Early evening summary
- Queues for petrol and mass culls of pigs at farms because of a lack of abattoir workers are part of a necessary transition for Britain to emerge from a broken economic model based on low wages, Boris Johnson has argued. But the British Meat Processors Association said Johnson was talking “nonsense” about the reasons for the problem in its sector. (See 3.07pm.)
- Senior Tories have urged Johnson not to give up on low-tax Conservatism. (See 6.49pm.)
- The conference has opened with a battle cry against “woke aggression”, with cabinet ministers decrying “cancel culture” and expected to rail against leftwing bias at the BBC.
- A Tory MP has said that he hopes the current HGV driver shortage will lead to supermarket supply chains being dismantled. “It will mean that the farmer down the street will be able to sell their milk in the village shop like they did decades ago,” Chris Loder said. (see 4.10pm.)
- The Conservatives’ young women’s group has called for an investigation into “the apparent culture of misogyny in the police”, piling pressure on Johnson after he faced down calls for a major independent inquiry.
- Oliver Dowden, the party co-chair, has confirmed that the party is rethinking its planning reforms. (See 4.04pm.)
This is from my colleague Polly Toynbee, who is listening to Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader and former work and pensions secretary, at a fringe meeting. Duncan Smith is one of the Tories most opposed to the decision to cut universal credit by £20 a week this month.
Here is Anand Menon, the academic who runs the UK in a Changing Europe project, on the implications of the Tory MP Chris Loder’s call for supermarket supply chains to be dismantled. (See 4.10pm.)
Speaking at the TaxPayers’ Alliance fringe, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, also claimed that the planned restoration of the House of Commons could cost up to £20bn. That was too much, he said:
I love the Palace of Westminster as much as anybody but it is not worth £10-20bn in public expenditure.
Rees-Mogg said the “basic works” of wiring and sewage does need doing but he argued that covered courtyards and an underground delivery system are unnecessary. “It does not need to spend huge amounts of taxpayers’ money but it needs to be done properly,” he said.
Senior Tories urge Johnson not to give up on low-tax Conservatism
Boris Johnson spent the morning making this case for “red wall” Conservatism – a Ukip/Brexity version of the original that is different from the Conservatism of David Cameron and George Osborne. (See 12.42pm.)
But on the fringe senior Tories have been arguing vigorously for low-tax Conservatism. The two strands are not entirely incompatible (red wallers don’t like paying tax either), but they are in conflict; Johnsonism implies high public spending, which creates less space for tax cuts.
Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, told a fringe meeting that the Tories had to restore their reputation as a low-tax party. He said:
One of the difficulties we have faced this year of course is that whilst Conservatives don’t like raising taxes, nor do Conservatives like constantly borrowing more and more money and leaving future generations to pay it back either.
I think a certain fiscal adjustment recognising the consequence of what has gone on over the last year and a half is understandable.
The question I guess is how do we turn that around and make sure there is a clear and plausible message for the next general election.
And if we want to go into the next general election with a credible reputation as the party that believes in the lowest taxes that can possibly be achieved in the circumstances, then we can’t, to quote Lynton Crosby, you can’t fatten a cow or a pig on market day.
You’ve got to start sooner than that. You’ve got to set out something well before, that is, how we intend to achieve that lower tax future again, and work to try and make people believe it.
And Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, told a separate fringe meeting that the tax burden was as high as it could go. He said:
We are at the upper reaches of the reasonableness of the tax burden.
Even when tax rates have been considerably higher, the tax take has not been much higher.
Why on earth would you think higher rates in the 2020s would have a greater effect than they did in the 1960s and the 1970s.
I think we are about at the limit of what taxation can raise.
Rees-Mogg made the same argument in an interview with the Telegraph last week, saying Britain was being taxed “as highly as the country can afford”.
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, told a fringe meeting that a trade deal with the US was not the “be all and end all” for the UK. She said:
I don’t agree with you that that’s the be all and end all of trade.
My message to the Americans is ‘we’re ready when you are ready’ but there’s a whole world out there, there are lots of fast-growing parts of the world who want to do business with Britain and there’s a full pipeline of trade deals we are negotiating.
Brexiters used to be very keen on a UK-US free trade deal, but recently they have acknowledged that it is not a priority for Washington.
In her speech to the Conservative conference, Anne-Marie Trevelyan said that as well as being the international trade secretary she was also president of the Board of Trade – an ancient title normally never used, although famously revived by Michael Heseltine. She went on:
I’m proud to say that I’m the fourth female president of the Board of Trade since it was established in 1672.
Four women in 349 years.
A shocking statistic you’ll agree, that I’m glad to say is gradually being corrected.
Still, more progress than the Labour party have had with female leaders.
In an interview with Times Radio this morning Oliver Dowden, the Conservative party co-chair, was asked if some of the party’s MPs still remained to be convinced about the PM’s “red wallism”. He replied:
Yes, and I think that’s why the theme of this conference is getting on with the job. We need to demonstrate to people that the people who put their trust in us, who put their trust in us in 2019, who voted for us in places where they’d never voted for us before, we’re actually going to get on with the job and deliver.
He also said he found the term “male privilege” crass. He explained:
I think it’s a bit too simplistic to simply talk in terms of male privilege. I don’t think, for example, if you’re an unemployed man on a council estate outside Newcastle, you’re going to feel particularly privileged, so I think it’s a bit of a crass term. But historically it has been the case that men have had more opportunities than women and society has rightly addressed that.
