and publication of the evidence that actually incriminates the Russian Government as required by the Chemical Weapons Convention. Even so, Novichokgate is now an irretrievable international mess to add to Brexit. Nice one Boris.