Boris Johnson channels spirit of Three Lions and Emma Raducanu as he vows to build fairer Britain
BORIS Johnson gave a gag-filled speech yesterday in which he vowed to “unleash the spirit” of Emma Raducanu, Team GB and the Three Lions in his mission to rebuild Britain.
Addressing the Tory faithful, the Prime Minister set out his vision of “radical and optimistic Conservatism”.
He channelled party titans Maggie Thatcher and Sir Winston Churchill as he promised to fight for all Brits — North and South — with 18-year-old tennis sensation Emma’s “indomitable spirit”.
Mr Johnson said that British spirit must be unlocked across the land — as he hammered home his “levelling up promise”.
Wife Carrie was seen walking with him before his barnstorming 44-minute speech at the Tory conference in Manchester — in which he bulldozed struggling Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Mr Johnson heaped praise on the “untiring, unbeatable, unbelievable” NHS, as well as a giving a full- throated defence of bankers, the private sector and capitalism.
But he warned there are tough times to come in his mission to deliver the promises of Brexit such as higher wages and better jobs.
He urged Brits to look to wartime hero Churchill’s last words to his Cabinet: “Man is spirit.”
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He added: “He was right there. I believe that through history and accident this country has a unique spirit — the spirit of the NHS nurses and the entrepreneurs.
“The indomitable spirit of Emma Raducanu, her grace and her mental resilience.” He insisted that former PM Lady Thatcher would have backed his tax rises coming next year to try to fill the Covid black hole.
He declared: “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’.”
Closing the Conservatives’ three- day conference, the PM said we are “a country that is proud to be a trailblazer”, that “judges people not by where they come from but by their spirit and by what is inside them”.
He added: “That is the spirit that is the same across this country in every town, 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.”
‘OUR MISSION IT TO PROMOTE OPPORTUNITY’
The speech was largely devoid of major policy announcements, but the PM tried to spell out what his “levelling-up” agenda really means.
He argued: “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.
“And it is still a grim fact that in this country some kids will grow up in neighbourhoods that are safer than others. Our mission as Conservatives is to promote opportunity with every tool we have.”
He said: “It is the right and responsible policy, because it helps to take the pressure off parts of the overheating South East while simultaneously offering hope and opportunity to those areas that have felt left behind.”
But with shortages of lorry drivers and other workers hitting supply chains, the PM reaffirmed his pledge 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 £12billion annual investment in health and social care, he insisted his new approach would ultimately create a low-tax economy.
He said: “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 tax hike, he said: “We have a huge hole in the public finances, we spent £407billion on Covid support and our debt stands at over £2trillion, 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.”
Mr Johnson promised action to address long-standing problems in the supply of housing — a contentious issue in his party, with proposed planning reforms blamed for the Chesham and Amersham by-election defeat in June.
He said it had been a “scandal” that the “dream of home ownership” had receded in the past 20 years. The housing needed could be built “not on green fields, not just jammed in the South East” but on brownfield sites “in places where homes make sense”.
MAGGIE FOR TAXES
And the PM delighted the crowd by pummelling Sir Keir’s opposition. Mr Johnson raged: “Remember Labour’s performance during the pandemic? Flapping with the conviction of a damp tea towel.”
Taking direct aim, he added: “In previous national crises Labour leaders have opted to minimise public anxiety and confusion by not trying to score cheap party political points, one thinks of Attlee or even Michael Foot in the Falklands crisis.
“Sadly that was not the approach taken by captain hindsight, attacking one week then rowing in behind when it seemed to be working. The human weathervane. The Starmer chameleon.”
Labour hit back saying: “Boris Johnson’s vacuous speech summed up this Conservative conference.”
Tony Danker, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “The Prime Minister set out a compelling vision for our economy. High wages, high skills, high investment and high growth.
“But the PM has only stated his ambition on wages. This needs to be backed up by action on skills, on investment and on productivity.” Unimpressed union chiefs dismissed the big speech as “hot air”.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: “As we try to move away from the shadow of Covid, the Prime Minister’s pitch will ring hollow for many.”
INDIE band Friendly Fires blasted Mr Johnson for using their track Blue Cassette in the introduction to his address.
They said they did not endorse its use, adding: “If Boris Johnson needed something uplifting to walk on to, perhaps he should have used the sound of a busy food bank.”
I PECKED A WINNER
PROUD hubby BoJo sealed his barnstorming speech with a kiss for pregnant wife Carrie.
He then embraced the 33-year-old — expecting their second child in December — as they left the cheering arena.
Carrie had sat next to her sister-in-law Rachel Johnson during the 45-minute address.
She turned heads in a £350 red velvet dress from sustainable British brand Cabbages and Roses.
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