Boris squirms as he is grilled about pensioner who rides bus all day to keep warm

3 May 2022, 09:58 | Updated: 3 May 2022, 16:49

Boris Johnson has been challenged on the cost of living crisis.
Boris Johnson has been challenged on the cost of living crisis. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Boris Johnson appeared uncomfortable as he was challenged about a heartbreaking story of a pensioner riding buses all day because she can't afford to heat her home.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The Prime Minister has admitted there is more the Government can do to ease the burden of the cost of living crisis, as he faced calls to go further to support those who are struggling to heat their homes and put food on their plates.

He was challenged about the story of Elsie, a 77-year-old pensioner, who rides buses all day because she can’t afford to heat her home.

The widow, who lives in a council house, has cut down to one meal a day after seeing her energy bill increase from £17 to £85 a month.

She receives a pension of £170 a week.

Asked what Elsie should cut back on now, the Prime Minister said "I don't want Elsie to cut back on anything", in an interview with Good Morning Britain.

He added: "The 24-hour freedom bus pass was actually something that I actually introduced."

Read more: Revealed: Struggling families see energy bills soar by 350% in cost of living 'loophole'

Read more: Annual MOT could be axed to ease cost of living crisis saving hard-pressed motorists £27

Boris Johnson has been challenged on the cost of living crisis.
Boris Johnson has been challenged on the cost of living crisis. Picture: Alamy

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, described the Prime Minister's response to Elsie's story as "out of touch".

“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," he said.

“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.

“A vote for Labour on Thursday is a vote to send the Conservatives a message they can't ignore about why we need a windfall tax to provide real help to families facing the Conservatives’ cost of living crisis.”

The Prime Minister warned that increasing Government spending to prop up household finances could fuel inflation rising even faster.

"If you put a windfall tax on the energy companies, what that means is that you discourage them from making the investments that we want to see that will, in the end, keep energy price prices lower for everybody."

Challenged about benefits failing to keep pace with rising inflation, he said: "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."

Mr Johnson said there are "plenty of things more that we are doing", adding: "What we want to do is make sure that we have people who are in particular hardship looked after by their councils, so we are putting much more money into local councils.

"We have the particular payments to help elderly people in particular with the cost of heating."

He was challenged by Susanna Reid on the £9billion package of loans to cut energy bills and council tax rebates, amid calls for him to go further.

"I accept that those contributions from the taxpayer - because that's what it is, taxpayers' money - isn't going to be enough immediately to cover everybody's costs," Mr Johnson said.

Put to him that that means the Government is not doing everything it can, Mr Johnson admitted: "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."

An elderly woman boards a bus (stock image).
An elderly woman boards a bus (stock image). Picture: Alamy

Challenged about benefits failing to keep pace with rising inflation, he said: "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."

Mr Johnson was also challenged on everything from Partygate to allegations in the House of Commons of bullying and sexism.

He insisted he is an "honest" politician as he admitted being "inadvertently" wrong in his comments to Parliament about the partygate row.

He added: "I do my best to represent faithfully and accurately what I believe, and sometimes it's controversial and sometimes it offends people, but that's what I do."

In response to a suggestion that some people believe he is a liar, Mr Johnson said: "If you are talking about the statements I've made in the House of Commons, I was inadvertently... I was wrong and I've apologised for that."