Thursday 31 October 2019 / 10:30 PM Tom Watson

Tom Watson writes to broadcasters to ask them to rise to the challenge of Boris Johnson’s lies

Tom Watson MP, Labour’s Deputy Leader, writes to broadcasters to ask them to rise to the challenge of Boris Johnson’s lies

Tom Watson has written to the broadcasters today highlighting the “serious matter of honesty in public life and trust in politics”. Boris Johnson’s long history of lying and misleading people is well-documented. Over the course of the General Election, Boris Johnson will undoubtedly continue to peddle fake news, lies and distortions.

Tom Watson’s letter – sent to the Director General of the BBC and chief executives of the other major broadcasters – identifies 12 lies that the Tories are likely to use over the course of the General Election.


Tom Watson MP, Labour’s Deputy Leader, said:

“Ensuring honesty in public life is a responsibility that we all share.

“Boris Johnson’s wilful disregard for basic standards of decency are a threat to democracy.

“We appeal to the media to do what they do best and challenge Boris Johnson’s repeated attempts to rely on fake news, lies and distortions.”



Notes to Editors:

A list of all the recent lies Boris Johnson has told can be found here –


The full text of the letter is:


Before the General Election gets underway, I wish to raise with you the serious matter of honesty in public life and trust in politics.


Those of us in politics, whether as politicians or the people who cover what politicians say, have a responsibility to uphold the highest levels of integrity, especially when the public’s trust in the political establishment is so fragile.


All elections, quite rightly, bring an increased focus on politicians and on what they say. Labour relishes the increased scrutiny and welcomes the opportunity to communicate with the electorate about our radical vision for the country. However, this time round we are all facing an unprecedented challenge.


In previous campaigns, there was a reasonable expectation that politicians attempted to abide by relative standards of decency but in Boris Johnson we have a Conservative leader who wilfully ignores those standards.


Boris Johnson’s long history of lying and misleading people is well-documented. Indeed, he has been fired twice for lying, and has lied about everything from his bike to the backstop, from tariffs on socks to the Supreme Court.


The Labour Party will of course forensically scrutinise what Boris Johnson says at the same time as putting forward our alternative vision for the future of our country. However, as I am sure that you would agree, ensuring honesty in public life is a responsibility that we all share. I hope you will therefore endeavour to identify and appropriately challenge fake news, lies and distortions of the truth that Boris Johnson’s campaign will inevitably peddle over the coming weeks.


With this in mind, I have attached a list of the most frequent lies that Johnson has been repeating recently, and I am sure he will continue to try and roll out during the General Election campaign. I hope that you find it a useful resource when he speaks to you in the coming weeks.


Noting the public interest in this matter, I will be making this letter available publicly,


Yours faithfully,


Tom Watson MP, Deputy Leader of The Labour Party





False claims Boris Johnson makes about his own campaign


  1. Claim: Johnson has claimed in Parliament and on social media that his Brexit deal “passed” Parliament.


Twitter: Conservatives, 22 October 2019,


Truth: This is simply not true. It ‘passed’ its Second Reading, the first of a series of Parliamentary stages needed before his deal would become law.


Parliament: European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, 22 October 2019,


  1. Claim: Johnson repeatedly says that his Brexit deal would mean “there will be no checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain”.


Buzzfeed, 23 October 2019,


Truth: The Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, has confirmed Northern Irish firms would have to submit declaration forms on goods entering the rest of the UK. The purpose of those forms is to check businesses are complying with export controls.


BBC News, 22 October 2019, 


  1. Claim: Johnson claims his Brexit deal is a “great new deal”.


Boris Johnson, 17 October 2019,


Truth: The deal is not a new deal. As Philip Hammond, the former Tory Chancellor, said himself at the weekend, “the deal that Boris has done is a deal that was available to Theresa May 15 months ago. A deal that would have split Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.”


Sky News, 28 October 2019,


  1. Claim: Johnson says that an extension to Article 50 would cost a £1 billion a month.


Hansard, 9 September 2019,


Truth: It is deliberately misleading to say an extension costs the UK taxpayer, when the OBR has been clear it does not change the amount the UK is legally required to pay to the EU. Furthermore, the cost of No Deal far outstrips £1 billion a month. The OBR predicts it would cost around £30 billion a year in extra borrowing alone from 2020 onwards. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research also recently said the Boris Johnson’s plan would leave the UK £70 billion worse off a year.


OBR Fiscal risks report, July 2019,


NIESR, 30 October 2019,


  1. Claim: Boris Johnson declared that his government would invest in “the biggest programme of hospital building in a generation” by building 40 new hospitals.


The Telegraph, 29 September 2019,


Truth: Within hours the announcement unravelled, as it became clear that only six new hospitals were earmarked for immediate reconfiguration work. The remaining 34 hospitals will not be able to apply for funding until 2025.


The Mirror, 29 September 2019,    


  1. Claim: Johnson claims the Tories are spending an extra £33 billion on the NHS.



Hansard, 30 September 2019,


Truth: This £33 billion is the figure in cash terms. In real terms it’s £20 billion over a five year period. In four out of five of the years this is still lower than the average historical real terms increase of 3.7%.


IFS, 18 June 2018,



  1. Claim: Boris Johnson is “levelling up” school funding.


Politics Home, 24 July 2019, 


Truth: Boris Johnson’s promise to level-up is in reality just a 13 year real-terms freeze. I In fact four in five state schools in England will be financially worse off next year than they were in 2015. This also does not include other areas which have been cut, including vital services like nursery schools and Sure Start centres or adult learning and training. This pledge also doesn’t cover further education, the area that has sustained the deepest cuts. The Government’s plans will still leave spending per student over 7% below its level in 2010-11 in colleges and over 20% below in sixth forms.


The Guardian, 30 September 2019, 


IFS, Sept 2019,


  1. Claim: Boris Johnson often repeats his claim that as London Mayor the initiatives he introduced to end homelessness were “successful”.


The Sun, 12 September 2019,


Truth: However in 2009, Johnson promised to end rough sleeping in London. By the time he left office in 2016 homelessness had doubled.


DCLG Stats, 25 January 2017,



False claims Boris Johnson makes about Labour’s campaign


  1. Claim: Labour Party will abolish private schools, at a cost to the taxpayer of £7 billion.


“He wants to abolish fee-paying schools, at a cost to the taxpayer of £7 billion. 

25 September 2019, Boris Johnson,


Truth: This is simply not true. Our policy is to immediately close the loopholes enjoyed by private schools and use that money to improve the lives of all children. We will then ask the Social Justice Commission to consider the ways in which we can integrate private schools into the state sector so we can make the whole education system fairer for all children, regardless of their background.


  1. Claim: Labour Party will abolish Ofsted


25 September 2019, Boris Johnson,


Truth: Labour Party will abolish and replace Ofsted. While the Tory Party is consistently trying to push the message that Labour is abolishing inspections of schools. This is not true. Labour will abolish Ofsted and transfer its responsibilities to the experienced and highly respected HM Inspectorate operation within a new National Inspections framework.


  1. Claim: Jeremy Corbyn wants two more referendums


30 October 2019, Hansard,


Truth: It is fantasy and fake news for repeatedly suggesting this. Labour doesn’t want a new Scottish independence poll


  1. Claim: Labour Party will introduce a garden tax


The Express, 4 June 2019,


Truth: This is simply not true. Labour has not discussed a so-called ‘garden tax’, did not have a ‘garden tax’ in its manifesto and will not introduce a ‘garden tax’. Labour will reform the current funding of local government, but we will not introduce any Land Value Tax on residential property.