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Boris Johnson criticised for 'tone deaf' response to pensioner, 77, who can't afford to heat home

·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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Boris Johnson has been criticised for his response to the story of a 77-year-old pensioner who cannot afford to heat her home amid the growing cost-of-living crisis.

Millions of Brits are facing increasing pressures on their household finances amid soaring inflation and energy bills.

Appearing on Good Morning Britain (GMB) on Tuesday morning, the prime minister was challenged by Susanna Reid to outline how his government can help people like Elsie.

Reid explained that Elsie's energy bills have risen from £17 per month to £85 per month, and that she now rides around on buses all day to keep warm and ensure she isn't using electricity at home. Elsie also goes to supermarkets at the end of the day to get discounted food.

"I don't want Elsie to cut back on anything," said Johnson when challenged by Reid on what else she could do to save money.

"Let's talk about Elsie and what we're doing.

"And just to remind you that the 24-hour freedom bus pass was something that I actually introduced."

Read more: The benefit 850,000 eligible families aren’t claiming

The prime minister has been criticised for his responses in an interview about the cost-of-living crisis. (Good Morning Britain/ITV)

Read more: How to save money: 22 easy cost-cutting tips

However, Johnson failed to provide any details of new measures that the government has recently introduced to help Brits in Elsie's position - other than the £200 repayable energy bill discount, which Reid described as a "loan".

Elsewhere, he added: "What we are doing, is making sure that we take the steps not to invest in our energy supply - back to your point about the energy companies - to ensure that we have the supply for the medium and the long term."

Johnson's response to Elsie's story has been heavily criticised by opposition MPs.

Shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, accused the prime minister of betraying pensioners.

"Elsie will have just seen the biggest real terms cut in the pension for 50 years thanks to Boris Johnson," said Ashworth.

"The Tories have betrayed Britain’s pensioners."

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said Johnson's response to Elsie's story was "tone deaf".

"Imagine responding to a story about a 77-year-old woman who sits on buses all day because she can’t afford heating by boasting that you made it easier for her to sit on buses," said Lammy.

"Tone-deaf, arrogant and out of touch, in a cost of living crisis."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak react at a statement on the economic update session, at the House of Commons in London, Britain March 23, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. IMAGE MUST NOT BE ALTERED.
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are coming under increasing pressure to provide a new package of measures to help Brits struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. (Reuters)

And deputy leader of the Labour party, Angela Rayner, said Labour was offering "real help, right now".

"Labour would impose a windfall tax on fuel companies to cut energy bills," said Rayner.

"We’re offering people real help, right now.

"Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have nothing to offer pensioners like Elsie.

"The choice couldn’t be clearer."

The interview, Johnson's first on GMB for around five years, comes two days before the local election and will have been seen as an opportunity to show how he can connect with 'normal' voters.

Many experts predict the Conservatives could face heavy losses due to issues like Partygate and the growing cost-of-living crisis.

Read more: UK debt warning for households as cost of living soars

In April, the prime minister and the chancellor were fined by the Metropolitan Police for violating coronavirus laws during lockdown in 2020.

The government has also come under increasing pressure to provide a new package of measures to help struggling Brits, with the Resolution Foundation warning 1.3m people - including 500,000 children - will fall into absolute poverty in 2022 without urgent financial support.

In March, the Office for Budget Responsibility warned that Brits are facing the steepest drop in living standards since records began.

On Friday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released data revealing 40% of Britons reported finding bills very or somewhat difficult to afford between 30 March and 24 April.

Watch: Dominic Raab grins while discussing solutions to cost of living crisis

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