Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Keir Starmer

“… national debt [is] on track to fall”

PM Rishi Sunak, Speech on the Loyal Address

Facts

During his Speech on the Loyal Address, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed that “national debt [is] on track to fall.”

There are multiple measures of debt, but the government’s debt targets focus on “public sector net debt excluding the Bank of England” (PSND ex BoE), often described as underlying debt.

Underlying debt rose from £2,129 billion in September 2022 to £2,373 billion in September 2023.

An Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) report published at the end of November 2023 forecasts underlying debt will rise to £3,039 billion by 2028-2029. At no point does underlying debt fall.

Underlying debt is also often quantified as a percentage of GDP. The OBR forecasts underlying debt to rise “from 89% of GDP in 2023-24 to 93.2% in 2026-27. It then declines in the final two years to 92.8% of GDP by 2028-29”. Because the OBR forecast shows no reduction in underlying debt as a cash value, the fall from 93.2% to 92.8% is the result of a rising GDP, not a reduction in debt.

Verdict

The Prime Minister was misleading the public with his strategic use of figures. 

The OBR forecast shows no reduction in underlying debt as a cash value, the fall from 93.2% to 92.8% is the result of a rising GDP, not a reduction in debt. It’s also only a 0.4 percentage point reduction over two years, but after an increase of 4.2 percentage points.

We emailed Rishi Sunak’s office and Downing Street offering them the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply. 

Additional Note

Notice the evolving difference between Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak’s methodology of deceit. Johnson’s lies were often shameless fabrications, for instance the claim of 40 new hospitals.

Sunak’s lies tend to be more subtle, devious, and carefully constructed. They often contain an element of truth, which has been twisted or repackaged to create an entirely false impression in the mind of the voter. To put it another way: there’s something cunning about Sunak’s falsehoods, as if he knows he isn’t quite telling the truth. 

Published 28 Jun 2024
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