Fact-Checkers Find Boris Johnson's Good Morning Britain Interview Wanting

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Near the beginning of Boris Johnson’s tricky interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, presenter Susanna Reid warned the PM: “There are fact checkers at every stage of every interview who will go through your answers with a fine-tooth comb.”

Which is exactly what the independent FullFact website did. Having run the rule over three of Johnson’s answers, to put it charitably, they found him wanting.

Freedom passes

In one of the stand-out moments, the prime minister was challenged over the cost of living crisis hitting many people across the country.

Reid told Johnson about Elsie, a 77-year-old widow, who has seen her energy bills rise from £17 a month to £85 a month.

“To cut down on spending, Elsie has now resorted to eating one meal a day. She’s 77-years-old. She’s losing weight,” Reid said.

“She gets up early in the morning to use her freedom bus pass to stay on buses all day to avoid using energy at home. What else should Elsie cut back on?”

Johnson said he did not want Elsie to cut back on “anything”, before adding: “Just to remind you, the 24-hour freedom bus pass was something I actually introduced.”

Aside from the strange boast about Elsie’s bus pass, his ownership of the policy is not exactly as he presented it.

The pass has a history going back to the 1980s, which predates the creation of the position of directly elected mayor.

Johnson did make the freedom pass apply for 24 hours per day (except on some national train services) in early 2009, says FullFact, but free 24-7 bus travel for pensioners was curtailed in 2020.

The fact-checkers said: “As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson did change the Freedom Pass so it applied 24 hours a day on most services, although he did not introduce it originally.

“Following a bailout deal between Transport for London and Mr Johnson’s government in 2020, it no longer functions 24 hours a day.”

Economic growth

Johnson’s claims the government had powered to a strong economic position after emerging from the Covid pandemic caused another flashpoint.

“That is what we are achieving,” he began. “It’s because of the steps this government took during the pandemic to get us out of the pandemic in a strong way.

“With the fastest economic growth in the G7.”

Reid interjected: “Okay, we’ve heard you say this before.”

And Johnson fired back: “Well, you’ve just told me I haven’t been on your programme for five years, so you can’t have heard me.”

Reid argued: “But I do listen and watch all your other interviews.”

Away from the back and forth, FullFact suggests the claim is misleading. It says:

“According to the latest data, the UK had the highest growth in 2021 among G7 nations. However this is partly due to a technicality concerning how the UK measures GDP, which increased the apparent scale of both the fall and the recovery. The UK’s economy has shrunk by about 0.4% since the start of the pandemic, making it the fifth best performing among the G7 nations.”

Council tax

The prime minister said that for lower council tax people should vote for Conservative in Thursday’s local elections.

“When it comes to delivering better value for services, lower council tax...you should vote for Conservative councillors on Thursday,” he said.

In parliament last week, Johnson noted that Conservative-controlled Westminster Council has lower council tax than Labour-controlled Islington and Camden, saying: “That is the difference between Labour and Conservative across the country.”

FullFact pointed out the picture is less clear cut than that.

The Conservatives have tended to compare band D rates to claim their councils charge less than Labour authorities – and using this measure, single-tier Tory areas in England charge less than the average in Labour areas.

Single-tier Conservative councils in England actually charge more per household, and regardless like-for-like comparisons are extremely difficult to make.

“There are many reasons why council tax might vary between Conservative and Labour areas, reflecting the different services those areas need to provide,” says FullFact.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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