Sky’s Beth Rigby has been seeking some EU reaction to Liz Truss’s speech snubbing the bloc.
Although a Tory source has told Rigby that she should not read too much into the omission, the idea that it was not deliberate is fanciful. Much thought goes into deciding who gets a name check in a conference speech like this. Truss may well view EU countries as important allies but it is telling that, when speaking to a room full of Tory activists, she chose not to say so.
Truss snubs EU by omitting it from long list of UK's 'friends and allies'
Here are the main points from Liz Truss’s conference speech. It was her first big speech as foreign secretary, and so it provided a glimpse what she will bring to the role that’s new. On the basis of this, she will be more hawkish than her predecessor, and less diplomatic.
- Truss omitted the EU from a list of the UK’s friends and allies. She said:
We must win this battle for economic influence … and this starts with forging closer ties with our friends and allies including:
o The G7 and Nato …
o Our Pacific partners like Australia, Japan and Mexico …
o The great democracy of India and our friends across the Commonwealth …
o Israel …
o South Korea
o The Gulf states …
o Those countries who escaped the USSR and fought for freedom … like the so-called Visegrad Fourand the Baltic 3 …
o And of course our vital strategic partner the United States.
The G7 and Nato are both organisations in which EU countries feature prominently, and the Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary) and the Baltic 3 (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are all in the EU. But it was striking that Truss did not mention the EU directly, or refer to any EU country by name. Just after Brexit it might have been awkward including the EU in a passage about forging “closer ties”. But she did not mention the EU anywhere else in the speech either. It was as if it had been airbrushed from her world view.
- She signalled that the UK should adopt a “tough” approach to China. She said:
We will build coalitions of the willing to advance these causes.
We will also be tough on those who don’t share our values and don’t play by the rules.
It is important we trade with China, but we must make sure it is reliable trade … that it avoids strategic dependency … and that it does not involve the violation of intellectual property rights or forced technology transfer.
The world is safer and more prosperous when countries abide by their international obligations.
(The EU may want to quote this passage when the row over the Northern Ireland protocol next flares up, because it sees this as an example of Boris Johnson not abiding by the obligations that he agreed to follow in a treaty.)
- Truss said the UK wanted “to more countries who haven’t historically been aligned to Britain”.
- She said she wanted to extend freedom across the world. She said:
As Mrs Thatcher said in her Guildhall speech just days after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989: “the message is clear … when people are free to choose, they choose freedom.”
And we need to give countries across the world that choice.
The freer a country is the wealthier it is … the more secure it is … the greener it is
It is less likely to harbour terrorists and radical fundamentalists …
It is less likely to have huge migration outflows.
And less likely to go to war.
Freedom enables enterprise to flourish … people to flourish … girls and women to flourish.
It’s the best way to influence the world and tackle the great issues of our age.
- She accused Labour of “sneering about our place in the world” and said this lack of patriotism was one reason why the party was unpopular. She went on:
There are those on the left who believe in moral equivalence between Britain and our adversaries.
Jeremy Corbyn may no longer be leader, but the same spirit lives on the Labour Party.
This moral relativism translates into their attitudes here at home, and has given rise to a creeping illiberalism that threatens our fundamental freedoms.
The Spectator’s James Forsyth says that Oliver Dowden’s speech (see 4.04pm) made it clear that the planning bill has not just been paused, which was the formula used when Michael Gove took charge of that department. Dowden was more in delivering last rites territory.
West Midlands mayor boycotts discussion on conference stage because of all-male panel
Earlier there was a panel discussion at the conference about cultural events taking place this year. Andy Street, the West Midlands mayor, was supposed to attend, but the chair of the event said he was not available, without explaining why.
Jonathan Walker from the Birmingham Post says Street boycotted the event because it was an all-male panel.
Tory MP says it could be 'great opportunity' if supermarket supply chains were to break
Chris Loder, a Tory MP, has told a fringe meeting that it would be a good thing to destroy supermarket supply chains, even if it causes short-term problems.
“I think actually one great opportunity we have from the issues we see at the moment is actually for some of these supermarket supply chains to crumble,” Loder, who was first elected MP for West Dorset in 2019, told a fringe meeting on farming at the party’s conference in Manchester, arguing that Brexit was not to blame for the problems. He went on:
I know it might not feel like it in the immediate term. But it is in our mid and long-term interest that these logistics chains do break.
It will mean that the farmer down the street will be able to sell their milk in the village shop like they did decades ago. It is because these commercial predators – that is the supermarkets – have wiped that out and I’d like to see that come back.
Tories inherently more tolerant than Labour, says Dowden
Here are the main points from Oliver Dowden’s speech.
- Dowden, the Conservative party co-chair, confirmed that the party is rethinking its planning reforms. He said the party had “the wisdom to listen to people and the humility to learn how we can do better”. And he went on:
That’s why we are looking again at our planning reforms.
Our opponents - particularly the Liberal Democrats - have shamelessly stoked fears that changing the planning system will lead to ugly and disproportionate development.
I don’t believe that - and I can tell you that if we were to rip up controls then my constituents in Hertsmere would have a thing or two to say about it.
But it’s no good saying to voters in places like Chesham & Amersham “Trust me - I’m a politician.”
