How well do Boris Johnson’s claims stack up against reality?

Tory leadership favourite could be party leader and PM in just over three weeks time

Despite enduring a tumultuous week, Boris Johnson remains the overwhelming favourite to become the next Conservative leader, and thus prime minister, in just over three weeks from now. So what can we expect from a Johnson premiership, based on his claimed past record and promises on the campaign trail?

Success as foreign secretary

What he has claimed: When Johnson has talked about his time in the Foreign Office, he has mainly pointed to the UKs success in persuading other nations to expel Russian diplomats following the Sergei Skripal poisoning.

The reality: The Skripal aftermath is hard to assess such efforts are international, and span dozens of officials and ministers but critics would point to Johnsons otherwise very mixed record in the job, notably his gaffes over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Crime

What he has claimed: Johnson has mainly talked up his eight years as London mayor, from 2008, saying he halved the citys murder rate and reduced knife crime.

The reality: Much more mixed. London had 155 murders in 2008 and 109 in 2016. Even at the lowest level, of 94 in 2016, this is a 40% reduction. The number for total knife crimes in the city varied, but was almost the same when he left office as in 2008.

Poverty

What he has claimed: Johnson has said, several times, that he tackled poverty as mayor, such that while in 2008 the city had four of the six poorest boroughs in the UK, after his two terms, no London boroughs were in the top 20.

The reality: Hard to tell, as it is not clear what measure of poverty is being described. The most common on a borough-wide level is known as index of multiple deprivation, but these are just for England, and the results do not match the claims. London did become wealthier overall during Johnsons time in charge, but inequalities also increased.

Olympics

What he has claimed: He has repeatedly called the 2012 Olympics in London a huge success, implicitly claiming credit.

The reality: The Games were seen as going well but much of the planning was already in place before Johnson took over. In contrast, the aftermath has been more mixed, notably the 300m or so of costs to convert the main stadium for use by West Ham United.

Garden bridge

What he has claimed: Johnson has argued the abandoned plan for a park-meets-bridge across the Thames would have been a triumph had his successor as mayor, Sadiq Khan, not pulled the plug on the project.

The reality: The business and transport cases for the bridge were always hugely weak, and the project only lasted as long as it did because of Johnsons patronage. Johnson also has yet to answer questions over decisions he made allowing the charity behind the project to spend huge amounts of public money before planning consents were completed, which resulted in losses rising above 40m.

Brexit

What he has promised: To swiftly negotiate a new withdrawal agreement with the EU, at the same time ramping up no-deal preparations to ensure departure on 31 October.

Does it stack up: The EU has repeatedly insisted it will not reopen the withdrawal agreement, and even if it did, the timetable is hideously tight. Even a no-deal Brexit looks very problematic, with a number of Tory MPs saying they would rather vote down a Johnson government than see it happen.

Tariffs

What he has promised: To seek to avoid any new tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit by using the so-called Gatt 24 article 24 of the general agreement on tariffs and trade to secure a temporary standstill while details of a new trade deal are hammered out.

Does it stack up: Not really, as for Gatt 24 to take hold, both sides must agree to it. Ardent Brexiters insist all will be fine, but they are flatly contradicted by most others, including the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, and the international trade secretary, Liam Fox.

Irish border

What he has promised: To ensure there is no hard Irish border, even in a no-deal scenario, through so-called alternative arrangements technological approaches by which customs and regulations checks would take place automatically, or away from the frontier.

Does it stack up: Not for now the consensus among experts (and the EU) is that such technology is several years away from being useable, and there is not the slightest chance of a system being in place for 31 October.

Tax

What he has promised: To increase the threshold for the higher 40% rate of income tax from 50,000 to 80,000.

Does it stack up: While allies such as Liz Truss still vigorously defend the plan, it looks politically curious to prioritise something that would cost 9bn a year and most benefit the richest 10% of people. Johnson has now started talking more eagerly about a wider, more progressive overall tax plan.

Schools

What he has promised: At a hustings event on Thursday evening, Johnson promised to increase education spending by 5bn a year.

Does it stack up: It can be done, of course, but the extra Johnson plans to spend on schools seems to go up by the week, and must be seen in the context of his other promises on tax cuts.

High streets

What he has promised: To rescue the UKs shopping streets through measures such as planning tweaks to make it easier to change the use of a building, and ending business rates on free-to-use cash machines.

Does it stack up: It might not do any harm, but in the wider context of failing town centres and the growth of internet shopping, it feels like little more than a sticking plaster.

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