How accurate were Johnson's Andrew Marr interview claims?

Among PM’s claims was that he is planning largest NHS funding rise ‘in modern memory’

Boris Johnson defended his record during a major setpiece interview with Andrew Marr on the BBC while laying out his election pitch and attacking Labour. But how accurate were his assertions?


The prime minister said he planned a rise in funding for the NHS, worth £34bn, which would be the “largest in modern memory”.


Johnson is correct that the funding boost is the biggest cash increase, worth an additional £34bn a year. Accounting for inflation, it is worth £20.5bn by 2023-24. However, in percentage terms, it is worth about 3.4% more a year on average. This is far from being the biggest increase on record. It is below the 3.5% average annual growth recorded prior to 1979, and far below the 6% average increase in the Blair/Brown years of Labour government. It is also below the 4.3% increase pledged by Labour in its 2019 manifesto.


Johnson claimed “there are 400,000 fewer children in poverty than there were in 2010”.


The prime minister is wrong. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says there has been a “rising tide of child poverty” under the Conservatives. Although relative child poverty initially fell from 3.9 million in 2009-10 to 3.6 million in 2011-12, it has since skyrocketed to 4.1 million according to government statistics. In terms of absolute poverty, a tougher measure of low income, child poverty dropped from 3.9 million to 3.5 million in 2016-17 – which could be the 400,000 Johnson refers to. However, that figure is out of date: absolute child poverty surged by 200,000 in a year to 3.7 million in 2017-18. According to the Resolution Foundation thinktank, child poverty is at risk of rising to a record 60-year high under the Conservative manifesto plans, because it bakes in benefit cuts imposed over the past decade.


Johnson said there would be “no tariffs and no checks” on goods moving from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK after Brexit.


The prime minister’s claim contradicts his Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, who told a Lords committee that businesses in the province would need to complete “exit summary declarations”. While this could mean no physical border checks involved in the arrangements, the new paperwork that must accompany transiting goods is seen by critics as equivalent to erecting a trade barrier between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Barclay had also previously said there would be a need for “minimal, targeted interventions” – in other words, checks.


Johnson said “Jeremy Corbyn would abandon Nato” when asked if he would meet Donald Trump at this week’s Nato summit in London and Hertfordshire.


The Labour leader has been a longstanding critic of Nato, particularly in his time as a backbench MP. He wrote a column in 2012 for the leftwing Morning Star newspaper titled “High time for an end to Nato”. However, in his time as leader he has publicly supported the western military alliance, while official party policy is to maintain Britain’s commitment to Nato – including in the 2019 manifesto.


The prime minister claimed Jeremy Corbyn “wants to scrap MI5”, as he discussed security issues following the London bridge attack.


Johnson appears to have repeated a claim made by his home secretary, Priti Patel, although her accusation was in relation to Diane Abbott. Writing in the Sun on Sunday, she said Abbott had called for “the abolition of conspiratorial groups like MI5”. The argument is old and disputed ground: in 2017 Abbott was asked by Marr about a parliamentary motion she signed in 1989 that called for the “abolition of conspiratorial groups like MI5 and special branch”. She told Marr: “At that time I and a lot of people felt MI5 needed reforming. It has since been reformed and of course I would not call for its abolition now.” Corbyn does not appear to have made any such similar statement, while Labour’s manifesto commits to “ensure closer counter-terrorism coordination between the police and the security services”.


Richard Partington

The GuardianTramp

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