Johnson branded ‘out of touch’ after struggling with cost-of-living question

UK prime minister accepts support measures will not cover higher energy bills

Labour has accused UK prime minister Boris Johnson of being narcissistic and out of touch after he struggled to answer questions about how the least-well-off could deal with the cost-of-living crisis. In an interview on ITV's Good Morning Britain, Mr Johnson said the government's support measures would not be enough to cover higher energy bills and increases in council tax.

“Of course that isn’t going to work enough in the short term. There is more that we can do. But the crucial thing is to make sure we deal with the prices over the medium and long term,” he said.

When he was told about a 77-year-old widow called Elsie who had seen her monthly energy bills rise from £15 to £85 and asked what she should cut back on, Mr Johnson said he did not want her to cut back on anything. And when he heard that Elsie was spending her days travelling on buses to reduce the amount she had to spend on energy at home, he boasted that he had introduced the 24-hour Freedom Pass for buses when he was mayor of London.

"It is utterly shameful that pensioners have no choice but to sit on the bus all day to avoid racking up heating bills at home, or are left shivering in blankets and only eating one meal a day," said Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Ashworth.


“For Boris Johnson to respond by boasting about the London bus pass reveals just how out of touch this narcissistic prime minister is. The simple truth is Boris Johnson has just imposed the biggest real-terms cut to the pension in 50 years and charities like Age UK are warning this will be a year of hell for Britain’s retirees.”

Local elections

Labour is trying to focus public attention on the cost-of-living crisis ahead of Thursday’s local elections, which sees all council seats in Scotland and Wales and one in four of those in England up for grabs. Labour has repeated its call for a windfall tax on profits earned by oil and gas companies after BP reported its highest quarterly earnings in more than a decade.

Mr Johnson rejected the proposal, which he said would deter long-term investment in renewable energy, and he warned that government help for those hit hardest by price rises could drive up inflation.

“We have a short-term hit caused by the spike in energy prices across the world. If we respond by driving up prices and costs across the board in this country, responding by the government stepping in and driving up inflation, that will hit everybody and that will mean that people’s interest rates on their mortgages go up, the cost of borrowing goes up and we face an even worse problem,” he said.

The Conservatives have sought to mobilise their base ahead of the election by taking hardline positions on issues such as refugees and transgender rights. But Ruth Davidson, the party's former leader in Scotland, said she wanted to "scold" politicians and journalists who tried to weaponise transgender rights to stoke a culture war.

“Trying to do gotcha questions about who is a woman, who is a man, I’m not sure that helps, particularly for people in the trans community who are looking at the way this is reported, as well as the way policymakers are making decisions,” she said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times