Yes, Britain’s growing population must have new houses but it’s clear that additional safeguards are needed.
We need to set out in law measures to protect our towns, villages and precious countryside from being despoiled by ugly development.
Watch this space.
- He claimed the Conservatives were inherently more tolerant than Labour. He said:
The difference between our parties is also to be found in our tolerance.
A recent study found that half of Labour supporters would think badly of friends or family voting Conservative.
But only one in seven Conservative voters said the same thing about a loved one voting Labour.
It’s so much easier to get along with people when you believe they at least have good intentions even if they’re profoundly wrong.
It’s much harder if you are so puffed up with moral certainty that you think those you disagree with you are wicked. Or, dare I say it Conference, scum.
Dowden was referring to some Social Market Foundation research that its director, James Kirkup, summarised in the Times here (paywall).
- Dowden condemned the left for advocating “cancel culture”, and accused them of engaging in a culture war. He said a small group of people view Britain and its values and history “with shame”. He went:
A mantra that results in bullying and haranguing of individuals, elected representatives, and public institutions.
So called cancel culture.And we’ve all seen this simplistic narrative in action.
Divisions are heightened, statues torn down, and history rewritten.
But conference I’m afraid it’s even worse than that.
Anyone who dares resist this argument – anyone who objects to this woke aggression –is branded as instigating culture wars!
This is a bold charge for Dowden to make because, as culture secretary, he was accused of revelling in culture wars himself. He seemed to spend much of his time writing articles for the Sunday Telegraph about the supposed threat to statues, or what he saw as the moral failings of the National Trust.
- He claimed that Labour has got “woke running through it like a stick of Brighton rock”. He went on: “To prosper in the Labour Party you must at some level endorse this world view.”
- He claimed that one of Labour’s problems was that it no longer appealed to working class patriots, like his grandfather. He went on:
‘Red Harry’, as he was known, worked in the rail yards of north London and was a trade union rep for the National Union of Railwaymen.
He was a Labour man through and through.
His world view was forged by the Great Depression and the war.
But he was also a patriot who loved Shakespeare and reading about history.
If you want to know why Labour lost the last general election so badly, it’s because so many of the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of people like Harry Dowden in communities up and down the country believe that Labour has turned its back on them.
Liz Truss is speaking at the conference now as the new foreign secretary. In September she was top of ConservativeHome’s league table of cabinet ministers, as ranked by how satisfied party members were with each of them, as she has been for ages, and she gets a warm reception as she starts.
But it is not as loud as usual. The conference proceedings are taking place in a relatively small space at the Manchester Central venue - in effect, a self-contained room within the vast auditorium - and the audience must be in the hundreds. In the past when the Tories have held their conference a much larger auditorium space has been used.
Oliver Dowden is addressing the conference now as the new Conservative party co-chair - although he seems to be speaking from a script that he drafted when he was still culture secretary, because much of it is about the evils of wokeism.
I will post a summary when I have read the full script.
Meat producers claim Johnson talking 'nonsense' about reasons for labour shortage in sector
In his interview with Andrew Marr this morning Boris Johnson claimed that the meat industry was an example of an area where labour shortages were caused by employers reliant on cheap EU labour refusing to pay higher wages to attract Britons. (See 10.57am and 12.42pm.) Johnson told Marr:
You’re talking again about an issue to do with a shortage of a particular type of workforce. What I think needs to happen there is a question about the types of jobs that are being done, the pay that is being offered, the levels of automation, the levels of investment in those jobs ...
What we can’t do is in all these sectors simply go back to the tired, failed, old model, reach for the lever called uncontrolled immigration, get people in [on] low wages.
In response, Nick Allen, the chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association, said it was “nonsense” to claim the problems in the sector were all down to low wages. He said:
The idea that we have just been dependent on cheap labour, we haven’t been investing in infrastructure, is utter nonsense.
It is lot more complicated than that. Even though we have increased wages quite dramatically, we are still not getting people wanting to do that job.
He said pig farmers were facing a “nightmare scenario”, and he said the government should relax visa rules to all skilled workers from abroad to enter the country to fill vacancies.
Conservatives now the party of working-class unionists in Scotland, says Ross
In a speech at a conference event at lunchtime Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, said the Tories were now the party of “working-class unionists” in Scotland. In a swipe at Labour, he said:
Scottish Labour are a party of the past. The red wall is gone for good.
In May’s election, more working-class Scots voted Scottish Conservative than voted Labour.
We are the party of working-class unionists in Scotland now because we represent their values.
Ross also claimed the SNP was no longer a government, but instead a “constitutional campaign on stilts”. He said:
Nicola Sturgeon has become detached from working-class communities scarred by drug deaths and marred by all the other failings that her government is too distracted to tackle.
No government for working people would be ramping up their independence campaign, as a leaked memo revealed the SNP are planning to do this very month.
Increasingly, their campaign is utterly divorced from the views and needs of the majority of their countrymen and countrywomen.
Nicola Sturgeon has turned the Scottish government into a subsidiary of Yes Scotland, an organisation staffed by loyalists, built to deliver independence.
It’s not a government any more. It’s a constitutional campaign group on stilts.
