Boris Johnson adamant levelling-up agenda will survive his exit

Conservative 2019 manifesto author says party is heading for electoral oblivion

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the weekly question time debate, in Parliament in London, Britain, July 13, 2022, in this screen grab taken from a video.  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.  NEWS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS USE ONLY, CANNOT BE USED FOR LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT OR SATIRICAL PURPOSES, PARTY POLITICAL BROADCAST USAGE MUST BE CLEARED WITH PBU
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Boris Johnson used what could be his last prime minister's questions on Wednesday to proclaim that his central political legacy of rebalancing the UK economy through "levelling up" north and south would outlast his three years in power.

"We are continuing and every one of the eight candidates will continue with the biggest programme of infrastructure, skills, of technology across this country, to level up in a way that will benefit the constituents of every member of this house," he said.

"It is perfectly true that I leave not at a time of my choosing but I am proud of all the team work that has been involved in all of those projects, both nationally and internationally, and I am also proud of the leadership that I have given."

The words from the man who has led Britain since 2019 were in sharp contrast to the predictions of Rachel Wolf, the co-author of the manifesto that won the party a surprise majority soon after he came to office.

"What I am a little puzzled by over the last few days is the belief that we should junk everything that led us to win in the first place," she told a panel at the Centre for Policy Studies on Wednesday. "I am also slightly astonished that no one has talked about delivering any of the things we promised.

"In two years we are going to be going back to the electorate and they are going to legitimately ask 'what did you do?' Simply saying that in the last six months we cut some taxes is not going to be sufficient to show our competence.

"I am very worried about this. I think we are heading for electoral oblivion," she said. "We do not understand that in 2024 we have to have demonstrated we are capable of delivering something."

The prime minister hinted that a scheduled session of the question-time clash may not happen next week.

"I just want to say to him, really, the next leader of my party may be elected by acclamation so it is possible this will be our last confrontation over this despatch box, it is possible," he told the opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street for Prime Minister's Questions on July 13, 2022, where he hinted that this may be his last such appearance at the ballot box. EPA

The session was plunged into turmoil at the outset as two Scottish MPs held banners demanding an independence referendum. Alba Party colleagues Kenny MacAskill and Neale Hanvey were ordered to leave the chamber by Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle in furious scenes.

Referring to his signature achievement of delivering the referendum to leave the EU, Mr Johnson also predicted that people who hope his departure “will be the end of Brexit” would be wrong.

Mr Johnson struck a defiant tone as he told MPs “we’re going to show them they’re wrong”, saying “if anything I’m even more optimistic".

"I will be leaving soon with my head held high."

A one time ally of Mr Johnson, Lord David Frost told the same CPS panel that the country's "very serious economic" problems needed a radical change in direction. "There is no way of addressing [the problems] that does not involve reducing taxation, reducing spending, bringing competitive forces to bear, bringing free markets to bear and anyone who says there is, is fooling themselves."

Updated: July 13, 2022, 12:54 PM
NEWSLETTERS
MORE FROM THE NATIONAL