On Thursday, tens millions of you will head to the polls in the most important election of our lifetimes.
Whoever wins will chart the course of Brexit after three and a half years of pain and infighting.
But Boris Johnson – the likely winner – is not telling the truth when he says he’ll simply “get Brexit done”. Instead, it won’t be done by January 31 – that’ll just be the start of talks on future trade deals, and the UK could still leave with no deal on 1 January 2021.
His claim is part of a wider pattern of distortion, misrepresentation and obfuscation on the part of our Prime Minister.
Last month in an interview with ITV News, the Prime Minister said he had “never tried to deceive the public”.
“I may have got things wrong, I may have been mistaken, but I’ve never tried to deceive people about the way I see things,” he said.
Yet over the past few weeks, we have repeatedly been collating many of the worse examples of when the PM’s words haven’t matched the truth. And so has the journalist Peter Oborne on his website.
Using those and other resources, we have rounded up 60 times the PM’s words didn’t match the facts.
1) “One of the reasons we’re having this election is because we have a Queen’s speech that was blocked by parliament”.
Actually the Queen’s Speech is one of the few votes that Boris Johnson has won as PM.
2) Boris Johnson claimed that he did not suspend parliament to stop MPs scrutinising his Brexit deal.
The Supreme Court ruled otherwise. It said prorogation had the effect of “frustrating or preventing the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justifications.”
3) Parliament voted to approve the Brexit deal.
Parliament did not vote to approve the PM’s Brexit deal. Instead it backed the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – its first hurdle in Parliament.
4) On prorogation - “One of the reasons I wanted to have a Queen’s Speech was so that we could bring back the domestic violence Bill”
The domestic violence Bill, officially the domestic abuse Bill, had already had its first reading in the Commons on 16 July, before prorogation. When the government announced prorogation, Bills in Parliament at that time – like the domestic abuse bill – were “understood to have fallen.” He did bring it back but only after that.
5) Delaying Brexit is costing £1billion a month
The fact-checking website Full Fact says this cost is only when compared to a no-deal Brexit, in which the UK refuses to pay any divorce bill. It also doesn’t include money the UK gets back out of the EU.
6) The Tories are building 40 new hospitals
Boris Johnson ’s promise of 40 ‘new hospitals’ will actually only deliver six with ‘seed funding’ for others. And the figure includes renovations of existing hospitals.
7) Labour voted against £7,800 of tax cuts on working people
The £7,800 figure appears to be a catch-all Tory estimate of the times Labour has, for example, voted against the Budget. But Labour often votes against Budgets for good reasons that have nothing to do with tax.
8) Johnson denied that he had said police forces were “spaffing money up the wall” on historic child abuse investigations
In March this year, Johnson said on live radio “£60m I saw was being spaffed up the wall on some investigation into historic child abuse”. His comments were a prominent news story at the time.
9) Labour will allow a Scottish independence referendum in 2020
Labour have ruled out allowing a Scottish independence referendum in 2020 and in the early years of the new parliament. There could be one at a later date, however.
10) NHS spending rise is the ‘biggest in modern memory’
The Tories are indeed pledging £34bn in cash terms by 2023/24 – a 3.2% real terms rise. But the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank makes clear this is still less than it used to rise under Labour – and comes after years of Tory cuts.
11) Jeremy Corbyn wants to scrap MI5
Labour’s 2019 election manifesto vows the opposite, saying: “We will ensure closer counter terrorism co-ordination between the police and the security services.” Diane Abbott signed an Early Day Motion calling for the abolition of MI5 in 1989, but said more than two years ago that her views had changed.
12) Boris Johnson claims EU rules mean kippers have to be packaged with plastic ice pillows.
He made the claim during a leadership hustings, brandishing the fish in its offending plastic packaging. EU regulation covers fresh fish, not smoked fish. The UK’s Food Standard Agency says food manufacturers must transport food so it is fit to eat. This might require a “cool bag”.
