Boris Johnson conference speech: Main points

AFP , Wednesday 6 Oct 2021

Here are the main points from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's speech on Wednesday to his ruling Conservative Party's annual conference.

British PM Boris Johnson
Britain s Prime Minister Boris Johnson with his wife Carrie Johnson, waves to the crowd after making his keynote speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. AP


Johnson outlined his broad vision for a post-Brexit and post-Covid recovery, under the slogans "Build Back Better" and "levelling up".

He called for a long overdue "change of direction" from the "broken model" of an over-reliance on "uncontrolled immigration", which he said had kept wages low.

Instead, he said there needed to be more investment in people, skills and facilities to create a "high-wage, high-skilled, high-productivity" economy.

On "levelling up", he vowed to address economic inequality to provide greater opportunities around the whole country, helped by jettisoning "decades of duff decisions" in favour of new road, rail and technology infrastructure projects.

Johnson warned the changes would not happen overnight.

But he defended breaking a Tory pledge not to increase taxes to fund state-run health and social care services, saying that "decades of drift and dither" had not worked.

And in red meat to Tory activists, he insisted his free-market predecessor Margaret Thatcher would have done the same.

He urged the country to harness the hard work, dedication and "spirit" of public sector workers as well as entrepreneurial flair to turbo-charge the economy and unlock potential.

He called the upcoming COP26 climate conference in Glasgow the "summit of our generation" but was light on any new detail for Britain's net-zero ambitions.

Instead, he said government policy combined with private sector investment would drive moves towards an increased use of wind and wave power.

Less dependence on imports of high-polluting fuels such as coal, and a greater take-up of renewable energy and nuclear, would help foreign direct investment, he added.

Foreign policy
Johnson described his "Global Britain" foreign policy as defending human rights and the rule of law around the world.

He defended a controversial new defence alliance with Australia and the United States (AUKUS) because of the new focus on China's ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region.

Rejecting what he called a "raucous squawkus from the anti-AUKUS caucus", he said it would not have happened if Britain were still in the EU, and reflected new geopolitical realities.

"Brexit freedoms" had allowed Britain to tighten its immigration laws, he added, promising to get tough on "gangsters" who trafficked people across the Channel from France.

- Crime and policing -
Johnson vowed increased policing and tougher sentencing of criminals, and criticised climate protesters who have repeatedly disrupted traffic in recent weeks.

"I'm glad Priti (Patel, the home secretary) is taking new powers to insulate them snugly in prison where they belong," he said in a reference to the Insulate Britain campaigners who have blocked roads.

He also promised to get tough on violence against women, in the wake of criticism of police handling of complaints.

History and culture
The British leader defended his position on anti-racism protests last year that saw calls for colonial-era statues to be taken down and a review of the country's imperial past.

"We attack and deny history at our peril," he said.

"We Conservatives will defend our history and cultural inheritance, 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 is a betrayal of our children's education," he added.

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