Has Boris Johnson kept 9 out of 10 manifesto promises?

30 April 2012

"I want my promises to be judged by the determination and success with which I fulfilled the promises I made to Londoners in 2008... with a 91% success rate, I believe that overall it is a record of substantial accomplishment"

Boris Johnson, 14 March 2012

"Tory Boris Johnson's broken promises are being felt by millions of Londoners but they can't pull the wool over Londoners' eyes forever...[our analysis] shows that he has broken at least 57% of his 2008 promises"

Ken Livingstone, campaign website, 2012

With just days to go before the polls open for the 2012 London Mayoral election, one of the most contentious issues of the election campaign continues to cause friction between the main campaigns.

Last month Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson released a Progress Report in which he listed promises made in his 2008 Manifesto, claiming that 91 per cent had been successfully delivered.

Not true, according to Ken Livingstone. His campaign then released a document of their own outlining the "Tory Mayor Boris Johnson's Broken Promises". They claimed Boris had, in fact, broken at least 57 per cent of his manifesto promises.

This promises to cause a great deal of confusion. Full Fact checked both sides of the argument.

Analysis: Boris

News outlets who have reported Boris' 91 per cent promise mention that this comes from a list of 108 promises, of which 98 have supposedly been kept.

These figures are not obvious when looking at the Progress Report itself. The report contains a list of no fewer than 135 promises, which are drawn directly from bullet points at the start of each policy section of Boris's 2008 manifesto.

However several of the promises are repeats of each other. For example, the manifesto includes the pledge "I will Chair the Metropolitan Police Authority" in both the "Making London Safer" and "Appreciating our Seniors" sections of the 2008 manifesto.

Filtering these duplicates out reduces the total number of unique statements to 108 - as mentioned in the reports. However in three of these cases there are two identifiable promises, so Full Fact has indentified 111 distinct promises.

Here is how Boris evaluates those 111 promises:

In some cases, he claims that a promise has been delivered via a "revised approach", meaning a different result could have been delivered to what was originally promised. Whether or not this should be counted as a pledge fulfilled depends largely on whether we take Boris's promise on the letter or the spirit of his pledges.

For example, Boris did make himself Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, but later stood down and was superseded by his Deputy Kit Malthouse, although since then the MPA itself has been abolished and replaced with the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.

In several cases he also admits to "making progress" which in some cases does appear to euphemise having not yet fulfilled a pledge.

Finally there are five pledges on which he openly admits to failure: 

1) Introduce an automatic one-off Council Tax rebate to encourage home insulation, making homes warmer and more environmentally friendly;

2) I want to see the Tube open one hour later on Friday and Saturday nights;

3) I will allow Londoners to set up a direct debit to renew their travelcards;

4) I will seek to negotiate, in good faith, no strike deals with the Tube unions to end the disruption caused by unnecessary strikes;

5) I will seek to re-instate tidal flow at the Blackwall tunnel, to ease congestion in South East London.

Analysis: Ken

Ken Livingstone's campaign identifies 113 separate promises in Boris's manifesto - a more loose interpretation of which pledges are duplicates. Of these they claim only 48 have definitely been delivered.

However Ken's campaign also cite 21 additional promises that Boris's campaign failed to address in their Progress Report - none of which have been 'delivered'. These are taken not from the bullet point pledges from the 2008 manifesto, but from within the body of the manifesto itself.

Here is how Ken's campaign evaluate the same 111 distinct promises as we showed above:

Some of the supposedly broken promises 'not mentioned' do appear to be valid criticisms of Boris's record. For instance, "banning the supply of bottled water immediately in City Hall" does not appear to have taken place.

However while these examples may bolster the array of 'broken promises' that Ken can point to, we don't know if a similar analsysis of the detail of Boris's 2008 manifesto might produce an equally large crop of pledges that were eventually met. For this reason we've restricted our analysis to those promises analysed by both candidates.

Analysis: Both campaigns

In spite of the differences in opinion between the two campaigns, there are areas on which there is agreement. 53 of the 111 distinct claims were evaluated the same way by both sides. However, unsurprisingly, the other 58 saw the Ken campaign disputing the positive conclusion arrived at by Boris's team.

In these cases, Full Fact has looked at the evidence produced by both sides to see whether we can truly say that a promise was kept or broken. We categorised the pledges as follows:

Boris claims that he has upheld 96 of his 2008 election pledges, while Ken suggested the true figure was 48. Our analysis suggested that we can reasonably say that 72 promises were kept by the incumbent Mayor, a figure that (entirely coincidentally) is precisely halfway between the two.

In 12 cases we felt there was insufficient evidence for Boris's team to claim that the promise had been kept, while it was arguable for a further 27 pledges whether the Mayor had discharged his promise.

However what this quantitative analysis hides is that in a large number of these cases the promise is so vague that it is almost glib to argue about whether or not it has been kept. For example, in 2008 Boris pledged to "support a ban on plastic bags in London." Labour argues that, because plastic bags are still widely available in the capital, this promise has not been met. However Boris's team can point out that he only pledged to "support" a ban, rather than to definitively create one, and put forward a number of examples of the Mayor speaking in support of the idea as evidence that it has been met.


 In other cases it is stretching credulity for Boris to claim that his manifesto pledge has been met. For example, he considers that he has already delivered on his promise to "stand only for two terms" despite the fact he would only begin his second term on Friday, meaning we can't fully verify this pledge for another four years.

Similarly, Boris claims that his pledge to "create a Cabinet for London, to run London in a more business-like and efficient manner" has been met via a 'revised approach'. This revised approach seems to be to not actually create a Cabinet for London. Instead, the Progress Report gives examples of how the Greater London Authority runs more openly and efficiently without this change of direction.


While we found that only 11 per cent of Boris's promises could be definitively shown to have been broken, there was enough evidence to suggest that at least 65 per cent had been kept. The remaining 24 per cent could be argued either way.

Labour points out that there may be as many as 21 further promises in Boris's manfiesto that have been broken but not included in the Mayor's analysis, as they appeared in the body rather than the bullet pointed 'key points' of that document. While this may be true, we don't know if an analysis in this detail would throw up other examples of promises kept too.

However perhaps the more salient point is whether this numerical analysis actually tells us anything useful. A large number refer to vague intentions - such as the pledge to "listen to employers and Londoners" - rather than identifiable outcomes. In these cases it is easy to argue the case either way, without providing voters with much in the way of useful information.

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