13) “There will be no checks on goods going from GB to NI and NI to GB because we are going to come out of the EU whole and entire. That was the objective we secured”
Last week the PM admitted there will be some customs checks for goods crossing the Irish Sea after Brexit but he insisted they would apply only to items destined for the Republic of Ireland.
Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, and the government’s impact assessment suggested there could be.
14) Labour will have ‘zero control’ on immigration
This is not right. The Labour Party’s manifesto is certainly more liberal than the Tories’ but it does not mean “zero control”.
15) Labour will make corporation tax the highest in Europe
Labour’s plan has been to raise Corporation Tax back up to 26%. Corporation Tax is still higher in France (32%), Portugal (32%), Germany (30%), Belgium (30%), Greece (28%) and Italy (28%).
16) Blaming others for his ‘Garden Bridge’ vanity project
Mr Johnson said it was the “current mayor of London who put another £17million into that project and then scrapped it.
It was Boris Johnson who trumpeted a failed plan for a “floating paradise” across the River Thames that blew £43million of public money
Sadiq Khan announced a review of the project in September 2016 and it revoked approvals for it in May 2017, just a year after taking office.
Yes, money was spent after Sadiq Khan became London mayor in May 2016 – but thrown into the mix were prior commitments and a ‘ministerial direction’ from the Tory-run Department for Transport.
17) London’s murder rate dropped below 100 ‘for several years’ when Boris Johnson was Mayor
There was only one year in Boris Johnson’s eight years as mayor where the homicide rate dropped below 100. It hit 94 in 2014.
18) “There’s no press here”
Boris Johnson speaking to an angry father during a visit to Whipps Cross hospital – in which the exchange was filmed by the BBC. Aides later blamed a mixup on the PM’s part about the press delegation.
19) He’ll get Brexit done within 100 days, “get it out of Parliament” and people will stop talking about it after January
Under the Prime Minister’s plan, the Withdrawal Agreement will be done by January 31 but not the future relationship or any trade deals. We will have only 11 months to agree a deal, otherwise we risk a no deal Brexit on 1 January 2021. It won’t be out of Parliament either. In February 2019 the government promised a role for Parliament in scrutinising future Free Trade Agreements to be struck around the world after Brexit. That suggests Brexit will be discussed in Parliament for many more years to come.
20) The Conservatives pledge 50,000 “more” nurses for the NHS
The prime minister was forced to admit just 31,000 of the “more nurses” pledge would be new. The 50,000 figure includes an estimated 18,500 existing nurses who will be encouraged to remain within the NHS, or attracted back after leaving.
21) “We’ve got a huge new Towns Fund which is going to be giving £3.6 billion altogether”
According to Channel 4’s FactCheck, only £1.3 billion was new money, a fact that came from the government’s own press release. The Towns Fund is only new in the sense that it amalgamates two preexisting funds and tops them up with additional money.
22) “When we leave the EU we can ban the sale of shark fin soup”
Shark finning had long been banned in the EU. There is debate among experts as to whether or not the sale of shark fins can be banned — but either way this would be due to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, not EU ones.
23) He said child poverty had fallen under the Tories on Andrew Marr
The government’s own figures state the number of children in “relative low income”, after housing costs, has risen by 500,000 from 3.6million in 2010/11 to 4.1million in 2017/18.
The number of children in “absolute low income”, after housing costs, has also risen from 3.6million to 3.7million in the same period.
24) He said appeal court judges had ‘no option’ but to let the London Bridge attacker go free
This one is more complicated, but Mr Johnson’s comments are still not totally accurate and legal campaigners have said he is misleading the public.
It’s true that the Court of Appeal reviewed Usman Khan’s sentence in 2013, and reduced it from an “indeterminate” one – with strict limits on the terrorist ever getting out of jail – to an extended “determine” one which contained automatic release.
