Boris Johnson’s conference speech on vaccines, schools, crime and wages, verified by the facts
The prime minister’s speech was littered with claims that raised questions about their factual accuracy, from vaccines to law and order.
here I runs the rule on the veracity of some of Boris Johnson’s facts.
Claim: ‘It was capitalism that assured us of having a vaccine in less than a year,’ he said as Mr Johnson reheated his criticism that Labor had kept the UK in the European Medicines Agency and “slowed down the deployment of the vaccine”.
Large pharmaceutical companies played a role in the development of the Oxford AstraZeneca inoculation, but research published this year by the university advocacy group Universities Allied for Essential Medicines UK claimed the vaccine was 97% funded by government and only 2% came from the private sector.
Technically, the UK could have started buying vaccines if it was still part of the European Medicines Agency, but in reality it would have stuck with the bloc’s multilateral approach to buying vaccines.
Verdict: Mr Johnson did not tell the whole story with his arguments, but there is a kernel of truth in each of his claims.
Claim: He said students at Islington schools “run races where no one really wins”, adding that the highly successful East London academy, Brampton Manor, is a school that “now sends more children to Oxbridge than to Eton” and “anyone can send their children to”.
It is unclear how far Mr Johnson is referring in regards to school sports, but all schools have fully competitive school sports days in England as part of the government’s own school sports plan, and since 2010 the Tories ensure that school sports are competitive.
While anyone can apply to send their children to school living in the area, its sixth form is very selective with 3,000 students applying for only 300 places.
Verdict: The Prime Minister could be accused of being a little liberal with the truth here.
Claim: “Crime has declined and not only, for that matter, because we have taken the precaution of locking up the public for a good part of the last 18 months.
According to data from the Office for National Statistics in March 2021, the pattern of crime has been significantly altered by the foreclosure measures, but overall crime has not declined.
There have been declines in the number of certain types of crime such as theft, gun offenses and knife crime, but this was offset by a 36% increase in fraud and cybercrime.
There has been a long-term downward trend in crime since the 1990s despite a significant increase in fraud and computer misuse.
The rate of decline has slowed over the past decade, and some offenses – like knife-related crime – have increased in the years leading up to the pandemic.
Verdict: Overall crime levels have not declined over the past year, but the long-term downward trend in crime has continued, albeit at a slower pace.
Claim: “After years of stagnation – more than a decade – wages are increasing faster than before the start of the pandemic […] with the fastest growing wages for those with the lowest incomes.
Real wages fell for five years after the 2008 financial crash and followed a general upward trend for the next five years – so there has been little improvement over the past decade.
The most recent data from the ONS shows that the annual growth in average weekly earnings in the UK has peaked in 20 years this year.
But those numbers have been distorted and inflated due to the instability caused by the pandemic as people return to work after their leave.
The Bank of England estimates underlying wage growth at 3.3%, which is well below the official figure of 7.2% and likely below inflation by the end of the year .
Verdict: Wages have gone down and then increased over the past decade – this included a gradual increase in low-wage wages that began years before Mr Johnson became Prime Minister.