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Boris Johnson wrongly denies saying there was no need to fear soaring inflation

Prime minister refuses to correct Commons record – despite saying, in October, that worries were ‘unfounded’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 05 January 2022 16:41 GMT
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Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, accused Mr Johnson of getting it ‘so wrong’ by dismissing fears of rising prices
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, accused Mr Johnson of getting it ‘so wrong’ by dismissing fears of rising prices (Reuters TV)

Boris Johnson has wrongly denied saying there was no need to worry about soaring inflation, despite saying fears were “unfounded” just 3 months ago.

The prime minister was urged to correct the record when it was pointed out that his claim was untrue, but declined to do so in the House of Commons.

The controversy blew up when Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, accused Mr Johnson of getting it “so wrong” when, in October, he dismissed fears that prices are on the rise.

Interviewed on Sky News, he was asked “are you worried about inflation?” but insisted he was focused instead on prospects for “robust economic growth”.

“People have been worried about inflation for a very long time and those fears have been unfounded,” the prime minister said, after inflation was tipped to hit 5 per cent – with 6 per cent now forecast.

In the Commons, Ms Rayner – standing in for the Covid-stricken Keir Starmer – reminded Mr Johnson of his remark, amid growing fears of a cost-of-living crisis.

“In October, the prime minister said that fears about inflation were unfounded, but working people across the country are starting the new year facing rising bills and ballooning prices, so how did he get it so wrong?” she asked.

He replied: “Of course, I said no such thing, because inflation is always something that we have to be careful about.

“But what we are doing is making sure that we protect the people of this country throughout what is unquestionably going to be a difficult period – and that’s why we are ensuring that we’ve lifted the living wage by record sums, we make sure people have cold weather payments, making sure that they have the warm homes discount.”

After prime minister’s questions, Ms Rayner rose again to ask Mr Johnson if he would “like to correct the record”, but he declined to do so.

In an error-ridden 40 minutes, the prime minister also lashed out at Labour for wanting tough new restrictions to combat the Omicron variant, when the party did not argue for them.

He also claimed Labour wants to rejoin the EU and that “poverty is down”, when the numbers living in relative poverty have risen sharply in recent years.

Twice, Mr Johnson claimed that warm home discount, to help with energy bills, is worth £140 per week – when the benefit actually pays £140 each year.

The inflation rate is currently 5.1 per cent, but the Bank of England has predicted it will peak at 6 per cent in April – the highest figure since 1992.

That would be three times the official 2 per cent target, above which the chancellor is required to write an official letter to the Bank defending the disparity.

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