Conservative Young Women, a group representing women aged 18 to 35 in the party, has issued a statement calling the police response to the issues thrown up by the murder of Sarah Everard “deplorable”. It says:
We call on all political leaders, at national and local level, to ensure that violence against women and girls remains top of the political agenda, even when it is no longer headline news. We expect to see urgent action taken to stop preventable violence against women and girls.
The response of the police has been deplorable – from the overzealous policing of Sarah Everard’s vigil, to public statements which effectively blame victims. The failure of police forces across the country to recognise their need to reform should be concerning for us all, men and women.
The group is calling for various measures, including “a review into the apparent culture of misogyny in the police” and an investigation into why Wayne Couzens was not arrested for indecent exposure.
Liz Truss, the minister for women and equalities, has said she found walking home at night “concerning” and called for a wider change in society. Speaking at a Conservative party conference fringe event in the wake of the Sarah Everard case, Truss rejected the assertion the criminal justice system was “institutionally misogynistic”.
She told the Telegraph Chopper’s Politics podcast event:
I wouldn’t use those words.
But what I would say is, as a woman, I do find walking home at night concerning.
I don’t like that air of concern. I do think, as women generally, we are more fearful of going out and that is fundamentally wrong. It’s something we have to change about our society.
Tories pledge six-month prison sentences for climate protesters who block motorways
The government is to introduce tougher powers to deal with climate change activists who have been drawing attention to their protests by blocking motorways.
At the Tory party conference in Manchester, the home secretary, Priti Patel, will warn that protesters who block the highway could face unlimited fines and up to six months in jail, according to a report from PA Media.
Police are also to be given the powers to stop and search activists for “lock-on” equipment used to prevent them from being moved. The move follows days of protests by the Insulate Britain group, which has staged sit-down demonstrations on a series of key arteries around London, including on the M25, M1 and M4.
The government on Saturday obtained a fresh injunction banning the group from obstructing traffic and access to motorways and major A roads in and around the capital.
The new powers to be announced by Patel will be included in the police, crime, courts and sentencing bill currently going through parliament.
“The right to protest is a fundamental principle of our democracy but we will not tolerate guerrilla tactics that obstruct people going about their day-to-day business,” said Patel.
In another interview with broadcaster Boris Johnson refused to rule out allowing more temporary visas to address the problems in the supply chain industry. But he insisted again that that it was up to employers to fix their problems. He said:
We’ll take each step as it comes, we’re there to support industries that are having difficulties. But it is fundamentally up to them to work out the way ahead.
In the end, those businesses, those industries, are the best solvers of their own supply chain issues – government can’t step in and fix every bit of the supply chain.
But what we certainly will do is keep all options on the table.
Johnson also insisted that he was not opposed to immigration per se.
We will take sensible measures and we will use controlled immigration as one of the things like any sensible government would.
I’m the product of immigration, a lot of the cabinet are the product – we’re all descended in one way or another from immigrants over the centuries. It’s a fantastic thing but you’ve got to control it.
The thing you can’t do is go back to the model of the UK economy that we had for decades, which was basically allowing low-wage, low-skilled jobs to be supported by uncontrolled immigration.
I’ll tell you why not. That led to the UK having comparatively very low productivity, very low wages and that’s not the way forward because we should be a high-skill, high-productivity economy – that’s what we are going to be.
How Johnson is making higher pay for HGV drivers key Tory aim, and what this means for party
One of the functions of a party conference is that it forces politicians to think hard about what their core message to the public is on key issue of the day, and in his interview with Andrew Marr, Boris Johnson confirmed that the Conservative party is now investing all its credibility in a particular argument about the economy.
Johnson, and his fellow Brexiters, always said that Brexit, and the end of free movement, might drive up wages for native British workers facing competition from “Polish plumbers” and other EU migrants. But this argument was never allowed to overshadow the much broader, bigger (and more flimsy) claims about how Brexit was going to benefit the economy overall, with minimal disruption.
Now, instead of saying that Brexit has little or nothing to do with labour shortages in key industries, leading to empty shelves and queues at petrol station, Johnson is leaning into this argument, saying there is a link, but the gains will be worth it. He trialled these lines at PMQs last week, and again this morning. (See 10.57am.)
This is a shift with important consequences. Here are at least five.
1) Johnson is now conceding that there will be no quick fix to the supply chain problems facing the economy. When stories started appearing about empty shelves earlier this year, ministers argued that this was primarily a Covid issue. When petrol stations ran dry, they argued that this was prompted by panic buying (which it was). But now that Johnson has linked the HGV driver shortage to a wider, structural problem, he is effectively admitting that it won’t be fully solved any time soon.
2) Johnson is now admitting that Brexit is a factor in these driver shortages. Only last week a Treasury minister was claiming the opposite. But Johnson cannot claim that Brexit is leading to a driver shortage that will push up wages without also accepting that it has led to the same driver shortage that means goods aren’t arriving on time.
3) This policy positions the Conservatives clearly as a party for the working class. In some respects Johnson is just responding to a trend that has already happened, because since 2015 the Tories have replaced Labour as the party that does proportionately better among working-class voters than among middle-class voters. But higher pay for drivers and others doing jobs where wages were held down by cheap, EU migrant labour will mean higher costs for the consumers who used to benefit from a low-wage economy, including many traditional, middle-class Tory voters. What is the Telegraph going to say when it realises that Johnson wants its readers to pay more for Ocado deliveries?
