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Boris Johnson: I’m not fleecing voters with 50,000 nurses

Wool, I never: Boris Johnson tries his hand at sheep shearing at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair yesterday PICTURE: AP

BORIS JOHNSON has defended his General Election pledge to deliver 50,000 more nurses after it emerged just 19,000 new ones will be trained.

The veracity of the prime minister’s manifesto promise was called into question as it included encouraging 19,000 current nurses to stay in the profession and recruiting a further 12,000 from abroad.

It means 19,000 posts would be filled by new nurse trainees enjoying the return of maintenance grants — bursaries scrapped by former Conservative chancellor George Osborne.

Launching the Tory Party’s Wales manifesto in Bangor-on-Dee yesterday, Mr Johnson was asked if he was trying a ‘sleight of hand’ with the numbers after his announcement of 50,000 extra nurses for the NHS.

He said: ‘These are 50,000 more nurses and that’s because obviously if you don’t retain nurses, you’re right to point to the numbers that would otherwise leave nursing.

‘There will be 50,000 more nurses as a result of the investments we’re making. If we weren’t doing this, we would have 50,000 fewer nurses.’ Mr Johnson’s maths came under the spotlight as an ICM poll for Reuters showed the Tories lead over Labour had narrowed to just seven points, with the Conservatives down one point to 41 per cent and the opposition up two at 34 per cent.

But a monthly poll of polls gave the Tories a 13-point lead over Labour.

Mr Johnson’s visit to Wales began in Powys at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Llanelwedd, where he helped shear a sheep. He told farmers his Brexit deal would keep farming ‘absolutely protected’. And he vowed to ‘unleash a tide of investment’ in Wales.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives will today claim that holding two referendums in 2020 will cost taxpayers more than £150million.

The party claims Mr Corbyn is planning both another EU referendum and a Scottish independence vote.