It’s also true that since that case, the law on early release has been tightened up – with Parole Board oversight and release two-thirds, not half, of the way through a sentence.
But the Court of Appeal wasn’t directly “forced” to give Khan early release.
Instead, the Appeal Court lowered Khan’s sentence because the original judge had wrongly (in the Appeal Court’s view) given Khan a longer sentence than a different group of attackers from London, despite both groups being “equally serious”.
It just so happens that the lower sentence the Appeal Court decided to dish out contained that problem – which we know now was fatal – of automatic early release.
25) “Melton Mowbray pork pies, which are sold in Thailand and in Iceland, are currently unable to enter the US market because of, I don’t know, some sort of food and drug administration restriction”
26) “EU regulations stop us lowering lorry windows to help cyclists”
The proposals he was talking about had been passed. The UK government had opposed them. He had said himself at the time in 2014: “I am deeply concerned at the position of the British Government and urge them to embrace this vital issue.”
27) His magazine blamed drunken Liverpool fans for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
In the same Spectator editorial, published when he was editor, he said the people of the city were wallowing in their victim status and was forced to go and apologise. Claims that fans’ behaviour was partly responsible were utterly rejected in the long-awaited inquests into the 96 deaths.
28) Boris Johnson denied reports of an affair with Petronella Wyatt saying they were an “inverted pyramid of piffle”
He was sacked by then Tory leader Michael Howard as party vice-chairman and shadow arts ministers in November 2004 after assuring Mr Howard that tabloid reports of his affair were false.
When the story was found to be true, he refused to resign.
29) Boris Johnson claimed his initiative on homelessness was “successful”
Johnson said: “When I was mayor of London we had a programme called No Second Night Out which was designed to end or help with homelessness. It was successful in so far as it went.”
In 2009 Johnson promised to eradicate rough sleeping, the most visible form of homelessness, in London within three years. When he left office seven years later it had more than doubled.
30) Mr Johnson repeated a claim that as London Mayor he took 11,000 knives off the street through stop-and-search.
Only 4,500 knives were recovered through stop-and-search.
31) In 2015 Boris Johnson – whose constituency is near Heathrow – promised to lay down before the bulldozers to stop a third runway.
The then-Foreign Secretary found an excuse to be on a £20,000 taxpayer-funded visit to Afghanistan on the same day during a crucial vote on the expansion.
32) In his 2008 manifesto he promised there would be manned ticket offices at every train station.
He then agreed to widespread closures to pay for a 24-hour tube.
33) “There was a (baby boom) after the Olympics, as I prophesied in a speech in 2012. It was quite amazing. There was a big baby boom”
In 2012, the year of the Olympics and Johnson’s speech, there were 730,000 births in England and Wales. In 2013, when the results of Olympic-inspired coition appeared, there were only 699,000. The year-on-year fall of over 4 percent was actually the greatest in 38 years.
34) He wrote a story claiming EU chiefs had rejected Italian demands for a smaller minimum condom width.
As the Daily Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent in 1991, Mr Johnson claimed the decision had left “Italian egos smarting”.
But former top EU chief Willy Hélin told The Guardian the story was a “load of bulls***”.
“We had had requests from medical institutions across Europe to check on the safety of condoms,” he said. “That has nothing to do with the size of d***s.”
35) He was fired for making up a quote when he worked for The Times.
The story centred around the discovery of the Rose Palace, built by Edward II, who famously had a same-sex lover. Johnson re-told the tale as his “biggest cock-up” in The Independent in 2002.
“The trouble was that somewhere in my copy I managed to attribute to Colin the view that Edward II and Piers Gaveston would have been cavorting together in the Rose Palace,” he wrote.
“Unfortunately, some linkside don at a provincial university spotted that by the time the Rose Palace was built, Piers Gaveston would long have been murdered. It was very nasty.”