4) Johnson now has an answer to what levelling up actually means. In an interview on Friday he said wage growth would be how levelling up was defined. He said:
I’ve given you the most important metric – never mind life expectancy, never mind cancer outcomes – look at wage growth ... Wage growth is now being experienced faster by those on lower incomes. It hasn’t happened for 10 years or more. That is what I mean by levelling up.
Johnson’s “never mind cancer outcomes” comment attracted all the attention, but it was the clearest definition he has yet given of levelling up. (Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, did not get the memo, because in an interview for the Sun taking place the same day, he offered a quite different definition). One obvious problem with Johnson’s approach is that if wages do not rise, or if an increase does not feel like an increase because it gets eaten up by a tax rise, or by rising inflation, levelling up will feel like a failure.
5) This new approach sounds anti-business. Johnson was relatively guarded in what he said about businesses in his Marr interview, but in an interview with ConservativeHome covering this issue Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, was a bit more explicit, criticising employers “benefiting from an influx of labour that could keep wages low” who are now “resisting” pressure to pay more. In a recent Telegraph column, Fraser Nelson said that in private Tories are a lot more blunt. He said:
“Business was served notice in the referendum that all this [cheap labour] is ending,” says one minister. “They didn’t invest, so now they’re paying the price.”
And this is what’s so interesting: the number of Tories talking about business getting its just deserts, seeing the current chaos as a painful but necessary war of nerves. “Boris was quite right: f--- business,” one senior Tory says, referring to a now-notorious remark the prime minister made about corporate lobbyists. “They haven’t innovated, haven’t automated. Now they’ll have to – and pay up.” Striking language for the party that was, once, the party of business.
This could be dangerous for a party traditionally seen as pro-business. But it is also yet another lurch into traditional Labour territory, which could be electorally fruitful if this more antagonistic approach to low-wage employers is what voters want.
Here is some comment from journalists on Boris Johnson’s interview with Andrew Marr.
From my colleague Jessica Elgot
From HuffPost’s Paul Waugh
From my colleague Patrick Wintour
From Sky’s Sam Coates
From my colleague Peter Walker
From Politico’s Alex Wickham
From ITV’s Robert Peston
This is what the ONS said about pay in its labour market overview published last month.
Growth in average total pay (including bonuses) was 8.3% and regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 6.8% among employees for the three months May to July 2021. However, annual growth in average employee pay is being affected by temporary factors that have inflated the increase in the headline growth rate: base effects where the latest months are now compared with low base periods when earnings were first affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and compositional effects where there has been a fall in the number and proportion of lower-paid employee jobs, therefore increasing average earnings.
And here is an ONS analysis published in July explaining in more detail why Covid-related factors have resulted in the headline growth in wages being much higher than usual.
This is from the Mirror’s Dan Bloom on what Boris Johnson said about wages rising in his interview.
Johnson concedes there will be no quick solution to labour shortages in economy
Here are the main points from Boris Johnson’s interview with Andrew Marr.
- Johnson refused to categorically rule out further tax increases this parliament - but he said there was “no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises” than him. He said:
You have no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises than me, but we have had to deal with a pandemic on a scale which this country has not seen before in our lifetimes and long before ...
If I can possibly avoid it, I do not want to raise taxes again, of course not, nor does Rishi Sunak.
Johnson also said that Margaret Thatcher, despite being in favour of lower taxes, would not have chosen to raise government borrowing now (an option favoured by some people opposed to the national insurance hike, as an alternative means of raising money for health and social care).
- He conceded that there would be no quick solution to labour shortages in the economy, saying the UK would go through a “period of adjustment” as the end of free movement shifted the economy from a low-wage to a higher-wage model. (See 9.45am and 9.50am.)
What we can’t do is, in all these sectors [like road haulage and food production], simply go back to the tired, failed old model, reach for the lever called uncontrolled immigration, get people in at low wages ... And, yes, there will be a period of adjustment, but that is I think what we need to see.
- He claimed that wages were now going up, “after more than 10 years of flatlining”. (Wages are going up but, as this BBC analysis explains, to a large extent that is driven by Covid-related factors.)
- He admitted the HGV driver crisis could continue up until Christmas. Asked if he agreed with Rishi Sunak, who has said this, Johnson said Sunak was invariably “right”. He went on:
When people voted for change in 2016 and when people voted for change again in 2019, they voted for the end of a broken model of the UK economy that relied on low wages and low skills and chronic low productivity - and we’re moving away from that.
- He conceded that the government had know about the HGV driver shortage for some time. When it was put to him that the Road Haulage Association wrote to the government about this in June, he replied:
We’ve known about shortages in road haulage long before then. They’ve been a chronic feature of the way in which the road haulage industry has worked. What needs to happen now is people need to be decently paid and you need to have investment in their conditions.
- He was unable to say how much his national insurance increase would cost an average care worker.
- But he claimed that the tax increase would hit banks the hardest. (Employers’ national insurance contributions are rising as well as employees’, and so firms with high payroll bills will contribute significantly.)
