On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rallied his Conservative Party loyalists, promising a sweeping overhaul to wean Britain’s economy from cheap foreign labor after Brexit.
Ignoring panic buying at petrol stations, empty supermarket shelves and warnings from retailers of a bleak Christmas to come, the Tory leader says the short-term pain is worth it.
“We are dealing with the biggest underlying problems of our economy and our society,” he is expected to say in his closing speech at the conference, according to excerpts released by the party.
“Problems that no government has had the courage to solve before.
“Because we are now embarking on the long overdue change of direction in the UK economy,” Johnson will say, vowing not to revert to the pre-Brexit model of “unchecked immigration”.
Instead, UK businesses will need to invest in their workers and in technology to push the country “towards a high-wage, high-skills, high-productivity economy”.
But the transition will take time. Meanwhile, the government has reluctantly accepted a limited number of short-term visas to attract truckers and poultry workers from Eastern Europe.
For opposition parties and poverty activists, Johnson’s pledge to “level out” uneven growth also comes up against the end Wednesday of a weekly increase in benefits for the lowest-paid workers.
As the prime minister put the finishing touches to his speech, nearby protesters condemned “conservative lies” and played the Soviet/Russian national anthem loudly.
Johnson’s attempt to draw a line between his administration and previous governments that lacked “guts” overlooks the fact that the Conservative Party has been in power since 2010.
On the other hand, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak – considered by many observers to be the heir apparent to 10 Downing Street – insists on continuity with the Conservative tradition of budgetary rectitude.
The government blames the severe labor shortages affecting the UK economy not on its hardline approach to Brexit, but on the coronavirus pandemic.
But the supply crisis risks undermining the themes Johnson is set to emphasize in his conference speech, including leveling economic growth across the UK and ‘Global Britain’. after EU divorce.
He is also expected to speak about Britain’s action on climate change and the need for global coordination, before convening the two-week COP26 climate summit in Scotland from October 31.
While touring exhibitors’ booths at the conference on Tuesday, Johnson rode an electric bicycle, rode an electric tractor and played with a puzzle to put together a zero-carbon energy house.
But at the Conservative rally as a whole, the topic of climate change took a back seat.
Sunak said on Monday that it would be “immoral” to bequeath pandemic debt to future generations, but made no mention of saving those generations from a burning planet.
The omission was a “damaging sign” ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, commented Rebecca Newsom, policy officer for Greenpeace UK.
“Spitting out more money for green infrastructure now would save huge costs later and create millions of new jobs across the UK,” she said.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also made no reference to the C-word – climate – in her Sunday speech, while pledging to support “greener” growth and “clean infrastructure” in developing countries. development.
By contrast, the B-word – Brexit – has been a recurring theme for delegates from Johnson’s party, adamant that the current issues associated with the EU split will pass.
Brexit Secretary David Frost has blasted the “anti-growth ideologies” and “persistent miserabilism” of the “anti-transport, anti-car” lobby.
Home Secretary Priti Patel used her own conference speech on Tuesday to pledge tougher action against climate protesters blocking roads around London.
The Prime Minister called the protesters “irresponsible crusty”.
But Johnson’s COP26 chairman Alok Sharma denied the party was slowing climate change with less than a month to go before welcoming delegates from around the world to Glasgow.
“Cabinet colleagues actually understand why it’s extremely important to get it right,” the former business minister told a small audience on the sidelines of the main conference.