LONDON — Add to the list of campaign-trail promises dropped by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this prediction as Britain hurtles toward a pivotal election on Thursday: Brexit will birth a baby boom if he remains in office.
Mr. Johnson, who has characterized a vote for his Conservative Party as the only way “to get Brexit done,” made the head-scratching utterance in an interview published by The Sunday Times of London this weekend.
He suggested that the British would rush to procreate after the country left the European Union and the results would mirror a supposed baby boom in 2012, which he attributed to the London Olympics that year, when he was the city’s mayor.
“Cupid’s darts will fly once we get Brexit done,” he was quoted as saying. “Romance will bloom across the whole nation. There was one after the Olympics, as I correctly prophesied in a speech in 2012, it was quite amazing. There was a big baby boom.”
The remarks occurred amid a fevered, last-minute dash across the country by politicians to persuade voters ahead of Election Day.
But the baby-boom prediction stood out in an election campaign that has been overshadowed by scandals and concerns, including fears of Russian interference in the vote; accusations that the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has failed to tackle the scourge of anti-Semitism in his Labour Party; claims about dirty tricks by Mr. Johnson’s party; and Labour’s unveiling of leaked documents purporting to show that the National Health Service would be up for discussion in a post-Brexit British-American trade deal, even though Mr. Johnson has vowed that it would not.
Mr. Johnson made his claims the same day he promised to limit immigration if his party gained a majority, by making it harder for “unskilled workers” to enter Britain. But the Brexit babies comments were indicative of Mr. Johnson’s proclivity for making outlandish, often-dubious, claims that lead to howls of public ridicule or outrage but for which he suffers no real consequence.
For instance, he said in a 2013 interview with “Voices From Oxford” when he was mayor of London that female suffrage happened only because men realized that women could “run them down” with cars. “I think that women’s liberation, female suffrage, probably wouldn’t have happened, if it hadn’t been for the motorcar.”
He was also raked over the coals for a 1995 article in which he described the children of single mothers as “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate,” and referred to single mothers as “uppity and irresponsible women.”
In this latest case, a senior reporter at the newspaper that published Mr. Johnson’s prediction, Rosamund Urwin, promptly called it “nonsense” during on a segment on the BBC on Sunday.
There’s one very clear reason to doubt the idea of an Olympic baby boom, as commentators on social media were quick to point out. While 2012 was indeed a big year for British babies — there were 729,674 live births in England and Wales, according to Britain’s Office for National Statistics, the most in over four decades — the London Games were a summer event, too late to affect that total.
Any Olympics-inspired babies would have arrived in 2013, when births declined by more than 30,000.
What’s more, the high in 2012 was not a one-off boom but the culmination of a yearslong trend. “It’s just been gradually building up,” Paul Vickers, a statistician at the O.N.S., told The Guardian at the time.
The uplift was linked to a number of factors, including migration, greater fertility among older women and shifting social attitudes about parenthood, as well as to grandchildren of those born in the post-World War II baby boom reaching childbearing age.
And though its effects are still rippling through British schools, the trend has since gone firmly into reverse. Last year, live births in England and Wales were nearly 10 percent down on the 2012 peak, and the total fertility rate had fallen to 1.7 children per woman, down from 1.94 in 2012.
The Sunday Times also disputed the Olympic angle on the number of babies born in 2012: It said, apparently tongue in cheek, that the cause was said to be the release of the erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Peter Robins contributed reporting.