- He signalled that the government will not relax visa rules for meat workers to avoid the need for a cull of up to 120,000 pigs. The industry says they may have to be killed because of a shortage of butchers and slaughterers. Johnson argued that this was another example of where wages needed to rise for UK workers in the long term, and he said the food industry did involve animals being killed. But Marr argued that he was missing the point, because these animals faced being slaughtered for incineration, not for food, because the workers were not available to turn them
- Johnson refused to commit to holding a public inquiry into the Sarah Everard murder. Asked if he agreed with Ian Blair, the former Met police commissioner who has been calling for a public inquiry into the case, Johnson replied:
The first thing that needs to happen is the Independent Office of Police Complaints needs to look into it what happened. The Met is, of course, looking into all the officers that have been associated with the sharing of these [WhatsApp] messages.
But ... I think that we do need to look systematically, not just at the Wayne Couzens case, but at the whole handling of rape, domestic violence, sexual violence, and female complaints about harassment altogether.
- Johnson said women should continue to have confidence in the police. But when asked about advice from the police that women suspicious of an officer stopping them should shout, or flag down a bus, he said that if people were suspicious, “then clearly you should seek help”. But he went on: “My view is that the police do overwhelmingly a wonderful job.”
- He said rape prosecutions were taking too long, and not enough people were being convicted. He said:
We will stop at nothing to make sure that we get more rapists behind bars and we have more successful prosecutions for rape and for sexual violence. Because that, I think, is going wrong.
Johnson refuses to rule out further tax increases - but stresses his desire to avoid them
Q: You have are leading the highest-taxing, biggest-state government since the war. You claim to be like Margaret Thatcher, but his is Harold Wilson.
Johnson says that is nonsense. He says neither Thatcher nor Wilson had to deal with Covid.
Q: Jacob Rees-Mogg says taxes are as high as they can go. Can you rule out any more tax increases?
Johnson says there is “no more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises” than him.
He says that, if he can possibly avoid it, he won’t raise taxes again.
And he suggests Thatcher would have backed his approahc, saying she would not have increased borrowing for health and social care.
And that’s it. The interview is over.
I’ll post a summary shortly.
Q: How much extra will a care worker have to pay because of the national insurance rise?
Johnson says the government has put £500m into the care profession.
Q: But how much extra will she pay?
Johnson says he does not know. But he says the minimum wage has gone up by a record amount.
Marr says that is not true.
Q: How much extra will a millionaire getting rental income pay from the national insurance rise?
Johnson says it is the banks that will pay most under the national insurance rise.
Johnson says, after 10 years of stagnation, wages are finally going up.
Marr says the latest ONS figures show that wages are not keeping pace with inflation, which means in real terms they are not going up.
Johnson ignores the point, and just claims wages are going up in headline terms. And he says they are rising faster for low-paid workers than for higher-paid workers.
Johnson says labour shortages due to 'period of adjustment' as UK moves to higher wage model
Q: Why are there problems with petrol here, and not in other European countries, and not in Northern Ireland either?
Johnson says there is a particular problem with demand.
Q: You were warned about this in June, and you did not do anything about this. What are you going to do about the claims that 120,000 pigs will have to be slaughtered in the next 10 days because of the shortage of labour.
Johnson says the pig industry involves killing a lot of animals.
Q: But that is for food. This is different.
Johnson says there is a labour issue. It is to do with pay and automation.
He makes the point again that animals are killed in the industry.
Q: But this is about pigs being incinerated, not killed for food, because of a shortage of people working in abbatoirs.
Johnson says they cannot just go back, in all these areas, to the tired, old model, that involved people working on low wages.
But there will be a “period of adjustment” as the economy moves to a higher wage model, he says.
Johnson says HGV driver shortages feature of 'stresses and strains' of UK having fastest growing economy in G7
Q: Will the problems with lorry drivers last until Christmas?
Johnson says this is a problem around the world. Even Chinas has a shortage of drivers.
But he says he does not want to return to the old model of low wages and low skills, supported by uncontrolled immigration.
Q: Is the chancellor right to say these problems could last until Christmas?
Johnson says Rishi Sunak is always right.
But it depends what you mean, he says.
He says we are seeing “the stresses and strains” of a growing economy. The UK has the fastest growing economy in the G7, he says.
Q: How long will it take to address this problem?
Johnson says for decades the road haulage industry did not invest in conditions or pay. It relied on hard-working foreign labour.
That is why the pay and conditions are not currently attractive.
What they must do now is invest in equipment, like better truck stops.
He says people voted in 2016 and 2019 for change. The government is now moving away from that.
Johnson refuses to back holding public inquiry into Sarah Everard murder
Q: Women are confused by the advice they are getting about what to do if stopped by a police officer out of uniform.
Johnson says if people are suspicious about the way they are being dealt with by an officer, they should seek help.
But generally the police do a good job, he says.
He says the IPCC needs to look at what happened, including how officers use private WhatsApp groups.
Q: Should there be an independent inquiry into what happened in the Sarah Everard case?
Johnson says the Met is looking at what happened.
Q: Will you reverse the 25% cut to criminal justice funding?
Johnson says the government is looking at the way the CPS liaises with the police on these matters.
He says the government will stop at nothing to get more rapists behind bars.
Q: Can you stake your premiership on making women safer?
Look at my record, says Johnson. He claims that as London mayor he set up the first ever strategy by a city to tackle violence against women and girls.
Johnson says rape prosecutions taking too long
Andrew Marr is now interviewing Boris Johnson.
Johnson says women should trust the police.
But he says the Sarah Everard case has focused attention on how crimes against women are dealt with.
