Fact-checker Full Fact has accused Boris Johnson of being economical with the truth after the unveiling of his election manifesto.
Chief executive Will Moy said the Conservative Party could “do more to meet the standards we expect” after investigating its pledges on paving the way for 50,000 new nurses and limiting day-to-day spending increases to only £3 billion, despite promising a litany of public services investment.
Full Fact said the Tories had not been upfront about the full cost of their initiatives in the 59-page document, titled Get Brexit done, unleash Britain’s potential.
It is the second time in less than a week that Mr Johnson’s party has fallen foul of Full Fact, following the Conservative Campaign Headquarters’ decision to rebrand its Twitter handle to factcheckUK during the leaders’ debate between the Prime Minister and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn last week.
In a tweet during the ITV debate on Tuesday, Full Fact called it “inappropriate and misleading” for the Tory press office to give the impression it was an independent fact checking service.
In the costings list provided with the Tory manifesto, unveiled in Telford in the West Midlands on Sunday, it stated that the price of training 50,000 extra nurses and paying their maintenance grant would be £879 million in 2023/24.
It is inappropriate and misleading for the Conservative press office to rename their twitter account ‘factcheckUK’ during this debate. Please do not mistake it for an independent fact checking service such as @FullFact, @FactCheck or @FactCheckNI
— Full Fact (@FullFact) November 19, 2019
But Full Fact said training that number of nurses, funding their £24,000 salaries and stumping up National Insurance contributions would cost the NHS closer to £2.8 billion.
Labour has already cast doubt over the headline figure, suggesting that the 50,000 number was “deceitful”.
According to the party, the pledge included 19,000 nurses the Tories hope to retrain and another 12,000 from overseas, meaning only 19,000 positions would be filled by new trainees.
Full Fact also remarked that it was “simplistic” of the PM to use the the slogan “get Brexit done”, a phrase that appears 22 times in the manifesto including on the cover, when a deal with the European Union could take “years to negotiate”.
“The Brexit process will not be completed by January,” said the independent organisation.
Another area the Tories were pulled up on was on the pledge of £3 billion of extra day-to-day spending by the final years of the next parliament.
The sum looks significantly smaller than those by rival parties.
But, despite Chancellor Sajid Javid promising the “most transparent costings that have ever been published in British electoral history”, Full Fact said the Tories had not explained how every pledge in the manifesto would be funded.
“While the Conservatives plan to increase annual current spending by £3 billion compared to what’s already been announced, the Conservatives plan to spend a lot more than £3 billion extra per year than we spend today,” said Full Fact.
“For example, the Conservative manifesto spending list omits its headline pledges on school funding, the NHS, and (creating 20,000 more) police officers.”
Mr Moy said voters deserved information that was “accurate and honest” before making their minds up on December 12.
“Candidates and parties are asking voters for their trust for the next five years, and like the other main parties, the Conservatives can do more to meet the standards we expect,” said the Full Fact boss.