36) “I didn’t make any remarks about Turkey, mate”
Channel 4 News’ then political editor Michael Crick put to Johnson that in 2016 he had been the figurehead of a campaign which exploited fears about immigration from Turkey. Johnson replied: “I didn’t say anything about Turkey in the referendum campaign.
“I didn’t say a thing about Turkey.” Pressed again, he added: “I didn’t make any remarks about Turkey, mate.”
A week before the referendum in June 2016, Johnson wrote in a joint letter with his Vote Leave colleagues Michael Gove and Gisela Stuart: “The only way to avoid having common borders with Turkey is to Vote Leave.”
He wrote that it was Brussels policy for Turkey to join the EU, and that the UK government had a “commitment to Turkish accession at the earliest possible opportunity.”
In a debate on Channel 4 in the lead up to the referendum, Johnson said: “Last time I looked, the government wants to accelerate Turkish membership.”
37) The Telegraph has had to issue corrections for Johnson’s inaccurate reporting
The Telegraph was forced to correct a column after he falsely claimed a no-deal Brexit was the most popular option among the British public.
The claim was made in a column in January but was then removed from the online version after a complaint by a member of the public to the press regulator Ipso.
An online correction said: “In fact, no poll clearly showed that a no-deal Brexit was more popular than the other options. This correction is being published following a complaint upheld by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.”
In its defence the Telegraph said Johnson was “entitled to make sweeping generalisations based on his opinions”.
38) “They tell me that they are literally only a few years away from being able to provide UK made fusion reactors for sale around the world”
The UKAEA is starting to design a UK compact fusion power station. However, this project aims to put electricity on the grid in a timescale of 20 years.
Tom Nicholas at the University of York told New Scientist that a commercially viable fusion plant would still not be ready by the 2040s. So much for the idea that fusion reactors were “literally only a few years away.”
39) “We’re bringing back the £5,000 bursary” for nurses
Launching the Tory manifesto, it’s correct Boris Johnson vowed to give nurses a £5,000 to £8,000 a year maintenance grant. But this doesn’t “bring back” the old system. That is because unlike under the original bursary scheme – which the Tories scrapped in 2015 – nurses in training will still have to pay tuition fees on their courses.
40) He’s given up drinking until Brexit is done
We’ve lost count how many times he’s been spotted drinking on the campaign trail from whisky distilleries to pubs.
41) Boris Johnson alleged the UK could not axe VAT from sanitary products while still in the UK
The UK does not leave the EU in order to scrap the tampon tax. In 2016 the UK won a promise from the EU to be able to scrap the current 5% VAT on sanitary products. They expected the new system would be in place by April 2017 but after the referendum the timetable slipped. The European Commission published proposals covering the abolition of the tampon tax in 2018 - the earliest date for implementation is January 2022, just one year after the end of the “transition period” agreed by Boris Johnson. And he could also extend that.
42) “We will certainly make sure that the A&E in Telford is kept open”
While Telford will retain some form of A&E services, Johnson’s statement that he will make sure the A&E service is “kept open” was misleading as the current service will in fact be significantly reduced.
43) Jeremy Corbyn “thinks home ownership is a bad idea and is opposed to it”
The Labour leader has never said that.
44) “I’m perfectly happy to be interviewed by any interviewer called Andrew from the BBC”
After Jeremy Corbyn was interviewed by Neil on 26 November, the BBC confirmed on Twitter it was in “ongoing discussions” with Johnson’s team but had not “been able to fix a date” for an interview with the prime minister.
All the other leaders have either been interviewed by Neil or set a date for an interview to take place. Mr Johnson has still not been interviewed by Andrew Neil.
45) “I don’t comment on conversations with the Queen”
Johnson had reportedly spilled the beans on his first prime ministerial conversation with the Queen. According to EuroNews journalist Vincent McAviney, Johnson was heard claiming that the Queen had told him: “I don’t know why anyone would want the job.” According to McAviney, Johnson’s staff quickly told him “not to repeat those things so loudly.”