Rape prosecutions are taking too long, and not enough people are being prosecuted. He says people know instinctively there is a problem.
Burnham rules out challenging Keir Starmer for Labour leadership
Here are the precise quotes from Andy Burnham when he was asked to rule out challenging Sir Keir Starmer for the Labour leadership.
Andrew Marr asked him if he could agree with the phrase: “Keir Starmer is doing a good job and I, under no circumstances, am going after his job.”
Burnham replied: “Yup, I’ll agree with that.”
Burnham says reports, based on views attributed to friends of his, saying that he is giving Sir Keir Starmer just one more year to prove himself as Labour leader are not true. He says he has never said that to anyone. He says he has committed to serve a full second term as mayor.
Q: You can end this by saying you think Starmer is doing a good job and that in no circumstances would you go after his job.
Burnham says he can say that.
Andy Burnham is now being interviewed by Andrew Marr on the BBC.
Q: Are women safe in Greater Manchester?
Burnham says it is not good enough. He changed the leadership of Greater Manchester police, and brought in a new chief constable who has promised to make the safety fo women and girls a higher priority.
But he stresses that police officers are doing a good job. He says it is just that it should be better.
He says he wants to be held accountable at the next election. This is his appointment. There will be improvement by the next election or people can hold him to account.
Q: The inspectorate of constabulary says vulnerable people in Manchester are at risk.
Burnham says he has responded to those warnings.
He says funding cuts have been a factor. But it is not just that. Police culture and leadership have been a factor, he says.
He says he put up council tax to raise money to fund more police officers.
He says the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 also put great strain on the police.
In another micro-announcement related to the conference released overnight, Priti Patel, the home secretary, said a further £25m is being released for projects from the Safer Streets fund. It will be spent on “making public places safer for all, with an emphasis on the safety of women and girls”, the Tories say.
Q: Would you have chosen Michael Gove as the minister for levelling up?
Burnham says he would. He says he does not always agree with Gove, but as a minister Gove brings “real energy” to what he does. He says now that Gove is in the brief, he does not expect levelling up to go undefined for much longer.
He says he wants levelling up in the form of Greater Manchester having the same sort of transport links as London, with bus journeys costing £1.55, instead of £4 or more.
Burnham says, after Sarah Everard’s murder, he brought forward his strategy in Manchester for tackling violence against women and girls. It was passed last week, he says.
Q: Would you back an independent inquiry into police vetting procedures for recruits?
Burnham says he would. This issue needs to be treated more seriously, he says.
Trevor Phillips is now interviewing Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester.
Q: Should Cressida Dick resign as Met commissioner?
Burnham says he is responsible for the police in Greater Manchester. Last year he replaced the chief constable. He says it would not be appropriate for him to comment on what should happen in London.
But he says women should have some confidence in the fact that a woman is in the top policing job in the country.
He does, though, say some of the advice from the Met has been wrong. He criticises the suggestion that women with worries about being stopped should flag down a bus. He says any response to this problem that starts with the advice ‘women should’ is wrong.
He also says men need to have a conversation about behaviour like wolf whistling.
Q: Can you rule out an election in 2023?
Dowden says that is a decision for the prime minister. But he says ministers are not thinking about an election; they are focused on their jobs.
Q: Are you opposed to any further tax rises before the election?
Dowden says the Tories have always been the party of low taxes. Since 2010 they have raised the income tax threshold, which has meant a huge tax cut for working people.
But the government had to decide whether to fund more money for the NHS from borrowing or from tax. It put up taxes, but that is entirely consistent with the party’s commitment to sound money, he says.
Q: Do we need a Prevent-style programme for violence against women and girls?
Dowden says the government is already taking a series of measures to address this.
Q: Retailers say in some parts of the country queues for petrol are getting worse.
Dowden says it depends where you are. It is clearly still a problem in London and the south-east. In Manchester it does not seem to be a problem, he says.
He says from tomorrow army tanker drivers are being deployed.
He says this is a distribution issue; there is no shortage of petrol.
Phillips says the shortages are more extensive. He says he and his Sky team could not get pastries this morning from a shop, and it had no paper for receipts.
Dowden says supply chain problems are not just occurring in the UK. The government is working to resolve them, he says.
Dowden condemns Tory police commissioner who said Everard murder showed women should be 'streetwise'
Oliver Dowden, the Conservative party co-chair, is being interviewed by Trevor Phillips on Sky.
Q: Do you support an independent inquiry into police vetting procedures in the light of the Sarah Everard murder?
Dowden says the Met police are looking at their vetting procedures. But he does not rule out an independent inquiry.
Q: The Conservative crime commissioner for North Yorkshire said this week women should be more streetwise. Shouldn’t he resign?
Dowden says he and Boris Johnson were outraged by what the commissioner said. He has apologised.
Q: Will he be banned from standing as a candidate again?
Dowden says there will be a proper selection process. But that was a “stupid thing to say”.
Here are some of the main Conservative party conference stories in the Sunday papers.
- The Observer says a group of senior Conservative MPs has broken ranks to openly question how Boris Johnson can deliver on his promise to increase prosperity in poorer parts of the UK while at the same time raising taxes for working people and cutting benefits.
