Boris Johnson accused of repeatedly citing ‘inaccurate’ child poverty figures

Boris Johnson has repeatedly made misleading claims about the Conservative Party’s record on child poverty since taking office last year, the UK’s statistics watchdog has said.

Both during an interview with Andrew Marr in December and at Prime Minister’s Questions in June, Johnson claimed that the number of families and children in poverty had declined by 400,000 since 2010, the BBC reports. He has also said more recently that there were “100,000 fewer children in absolute poverty”.

The claims led the End Child Poverty Coalition to complain to the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR), which has accused Johnson of using the data “selectively, inaccurately and, ultimately, misleadingly”. 

The OSR told the coalition that their “team investigated the statements which you highlight and has reached the same conclusion that these statements are incorrect”.

Four official measurements are used to assess levels of poverty in the UK, as The Guardian reports: “relative poverty, which records households which have less than 60% of contemporary median income, before and after housing costs; and absolute poverty, which tracks numbers in poverty against a 2010/11 baseline, also before and after housing costs.“  

But the OSR has warned in a blog post that “there is a wrong way of using the available measures – and that is to pick and choose which statistics to use based on what best suits the argument you happen to be making”.

Labour is urging the PM Boris Johnson to “correct the record” on the issue.

“It is shameful the prime minister is unable to tell the truth about the hardship faced by so many families struggling to make ends meet,” said shadow education secretary Kate Green.

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Responding to the criticism, a Downing Street spokesperson referred back to Johnson’s claim last month that as of December, “740,000 fewer children [were] living in a household where no one works”, but did not mention the figures that sparked the complaint.


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