Boris Johnson has taken credit for introducing free bus passes for pensioners, after being told one elderly woman spends all day on the bus to keep warm.
In a combative interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Tuesday morning, the prime minister was challenged over the cost of living crisis hitting many people across the country.
Presenter Susanna Reid told Johnson about Elsie, a 77-year-old widow, who has seen her energy bills rise from £17 a month to £85 a month.
“To cut down on spending, Elsie has now resorted to eating one meal a day. She’s 77-years-old. She’s losing weight,” Reid said.
“She gets up early in the morning to use her freedom bus pass to stay on buses all day to avoid using energy at home. What else should Elsie cut back on?”
Johnson said he did not want Elsie to cut back on “anything”, before adding: “Just to remind you, the 24-hour freedom bus pass was something I actually introduced.”
Reid replied: “So Elsie should be grateful?”
As London mayor in 2012, Johnson moved to ensure people aged 60 and over were entitled to free travel around the city, after the age at which people were eligible began to creep upwards.
Jon Ashworth, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “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.
“For Boris Johnson to respond by boasting about the London bus pass reveals just how out of touch this narcissistic Prime Minister is.”
The government has set out a £9 billion package of loans to cut energy bills and council tax rebates, but the PM faces calls to go further.
Johnson insisted his government was doing “everything we can” to help with the cost-of-living crisis.
He warned that increasing state support beyond its current levels could drive inflation even higher.
And Johnson said there was “global context” caused by a surge in energy prices which is hitting all aspects of the economy including food, adding: “The cost of chickens is crazy.”
Labour has called for a windfall tax on on oil and gas firms to provide more direct help for cash-strapped households and businesses.
Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that price rises were the “single most pressing issue keeping people up at night”.