- Tim Shipman in the Sunday Times (paywall) says Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have struck a secret deal to cut taxes before the next general election in exchange for spending restraint now. Shipman reports:
In a breakthrough in the troubled relations between the prime minister and chancellor, Johnson has accepted the government must be fiscally responsible to build up a war chest.
The prime minister agreed that new spending in this autumn’s spending review, published this month, must be matched by cuts elsewhere or tax rises to pay for it, rather than letting government borrowing rise further ...
Insiders say Johnson, who has previously advocated higher borrowing, has been convinced it is in his electoral self-interest to rein in spending so he can cut taxes before polling day, due in May 2024.
This follows a report in the Financial Times (paywall) published on Friday saying some Tory MPs think Sunak is planning tax cuts before the election.. “Rishi has said he’s going to be tough on spending in the short term and that will mean we can go into the next election promising tax cuts,” said one MP told the FT.
- Edward Malnick in the Sunday Telegraph (paywall) says dozens of countries are due to be taken off the government’s Covid red list for travel soon, with “South Africa, Brazil and Mexico all expected to be opened up to quarantine-free travel in time for the October half-term break”.
- Michael Gove, the new levelling up secretary, is to launch a paper advocating “community-powered Conservatism” that would see residents made the “ultimate arbiters” of developments in their area, the Sunday Telegraph (paywall) reports. It says:
The essay, drawn up by 10 MPs, says the Government must “complete the Conservative Party’s historic mission to put power and trust into the hands of the British people”.
The paper, Trusting the People, and the decision of the new secretary for levelling up to appear at its launch at the Conservatives’ annual conference on Sunday, appears to offer a glimpse into Mr Gove’s approach to reforming the country’s planning system.
It advocates putting more public services, from mental health support to dentistry, into the hands of staff and local communities.
- David Jones, the Conservative MP and former Welsh secretary, uses an article in the Mail on Sunday to say that Brexit is driving up wages for low-paid workers. He says:
Wages for HGV drivers are increasing, in many cases substantially. British drivers can now demand higher pay, and employers, though sometimes grudgingly, are agreeing to it. It’s the old law of supply and demand ...
The same will eventually apply right across the economy, particularly in those vital trades that – thanks largely to the self-indulgence of a comfortable elite – we have come to disregard as suitable only for lowly immigrants. For them, Brexit will be working very well indeed, without any need for Sir Keir [Starmer] to trouble himself.
And so it will for hundreds of thousands of British workers in many other sectors of our economy that have had a disproportionate reliance on Continental labour: butchers, fruit pickers, nurses, chefs, slaughtermen.
This won’t happen overnight, of course. And some short-term disruption of the kind we have been witnessing over the past few weeks is inevitable.
It was always foreseen that the termination of a relationship that prevailed for almost half a century would generate a certain amount of turbulence.
But one thing is certain: British workers can now demand a proper market rate for the important jobs they do, as well as acceptable, modern working conditions.
Jones also claims that under Starmer Labour would introduce “a diluted form of EU membership, restoring the freedom of movement”.
Good morning. The Conservative party conference is opening in Manchester today and quite soon we’ll hear from Boris Johnson, who will be following constitutional convention and giving the usual pre-conference interview to the BBC’s Andrew Marr.
Johnson goes into the conference with new polling from Opinium suggesting that, by a margin of almost two to one, voters think Brexit, Johnson’s signature project, is going badly.
But this does not seem to be having any impact (yet?) on voting intention. The same polling also gives the Conservatives a four-point lead over Labour - up one from two weeks ago.
In a statement released overnight, Johnson said the focus of the conference would be on delivery. He said:
We didn’t go through Covid to go back to how things were before – to the status quo ante. Build Back Better means we want things to change and improve as we recover. Only the Conservatives are getting on with the job, tackling the long term challenges this country faces ...
This Conservative government has a track record of delivering on the people’s priorities: we Got Brexit Done and secured a deal with the EU – keeping our election promise ...
All of this shows we are delivering - and now it is time to go further - not only to recover, but to Build Back Better – with decisive action on more jobs, more police and supporting health and social care.
There is surprisingly little conference coverage in the Sunday papers today. But overnight Nadine Dorries, the new culture secretary, has announced an extra £22m in public funding for public tennis courts. This is a routine, and tiny, spending announcement, but what’s most interesting about it is the way it has been branded as part of the government’s levelling up mission. “It is designed to open up the sport to people of all backgrounds, support the government’s commitment to levelling up sports provision across the nation, and provide greater opportunities for everyone to follow the chief medical officer’s guidance on physical activity,” the news release says. Expect a lot, lot more of this over the coming days.
Here is the agenda for the day.
8.30am: Oliver Dowden, the Conservative party co-chair, is interviewed on Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday. Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, is also an interviewee on the programme.
9.40am: Boris Johnson is interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. Burnham is also a guest on the programme, which starts at 9am.
1.30pm: Debbie Toon, president of the national convention, opens the conference.
1.40pm: The MPs Jessie Norman and Sara Britcliffe lead a session called Conservatives: Proud History, Bright Future.
2.30pm: Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, and Simon Hart, the Welsh secretary, speak.
3pm: Dowden gives his conference speech.
3.10pm: Liz Truss, the new foreign secretary, gives a speech.
4.45pm: Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international trade secretary, gives a speech.
There also a large number of fringe meetings, with participants including Truss, Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, the health secretary, Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, and Andy Street, the West Midlands mayor.
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