Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Keir Starmer

“[UK] debt is falling”

PM Rishi Sunak, X Post

Facts

In a video shared on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s X account, coinciding with the King’s Speech, Sunak stated that “debt is falling.”

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.

Downing Street later told Politico that Sunak meant to say that debt is “forecast” to fall.

Verdict

Debt is not currently falling nor is it forecast to fall.

At the time of writing [12/02/24], Sunak has left the misleading video on his X profile, even though Downing Street recognises it is wrong. Sunak, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer with a deep understanding of finance stretching back to his days at Goldman Sachs, was not making a mistake. We regard his claim that “debt is falling” as a cynical and straightforward lie to his 2.3 million X followers, all the more so because the video remains online. 

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

Published 28 Jun 2024
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