Eight false claims made in Boris Johnson’s Conservative party conference speech

Not for the first time, the prime minister delivered a major speech that was economical with the truth

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 06 October 2021 18:56
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Boris Johnson launches tirade against Keir Starmer at Conservative conference

Rich with jokes but devoid of new policy announcements – or a plan for “levelling up” – Boris Johnson’s crowd-pleasing Manchester speech was also peppered with inaccuracies.

The claim:

“After years of stagnation – more than a decade – wages are going up, faster than before the pandemic began.”

The reality:

The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies says wages are rising no faster than in recent years. Furthermore – while pay is up by about four per cent – inflation is above three per cent, so there is no “significant wage growth”.

The claim:

“We will make this country an even more attractive destination for foreign direct investment. We are already the number one.”

The reality:

Last month’s UN World Investment Report said foreign investment had “declined for the second year in a row” – leaving the UK the 16th largest recipient, down “five positions”.

The claim:

“It was not the government that made the wonder drug. It was capitalism that ensured that we had a vaccine in less than a year.”

The reality:

The AstraZeneca jab was made by scientists at Oxford University through a programme that was overwhelmingly funded by taxpayers and charities, with less than two per cent from private funding.

The claim:

“We are going to use our Brexit freedoms to do things differently… we have seen off the European Super League and protected grassroots football. We are doing at least eight freeports.”

The reality:

The Super League had nothing to do with the EU or Brexit, it was a private venture, while freeports were entirely possible as an EU member. In fact, the UK used to have seven.

The claim:

“We have done 68 free-trade deals.”

The reality:

All but two are “rollovers” of deals that the UK already enjoyed as an EU member. The Japan deal added no significant extra, trade experts found, while the agreement with the EU itself is vastly inferior, causing a massive slump in exports.

The claim:

“This party that has looked after the NHS for most of its history should be the one to rise to the challenge – 48 new hospitals.”

The reality:

Many of the 48 promised are new units at existing hospitals, or major refurbishments of them, while others are rebuilds of community hospitals. In August, it was revealed that NHS bosses had been ordered to describe all such projects as “a new hospital”.

The claim:

“When I stood on the steps of Downing Street, I promised to fix this [social care] crisis. This government… is going to get social care done.”

The reality:

In that speech in July 2019, the prime minister said he already had “a clear plan we have prepared”. The plan took two years to emerge and the vast majority of new funding will go to the NHS, not social care

The claim:

Labour “decided to oppose step four of the roadmap in July”, which would have meant the UK “would still be in lockdown”.

The reality:

Labour supported the lifting of social distancing restrictions – the key aspect of step four – reserving its criticism for ending the requirement to wear masks in crowded indoor settings and the lifting of work-from-home guidance.

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