MANCHESTER, England – Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated on Tuesday that the UK would not revert to the “old broken model” of the past and promised on Tuesday to radically transform the country’s economy into a future of highly skilled workers with higher levels Wages is determined.
Speaking to a cheering crowd at his Conservative Party’s annual conference, Johnson said: “We will address the underlying problems of our economy and society – the problems that no government has dared to address, the protracted structural weaknesses of the UK economy describe.”
With optimism but with few details, Mr Johnson outlined a vision of Britain on the verge of historic change. He barely mentioned the spate of fuel and food shortages that have plagued the country in recent weeks, citing them only as evidence of a rapidly recovering economy in transition.
“We are now beginning a change of direction that was long overdue in the UK economy,” said Johnson. “We’re not going back to the old broken model: low wages, low growth, low skills and low productivity – all of this is made possible as a system through uncontrolled immigration.”
Mr Johnson devoted much of his speech to his “leveling” marquee policy, which aims to narrow the gaps between the economically disadvantaged northern parts of England and the more affluent south.
“We have one of the most unbalanced societies and one-sided economies of any rich country,” said Johnson.
With a mix of self-deprecating humor with literary references, happy taunts at the opposition, and a populist appeal to social issues, Mr. Johnson cemented his status as the undisputed leader and all-purpose cheerleader of the Conservative Party.
At one point he described the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Keir Starmer, as Captain Hindsight, the captain of a cruise ship that had been hijacked by Somali pirates. On another side, the Prime Minister, who has six children with multiple partners, lamented the UK’s comparatively small population, despite having done his best to increase the total.
Mr Johnson appealed to social and cultural issues that resonate with grassroots Conservatives. He vowed to defend British history and oppose revisionist interpretations by conservative heroes like Winston Churchill.
Mr Johnson also praised Margaret Thatcher, another of his Conservative predecessors, who he said did not hesitate to take painful steps to revitalize the UK economy after the pandemic.
Despite all references to conservative icons, Johnson’s speech amounted to a notable rejection of some of his party’s guiding principles and governance.
The Conservatives have long been the side of business, but Mr Johnson has made it a duty on corporations to overcome their dependence on a low-wage economy. The Conservatives have run government since 2010, but Mr Johnson has spoken for the past decade as if another party was in charge.
For many political analysts, Mr Johnson seemed to be starting something new in the post-pandemic and post-Brexit era: a party that combines the spending, interventionist impulses of the Social Democrats with law and order, anti-immigration, instincts of hard-line Brexit supporters, who agitated in 2016 to leave the European Union.
Johnson’s rhetorical acrobatics showed a politician who has repeatedly managed to defy political gravity. But as the UK faces painful adjustments, it faces a convergence of hostile trends that could put this tightrope act to the test. Rising food and fuel prices weigh on consumers; Gas shortages have forced motorists to wait hours to refill their tanks.
Mr Johnson has portrayed these challenges as mounting pain – evidence that an economy is awakening from the pandemic and recuperating to reap the benefits of a high-skilled, high-wage future.
For ordinary people, however, the specter of fuel and food shortages at the end of autumn instead reminds us of the 1970s and the time of strikes and soaring prices that newspapers called the “winter of discontent.”
Mr Johnson also tried to create a new dividing line with the opposition Labor Party, which he described as welcome uncontrolled mass immigration, while the Conservatives seek to invest in training and better pay for British workers.
Since taking power in 2019, Mr Johnson has wrapped his politics in the cloak of his predecessor, Ms. Thatcher, who pushed through free market reforms after the 1970s. When asked in an interview this week how Britain would deal with the immediate consequences of economic change that could take years, he repeated a phrase made famous by Ms. Thatcher: “There is no alternative”.
But while Mr. Johnson has welcomed Mrs. Thatcher as one of his role models, his comments have dramatized the extent of his break with her legacy. Under Mrs. Thatcher, the Conservative Party allied itself closely with business.
That relationship was strained by Brexit, Mr Johnson’s marquee project, opposed by large corporations taking advantage of Europe’s vast single market.
While even its critics applaud the idea of moving away from a low-wage, low-skill economy, it could be painful for many Britons if government policies soar inflation. Much of the fiscal stimulus the government put into the economy to cushion the blow of the pandemic – compensation for people who have lost their wages after returning home – has been phased out.