Social Justice

Boris Johnson boasts about his Freedom Pass after being told pensioner rides bus all day to keep warm

The prime minister claimed to "totally understand" the impact of the cost of living crisis, but chose to instead focus on something he says he achieved while mayor of London.

Image: Valou _c / Unsplash

Boris Johnson responded to a story of an elderly woman riding buses all day to keep warm by praising the Freedom Pass scheme he says he introduced.

Grilled about the cost of living crisis by Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain, Johnson said that he “totally understands and gets what people are going through”.

Reid described the plight of a 77-year-old viewer, Elsie, who “gets up early in the morning to use her Freedom bus pass to stay on buses all day to avoid using energy at home.” She then asked the prime minister what else the widower, who lives in a council house, should cut back on. 

“I just want to remind you, the 24 hour freedom bus pass was something I introduced’, Johnson replied, after saying that he didn’t want Elsie to cut back on anything. 

“Oh marvellous, so Elsie should be grateful to you for her bus pass?” replied Reid.

The Older Person Freedom Pass allows people over 60 living in London to travel on and Transport for London services. It is not valid 24-hour a day, but can be used from 9am on weekdays and anytime on weekends.

Despite Johnson’s claim that it was something he introduced, a London-wide free bus pass for pensioners was a policy of the Greater London Councils in the1970s. Former Labour Mayor Ken Livingstone has also taken credit for bringing in the scheme.

Responding to the comments, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said they showed “just how out of touch this narcissistic prime minister is.”

“The simple truth is Boris Johnson has just imposed the biggest real terms cut to the pension in 50 years and charities like Age UK are warning this will be a year of hell for Britain’s retirees,” he continued. “We need a windfall tax to provide real help to families facing the Conservatives’ cost of living crisis.”

Reid said that in order for Elsie to pay her energy bills, which have jumped from £17 to £85 a month after the energy cap was lifted in April, the pensioner had been forced to cut down her meals to eating just once a day, which was causing her to lose weight.

Earlier in the interview Reid had asked the prime minister why he wasn’t imposing a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies which could be used to help lower-income families pay their energy bills. 

Johnson suggested that the energy companies needed funds to better invest in infrastructure in Britain so that the country doesn’t need to rely on importing energy from overseas. 

BP has reported highest profits in a decade, while Shell paid no tax on its UK oil and gas production last year – despite making a £14.7bn profit.

A windfall tax is one of a range of policies that also includes; scrapping the national insurance rise, instructing the National Crime Agency to investigate £11.8billion of Covid fraud and error, and ramping up home insulation, that anti-poverty charities are calling on the government to implement to prevent more people falling into poverty. 

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