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Boris Johnson LIVE: Latest updates as Prime Minister addresses Conservative Party Conference
Boris Johnson said he would unleash the “unique spirit” of the country as he set out on the “difficult” process of reshaping the British economy.
The Prime Minister used his Conservative Party conference speech to say he has the “guts” to reshape society, addressing issues which had been dodged by previous administrations.
With shortages of lorry drivers and other workers hitting supply chains, leading to empty shelves and queues at petrol stations, Mr Johnson defended his strategy of restricting the supply of cheap foreign labour after Brexit.
And despite a looming National Insurance rise for millions of workers in April to fund a £12 billion annual investment in health and social care, Mr Johnson insisted his new approach would ultimately create a “low-tax economy”.
“That’s the direction in which the country is going now – towards a high-wage, high-skilled, high-productivity and, yes, thereby a low-tax economy. That is what the people of this country need and deserve.
“Yes, it will take time, and sometimes it will be difficult, but that is the change that people voted for in 2016.”
Setting out the need for the health tax hike, Mr Johnson said: “We have a huge hole in the public finances, we spent £407 billion on Covid support and our debt now stands at over £2 trillion, and waiting lists will almost certainly go up before they come down.
“Covid pushed out the great bow wave of cases and people did not or could not seek help, and that wave is now coming back – a tide of anxiety washing into every A&E and every GP.
“Your hip replacement, your mother’s surgery … and this is the priority of the British people.”
The rising tax burden has caused concern among the Tories, but Mr Johnson told activists in Manchester: “I can tell you – Margaret Thatcher would not have ignored the meteorite that has just crashed through the public finances.
“She would have wagged her finger and said: ‘More borrowing now is just higher interest rates, and even higher taxes later.’”
The 44-minute keynote address came as the Government implemented its £20-a-week cut in universal credit as the temporary uplift in the benefit over the pandemic ended.
Mr Johnson used his speech to spell out what his “levelling-up” agenda means.
“The idea in a nutshell is you will find talent, genius, care, imagination and enthusiasm everywhere in this country, all of them evenly distributed – but opportunity is not,” said Mr Johnson.
“Our mission as Conservatives is to promote opportunity with every tool we have.”
He promised a “levelling-up premium” of up to £3,000 to get “the best maths and science teachers to the places that need them most” to boost the life chances of children from poorer areas.
The Prime Minister said Team GB’s second place in the Paralympics medal table demonstrated a country that was “proud to be a trailblazer” and “to judge people not by where they come from but by their spirit, what is inside them”.
“That is the spirit that is the same across this country in every town and village, that can be found in the hearts and minds of kids growing up everywhere, and that is the spirit we are going to unleash,” the Prime Minister said.
Boris Johnson said he wants to “unleash” the “spirit” of the nation.
He told the Tory conference about the spirit of NHS nurses, entrepreneurs, the England football team, Olympians, Paralympians and tennis star Emma Raducanu.
“Not only the achievement of those elite athletes but a country that is proud to be a trailblazer, to judge people not by where they come from but by their spirit, by what is inside them,” he said.
“That is the spirit that is the same across this country, in every town and village and city that can be found in the hearts and minds of kids growing up everywhere and that is the spirit we are going to unleash.”
Boris Johnson said the Tories would “defend” the UK’s history, but “not because we’re proud of everything”.
He told the Tory conference that when some began to “attack Churchill as a racist I was minded to ignore them” as he warned they were trying to “rewrite our national story”.
He added: “We really are at risk of a kind of know nothing, cancel culture iconoclasm and so we Conservatives will defend our history and cultural heritage.
“Not because we’re proud of everything but because trying to edit it now is as dishonest as a celebrity trying furtively to change his entry in Wikipedia and it’s a betrayal of our children’s education.”
The Prime Minister was critical of Labour’s performance during the pandemic, accusing the Opposition party of “flapping”.
Boris Johnson told the Conservative conference in Manchester his party was “radical” against a “tired old Labour”.
He added: “Did you see them last week, did you watch them last week in Brighton? Hopelessly divided, I thought they looked.
“Their leader (Sir Keir Starmer) looked like a seriously rattled bus conductor, pushed this way and that by a Corbynista mob, sellotaped-spectacled soggy lot.
“Remember Labour’s performance during the pandemic? Flapping with the conviction of a damp tea towel.
“They refused to say that schools were safe, they would have kept us in the European Medicines Agency and slammed the brakes on the vaccine rollout, and the Labour leader attacked the vaccine taskforce for spending money on outreach to vaccine-hesitant minority groups.”
Boris Johnson spoke about “build back burger” and the “raucous caucus from the anti-Aukus caucus” in a speech punctuated with jokey slogans rather than new policies.
On trade deals, the Prime Minister said: “After decades of bewildering refusal, we have persuaded the Americans to import prime British beef – a market already worth £66 million.
“Build back burger, I say.”
On the new Australia, UK and US defence pact (Aukus), Mr Johnson said: “If you want a supreme example of global Britain in action, something daring and brilliant that would simply not have happened if we remained in the EU, I give you Aukus.
“An idea so transparently right that Labour conference voted overwhelmingly against it.
“I know there has been a certain raucous caucus from the anti-Aukus caucus but Aukus is simply a recognition of the reality that the world is tilting on its economic axis and our trade and relations in the Indo-Pacific are becoming more vital more than ever before.”
The Prime Minister hailed the role of the private sector in creating coronavirus vaccines, including the AstraZeneca jab.
“It was not the Government that made the wonder drug, it wasn’t brewed in … the Department of Health – of course it was Oxford University, but it was the private sector that made it possible,” Boris Johnson said.
“Behind those vaccines are companies and shareholders and, yes, bankers – you need the deep pools of liquidity that are to be found in the City of London.
“It was capitalism that ensured we had the vaccine investment.
“The answer, therefore, is not to attack the wealthy elitists, it is to encourage them,” he argued, saying the money they create helps to “level up everywhere”.