Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 October 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Boris Johnson: I haven’t lost my mojo

UK Prime Minister says Britain will 'build back greener' after coronavirus

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at the Conservative Party Conference.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at the Conservative Party Conference.

Boris Johnson insisted he is fighting fit as he pledged to “build back better” from the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference today, the UK Prime Minister vigorously denied he had been “robbed of his mojo” and challenged his critics to a wrestling match after speculation he was left shaken after his medical scare earlier this year.

He told the virtual conference: “I’ve read a lot of nonsense recently about how my own bout of Covid has somehow robbed me of mojo. Of course, this is self-evident drivel.

“I could refute these critics of my athletic abilities in any way they want - arm wrestling, leg wrestling, Cumberland wrestling, sprint off … you name it.

"I have to admit the reason I had such a nasty experience with the disease is that although I was superficially in the peak of health when I caught it, I had a very common underlying condition - my friends, I was too fat.

"And I've since lost 26 pounds … and I'm going to continue that diet."

Mr Johnson’s address is seen as key to resetting the agenda and winning over disgruntled Tories who are furious over a series of missteps in his handling of the pandemic.

He announced the government would reduce deposits for homebuyers as part of a drive to increase the rates of home ownership, especially among the under-40s.

He also confirmed plans to make the UK “the Saudi Arabia of wind power” by earmarking £160 million to upgrade ports and factories for building turbines off the British coast.

Insisting Britain would “build back greener”, he said the government was working to get the country “back to normal” by this time next year.

Mr Johnson said: "We've been through too much frustration and hardship just to settle for the status quo and to think that life can go on as it was before the plague.

“We’ve lost too much, we’ve mourned too many, we’ve been through too much frustration and hardship to think life will go on as it did before the plague.

“History teaches us events of this magnitude … they don’t just come and go.

“They are, more often than not, the trigger for an acceleration of social and economic change.”

Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street ahead of his remarks at the Conservative Party conference. Getty Images
Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street ahead of his remarks at the Conservative Party conference. Getty Images

He added: “Your government is working night and day to repel this virus and we will succeed just as this country has seen off every alien invader for the last thousand years.

“The next time we meet it will be face to face, cheek by jowl.”

Mr Johnson made little comment on Brexit in his speech, with the UK set to quit the EU’s single market and customs union on December 31 while a trade agreement with the bloc hangs in the balance.

Lockdown 'goes against my instincts'

He said Brexit would bring an “excitement and verve” to Britain when it is able to sign new trade accords with other countries and control its laws and borders, but the subject received only a brief mention in the Prime Minister’s 27-minute speech.

Mr Johnson also said he wanted to boost the UK’s economic growth and productivity, which he said had been let down by a lack of investment in skills and infrastructure.

He reiterated the party’s manifesto pledges to build more hospitals and tackle crime, and stressed that it was the role of the private sector, not the state, to lead Britain’s economic recovery.

Mr Johnson said he took no pleasure in curtailing liberty or making state interventions potentially harmful to the economy.

“Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has come up with some brilliant expedients to help business to protect jobs and livelihoods — but let’s face it, he has done things that no Conservative chancellor would have wanted to do except in times of war or disaster,” he said.

“This government has been forced by the pandemic into erosions of liberty that we deeply regret, and to an expansion of the role of the state – from lockdown enforcement to the many bail-outs and subsidies – that go against our instincts, but we accept them because there is simply no reasonable alternative.”

Updated: October 6, 2020 04:16 PM

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