Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sparked criticism for appearing to dismiss life expectancy and cancer death rates when talking about his plan to “level up” Britain.
Johnson made the remarks during an interview with political correspondent Luke Walton on BBC Look North while he was discussing what the term – used in the Tory manifesto when Johnson was elected leader – means for the North of England.
The program reported an increase in child poverty in the northeast, while thousands will be affected by the government’s decision to cut back Universal Credit payments by £20 per week, it said.
During the interview, Johnson said the government will “of course” provide help to families that need it and added how the northeast has “incredible prospects.”
Walton tells Johnson that critics have described the government’s “levelling up” plans as an “empty slogan” because “there is no way of actually measuring it.”
Johnson then interjects, telling the reporter that he had just given him examples. The PM had just explained how “the northeast is still the only part of the UK which is a net exporter” and listed off new investments including the new port at Teesside, “mega investments coming in from Nissen”, the Envision gigafactory as well and the economic campus at Darlington.
Government figures revealed last month that life expectancy for men has fallen for the first time since records began. And, according to Macmillan Cancer Support, more than half a million cancer patients are missing out on vital healthcare support due to severe staff shortages across the NHS.
Moving on, Walton then asks Johnson if he will commit to being judged at the next election on whether his government is able to bring unemployment down in the region.
“I want to see jobs created in the northeast,” the prime minister said, but Walton insisted on a yes or no answer to this metric.
“I will tell you something, the whole government will work its guts out to achieve that.” Johnson replied.
That’s not the yes or no answer Walton was looking for...