Boris Johnson has pledged loyalty to his successor Liz Truss in a valedictory speech tinged with a lingering bitterness over his downfall.
The outgoing prime minister hinted that he intends to fade quietly into the background for now, comparing himself to Cincinnatus, a Roman statesman who – according to legend – returned to his farm after triumphing in battle.
He said he is like “one of those booster rockets that has fulfilled its function”, and will now be “gently re-entering the atmosphere and splashing down invisibly in some remote and obscure corner of the Pacific”.
“Like Cincinnatus, I am returning to my plough and I will be offering this Government nothing but the most fervent support,” he added.
Huge manifesto commitments
The former prime minister also said his government was delivering on its “huge manifesto commitments”.
He made a series of claims – about its record on police, nurses, hospitals and, of course, Brexit, which have been examined by BBC Reality Check.
They found the speech to be riddled with inaccuracies, including claims that “three new high-speed rail lines” will be built.
The government promised to build two major rail projects, High Speed 2 (HS2) and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), but according to the BBC, there are no details of a third high-speed line.
What’s more, HS2 will now run between London, Birmingham and Manchester after the government cancelled most of the eastern section between Birmingham and Leeds.
And the so-called Integrated Rail plan will mainly consist of upgrades, rather than new line.
Hospitals and police
Concerning police, Johnson was right to say there are now 13,790 more police on the streets, but he chose not to mention that they had promised 20,000 by 2023 – only a few months away – and that was to account for police numbers falling by 20,545 between March 2010 and March 2019 under Conservative-led governments.
He made similarly spurious claims about nursing, saying there would be 50,000 nurses by the end of this parliament.
The latest figures show 319,846 full-time equivalent NHS nurses and health visitors in May 2022. That is up 23,753 since December 2019.
So, there are still 26,247 posts to fill.
Another government pledge – to recruit 6,000 more GPs by 2025 – wasn’t mentioned by Mr Johnson.
He did, however, mention that 40 new hospitals will be built by the end of the decade.
In December 2021, an analysis done by Reality Check and the Nuffield Trust found that of the 40 projects in England :
- three were entirely new hospitals
- three involved rebuilding non-urgent care hospitals
- 12 were new wings within existing hospitals
- 22 were rebuilding projects
That sounds significantly less impressive, by all accounts.