Boris Johnson’s Plans for Economy Signal Ambitions for Decade in Power
Boris Johnson’s plan to overhaul the U.K. economy is a 10-year project he wants to see out as prime minister, according to a senior official.
The time frame, which has not been disclosed publicly, illustrates the scale of Johnson’s gamble that British voters will accept a long period of what he regards as shock therapy to redefine Britain. It also underscores Johnson’s ambition to be judged against past leaders including Margaret Thatcher.
Johnson sees the supply chain crisis engulfing Britain as part of the process, calling it a “turning point” as the country emerges from the pandemic and rebuilds outside the European Union. He told the Conservative Party conference on Wednesday he is “dealing with the biggest underlying issues” in the economy and society that “no government has had the guts to tackle before.”
The transition to a high-wage, high-skills economy that no longer relies on cheap labor from the EU will take about a decade to come to fruition and he’s in it for the long-term, the official said on condition of anonymity.
In media interviews throughout the Tory conference, Johnson lamented the U.K.’s long-term lack of productivity and slammed firms for relying on immigration rather than investing in U.K. infrastructure and workers.
His call for companies to pay staff more is broadly popular. But the 10-year timescale could be a hard sell, with Britons facing higher energy bills this winter, just as pandemic support measures are unwound and welfare benefits are cut this week.
Johnson will have to take short-term measures that are not part of his broader plan to ease the impact, the official said, pointing to the 5,000 visas for foreign truck drivers to tackle supply shortages this winter.
He may also choose to cut taxes just before the next election, expected in either 2023 or 2024, to win over voters, two senior officials familiar with the matter said. The aim would be to ease tensions over a hike in national insurance payments coming next April.
Either way, Conservative strategists say Johnson is their biggest asset and no other senior ministers come close in matching his appeal to voters who don’t traditionally vote Tory. Johnson is seen as highly competitive and with an eye on his legacy, particularly when measured against his old Brexit referendum opponent David Cameron, and even Thatcher.
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