Viral video of Boris Johnson ‘lying to parliament’ approaches 10 million views

Harry Cockburn
·5-min read
Boris Johnson in the House of Commons (Reuters)
Boris Johnson in the House of Commons (Reuters)

A video debunking numerous spurious claims made by Boris Johnson in parliament has been viewed almost 10 million times.

In August last year, lawyer and filmmaker Peter Stefanovic compiled and uploaded a two-minute video in which he fact-checked several claims made by Boris Johnson since he has been prime minister.

These include the government’s record on emissions reductions, economic growth, nurses’ bursaries, hospital car parking, NHS spending, the Covid-19 track and trace app, and poverty in the UK.

Just over six months later, the video has been widely shared and Mr Stefanovic said he believed it would reach 10 million views today.

In the first example, the prime minister can be seen speaking back in late 2019 or early 2020 when Sajid Javid was still Chancellor.

Mr Johnson says: “We have cut CO2 emissions in this country since 2010 on 1990 levels by 42 per cent - that is an astonishing achievement.”

Mr Stefanovic then responds: “Well it would be if it were true, but it’s just another lie. CO2 emissions fell by 39 per cent between 1990 and 2018. Not from 2010 onwards.”

It is not clear where Mr Johnson’s figures come from, but Mr Stefanovic is correct according to the government’s own official figures.

“The economy, under this Conservative government, has grown by 73 per cent,” Mr Johnson is seen telling the House of Commons in the next clip.

This is also wrong. As Mr Stefanovic points out, the official records do not back up Mr Johnson’s quite astonishing claim.

The economy has grown by roughly this level since 1990 according to the ONS, during which there have been Conservative and Labour governments and the Lib-Dem-Tory coalition government.

Under Conservative-led governments since 2010, the UK’s GDP has grown by around 20 per cent.

The other claims by the prime minister about nurses bursaries, the NHS, track and trace and levels of poverty are also demonstrably false.

Nurses’ bursary

“We’ve restored the nurses bursary”, Mr Johnson says in one clip. This is not the case. The government introduced a small grant, which still leaves nurses saddled with huge amounts of debt. Their training was completely free up until 2017.

Hospital car parking

“There’ll be free hospital car parking for everyone who attends a hospital”, Mr Johnson says.

This plan was abandoned by Mr Johnson, reportedly at the health secretary, Matt Hancock’s, request.

Poverty

“Absolute poverty and relative poverty have both declined under this government, and there are 400,000 fewer families living in poverty now than there were in 2010.

This claim from June 2020 caused outrage at the time.

According to official records the number of people living in relative poverty in the UK increased from 13.6 million in 2009-10 to 14.5 million in 2018-19.

But absolute poverty did decline over the same period by 100,000 to reach 12.9 million.

Track and trace app.

“The app would be the icing on the cake. If we can get it to work it’d be a fine thing. But there isn’t one anywhere in the world,” Mr Johnson is seen telling parliament.

But at the time Germany had one which had already had over 12 million downloads, while France, Australia, Singapore and Latvia were among other countries that had launched an app.

NHS

“You all know that the government is engaged in record investments in the NHS, £34bn.”

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, once you accounted for inflation, the investment worked out closer to £23.5bn.

“My video’s getting a pretty astonishing reaction,” Mr Stefanovic told The Independent.

“My main reason for doing this was that I personally felt, and I’m sure many other do too, that we’ve reached a point where the standing of our political institutions are simply being undermined by the prime minister’s abject failure to tell the truth. There’s no other way to put it.

“What we’re witnessing here is - my film is just a tiny snapshot of it - is a pattern of behaviour that has crossed the line into outright fantasy.

“We have the ministerial code, and the PM is the ultimate arbiter of that, and the code emphasises the importance of ministers giving accurate and truthful information to parliament.

“If you take the ministerial code in combination with Erskine-May - the bible of parliamentary procedure - and were very generous to the PM and say that these statements were inadvertently made, then Erskine-May says the record must be corrected. But this hasn’t happened.”

“So we have a situation where we have one false statement after another, and moved into the realm of complete fantasy with what is being told to parliament, but it’s a matter of public record.”

“Because he has not been called out or held to account under the parliamentary processes that do exist, then these lies and false statements remain on Hansard - the parliamentary record - and that can’t be right can it?”

“The prime minister should be hauled back before the commons every time he makes one of these false statements, it should be highlighted, he should be asked to apologise and the parliamentary record should be corrected.”

Mr Stefanovic added: “I’d like him held accountable for every single lie and falsehood he’s made since he became prime minister - carefully fact-checked of course.”

The Independent has contacted No 10 for comment.

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