Boris Johnson is expected to face questions this week over the veracity of his election promises after his manifesto was called into question by Labour and fact-checkers.
The Prime Minister’s pledge of boosting the NHS with another 50,000 nurses secured headlines following the Conservative Party manifesto’s unveiling in Telford in the West Midlands on Sunday.
But Labour said the figure was disingenuous when it included 19,000 nurses who the Tories wanted to re-train, and another 12,000 from overseas.
It means only 19,000 posts would be filled by new nurse trainees enjoying the return of maintenance grants – bursaries scrapped by former Tory chancellor George Osborne.
A Tory source confirmed this following the PM’s speech, telling reporters: “We know that we have an issue with retention of the nursing workforce and so we would have plans to keep more nurses in the profession.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The Conservatives’ claim on nurses is frankly deceitful – the sums simply don’t add up.
“First we had Johnson’s fake 40 new hospitals, now we have his fake 50,000 extra nurses.”
Independent fact-checking organisation Full Fact also pulled the Tory leader up on his claim that his ministers would increase day-to-day government spending by only £3 billion.
The figure is small compared to Labour’s promised £83 billion increase in spending, paid for by higher taxes on big businesses and the highest 5% of earners.
But Full Fact said, despite Chancellor Sajid Javid promising the “most transparent costings that have ever been published in British electoral history”, the Tories had not explained how every pledge in the manifesto would be funded.
“While the Conservatives plan to increase annual current spending by £3 billion compared to what’s already been announced, the Conservatives plan to spend a lot more than £3 billion extra per year than we spend today,” said a Full Fact spokesman.
“For example, the Conservative manifesto spending list omits its headline pledges on school funding, the NHS, and (creating 20,000 more) police officers.”
Chief executive Will Moy said the Conservative Party could “do more to meet the standards we expect” when it came to providing voters with “accurate and honest” information in the run up to polling day on December 12.
As the campaign enters its final two-and-a-half weeks, party leaders are set to see their promises put under the microscope, with forensic interviews by the BBC’s Andrew Neil scheduled.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon will be the first to be quizzed on Monday evening, before the spotlight is put on Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday.
Before then, a former Labour leader will have his say on Mr Johnson’s proposals for Brexit.
Tony Blair is due to give a speech on Monday in which he is expected to brand the PM’s plans “fantasy” and urge voters to think tactically at the upcoming election.
Mr Johnson, in his manifesto-launching speech, said he would “get Brexit done and we will end the acrimony and the chaos”.
But three-times election winner Mr Blair, speaking at a Reuters Newsmaker event, is due to say that the former London mayor’s “cheek is quite breath-taking” and predict that the Brexit talks could go on well beyond the 2020 deadline re-committed to by the Tories.
He will say in his speech that voters should look at this election seat by seat, describing the General Election as “650 mini elections”.
Chuka Umunna, the Liberal Democrat’s foreign affairs spokesman, will issue a similar warning to voters in a bid to get them to switch their allegiance to his party.
Cities of London & Westminster is a two horse race between the surging Liberal Democrats and Boris Johnson's hard Brexit Conservative candidate. Labour are out of the race. To beat the Tories vote for me as the Remain choice. #FBPE#StopBrexitpic.twitter.com/yMkY4VGrWp
— Chuka Umunna (@ChukaUmunna) November 24, 2019
The former Labour man will, in a speech on Monday, warn that Mr Johnson will become Donald Trump’s “poodle” if the Tories win the election and take the UK out of the EU.
It is part of a pitch, sanctioned by Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, to paint the pro-EU party as the only group that can deny Mr Johnson a Commons majority.
Analysis by Datapraxis was released over the weekend showing that if voters switched to the Lib Dems in Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s seat of Esher and Walton, he could be ousted by a Remain alliance.
“There is a real opportunity for Liberal Democrats to win seats from the Conservatives and stop Boris Johnson and his bad Brexit deal,” Ms Swinson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme.
Mr Johnson will resume campaigning in Wales, while Mr Corbyn will be in South Yorkshire discussing Labour’s £58 billion compensation promise to Waspi women who lost out financially when the retirement age was pushed back from 60 to 66.
The Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage is due to campaign in a Leave-voting area of the South West.