Politics

Video showing Boris Johnson repeatedly 'lying' to parliament hits 40 million views

The video, produced by lawyer and activist Peter Stefanovic, calls out eight misleading claims the prime minister has made in parliament.

boris johnson

Boris Johnson speaking at Prime Minister's Questions.

A viral video showing Boris Johnson repeatedly misleading parliament with statistics and claims has now hit 40 million views on Twitter.

Produced by lawyer and activist Peter Stefanovic, the video picks out dodgy despatch box claims made by the prime minister and decries them as lies.

Stefanovic told The Big Issue the milestone was a “testament to the dogged determination of the public to hold government to account.”

The video debunks eight claims made by Johnson in parliament. The Big Issue has examined them.

1) ‘The UK’s CO2 emissions are down by 42 per cent, since 2010, on 1990 levels’

Johnson told the house this stat “is an astonishing achievement”. But Stefanovic points out that CO2 emissions fell by 39 per cent between 1990 and 2018. Greenhouse gas emissions during this period fell by 44 per cent.

That’s not that far off. But Johnson claimed the fall was since 2010.

Being charitable, Johnson – speaking in February 2020 – may have been using more recent figures. Yet provisional government statistics released the month after he spoke showed that the UK’s CO2 emissions fell from 498.3 million tonnes in 2010 to 351.5 million tonnes in 2019. That’s a fall of 29 per cent – not 42 per cent.

The parliamentary record Hansard also shows he made the claim a week before the instance in the video, and then repeated it again later in February 2020.

2) ‘The economy has grown under this Conservative government by 73 per cent’

Johnson made this claim on the Conservatives’ economic prowess at Prime Minister’s Questions on January 29 2020.

boris johnson, lies
Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions

But in the video, Stefanovic points out that the 73 per cent GDP growth referred to the total period since 1990 – which includes 13 years of a Labour government. Since 2010, and before the pandemic, the economy has grown by about 20 per cent.

It’s perhaps easy to see, from the full quote, how the sleight of hand may have been achieved: “We should not forget that this country has reduced CO2 emissions already by 42 per cent on 1990 levels, while the economy, under this Conservative government, has grown by 73 per cent. That is our record; we can do both.”

3) ‘We’ve restored the nurses’ bursary’

In December 2019, Johnson announced plans to replace the nurses’ bursary, and even told a nurse “we’re definitely bringing back the bursary”, which was cut in 2017.

The old bursary paid for the entirety of a nurse’s training, as well as an allowance of up to £8,200. After the initial flurry of announcement, the details revealed that it would in fact be a new scheme, made up of a £5,000 annual grant and a possible £3,000 for specialist and regional students.

But Johnson has told parliament on three separate occasions – from February 2020 to May 2021 – that “we’ve restored the nurses’ bursary”.

Stefanovic points out that student nurses “still have to pay extortionate tuition fees and still qualify tens of thousand of pounds in debt”.

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4) ‘We’ve ensured there will be free hospital car parking for everybody who attends a hospital’

“Just another lie,” says Stefanovic. Johnson did actually want to make this promise when running for leader, according to the i, but was persuaded not to by Matt Hancock.

Wishful thinking from Jonson to make this claim in parliament, then, given it didn’t actually happen. Hospital car park charges were scrapped for NHS staff during the pandemic, and are being scrapped altogether in Scotland. But not for “everybody who attends a hospital.”

5) ‘400,000 fewer families are living in poverty now than in 2010’

During his appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions on June 17 2020, Johnson claimed: “Absolutely poverty and relative poverty have both declined under this government and there are hundreds of thousands—I think 400,000—fewer families living in poverty now than there were in 2010.”

The number of people in relative poverty increased from 13.6 million in 2010 to 14.5 million in 2019, Stefanovic says. As for the 400,000 families figure, “it appears he just made that up’

6) ‘There isn’t a functioning test and trace app anywhere in the world so far’

“I have always been clear—we have always been clear—that the app would be the icing on the cake. If we can get it to work, it will be a fine thing, but there is not one anywhere in the world so far,” Johnson told parliament, of the NHS Test and Trace app, on June 24 2020.

But Stefanovic points out that, by then, many countries had their own app, listing France, Germany, Australia, Poland, Latvia, Denmark, Japan, and Italy.

7) ‘The government has engaged in record investments in the NHS of £34billion’

Johnson pledged a five-year NHS spending increase of £34billion in 2019, and reiterated it to parliament on July 15 2020. But, according to fact-checking website FullFact, there was a larger real-terms NHS spending increase from 2004/05 to 2009/10.

In actual cash, it may be the biggest increase over five years, but “that’s not a very useful way to look at the numbers as it isn’t in ‘real terms’,” says FullFact. The increase amounts to £20.5billion when accounting for inflation.

8) ‘We’ve absolutely determined to support childcare’

This one’s a bit more subjective. Child benefit did in fact rise in 2020 after a five-year freeze. But only by 35p a week for parents with one child.

Reacting to the video’s latest milestone, creator Stefanovic told The Big Issue: “40 million views is an astonishing achievement and a testament to the dogged determination of the public to hold government to account.

“This film has sparked questions in parliament, inspired a coalition of opposition party leaders to take action and an upcoming debate.

“It shows that we the people, even when faced with a media blackout from our public service broadcaster, still have the power to hold government to account”

The Big Issue has contacted Number 10 for comment.

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