46) “Corbyn and his lot … actually think that the armed services should be disbanded — that’s what he said”
Johnson’s eye-catching claim is probably based on a speech made by the Labour leader in 2012 in which he said: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every politician around the world instead of taking pride in the size of their armed forces did what Costa Rica have done and abolished their army, and took pride in the fact they don’t have an army.”
It is clear from the full quote that Corbyn was describing a hypothetical situation and not advocating for the British armed services to be disbanded. In its 2019 manifesto Labour committed to spending 2 percent of GDP on the armed forces. Nowhere does the manifesto say the party wants to disband the forces.
47) The EU would be “entirely” to blame for a no-deal Brexit
48) There are “abundant technical fixes” for the Irish border
This claim is disputed by many experts. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said in June: “I do think some of the rhetoric we have heard in the context of the leadership debates in the UK is simply not based on reality — I say that respectfully — these issues cannot be dumbed down into simplistic solutions such as technology will provide all the answers.”
Full Fact wrote after Johnson’s comments that “a technological solution — which would keep the border open as it is today even if the UK and EU had different customs regimes — doesn’t currently exist.”
49) “It is an extraordinary fact that this country is forecast in our lifetimes to become the largest and most prosperous economy in this hemisphere”
Johnson wrote the above sentence as the first paragraph of his Daily Telegraph column on 3 June. On 4 November the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) upheld a complaint about inaccuracy.
50) Johnson claimed that in the event of a no deal there would be no tariffs or quotas on goods from the EU – citing a clause called Gatt 24
This has been refuted by the head of the World Trade Organisation, the Governor of the Bank of England and the former Trade Secretary, who all confirm that for Gatt 24 to apply a deal between the UK and EU must have been reached.
51) Boris Johnson claimed that he was “bitterly opposed” to Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, describing it as a “terrible moral blackmail”.
However, Johnson then voted for the Withdrawal Agreement when it was bought back to the Commons for the third time.
52) Boris Johnson claimed that as London Mayor, he built 100,000 more affordable homes than the previous Labour administration
The definition of affordable housing was broadened in 2011 so the figures are not comparable. Johnson actually reduced the target for affordable housing in 2011 from an average of 23,300 a year to 13,200 a year.
The supply of homes let as “social rent” or on “London Affordable Rent” also fell from more than 10,000 a year to just 500 under Johnson.
53) “Let’s get Brexit done and take back control of our fishing waters”
While the UK will cease to be part of the Common Fisheries Policy, its membership of international organisations and the obligations it will have to accept means the UK is not “taking back control” of its fishing waters. The prime minister is misleading fishermen, who were major supporters of Brexit during the referendum.
54) He also backed the infamous claim on the side of the Vote Leave bus in 2016 that the UK was sending £350m a week to the EU, followed by “let’s fund our NHS instead”.
The UK Statistics Authority issued an official statement in May 2016 describing the claim as “misleading”, but Mr Johnson repeated it in an article in the Telegraph in September 2017.
55) Johnson claimed that his previous comments about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was jailed in Tehran in 2016, didn’t “make any difference”.
Nazanin’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe has said that Johnson’s comments enabled a “propaganda campaign” to be run by Iran against Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
56) Boris Johnson said that the Tories will cut business rates in the next Budget
But his election manifesto merely promises a review.
57) Boris Johnson claimed that financial services bring in £72bn in tax.
The House of Commons Library stated that financial services contributed £29bn in tax in the UK in 2017/18.
58) Boris Johnson claimed that he was investing new money in the NHS.
However, the Health Service Journal revealed that the money will come from cash reserves already held by NHS providers, and therefore would not be classified as ‘new’ funding.
59) Labour would cost the country £1.2trillion
The Conservatives briefed out these figures before Labour had even published their manifesto. Many of the pledges they included were not in the manifesto or incorrectly calculated – such as a four-day week starting on day one, not over a decade.
60) Boris Johnson claims that he has never told a lie.
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