Good morning. People follow politics mostly through the media, and journalists are predominantly interested in what’s new, what has not been said or done before, what we are learning for the first time. They don’t call it the news for nothing. But effective political campaigning depends on finding a message that might resonate with the public and then delivering it over, and over, and over, and over again, until the journalists are heartily sick of it (but also capable of reciting it in their sleep). Only then, political strategists argue, will the public at large start to notice.
And we’re told that is what we are getting today when Boris Johnson wraps up the Conservative conference with his speech. We are not expecting any major policy announcements, but instead Johnson will restate the rather ingenious, counter-intuitive but tenuous argument that he has been making all week. Faced with labour shortages that are causing empty shelves in the shops and petrol stations to run out of fuel, Johnson’s critics are saying this shows Brexit isn’t working, and a more conventional prime minister would be focusing on a short-term fix. But Johnson is arguing that this is essentially a good thing, not a bad thing, because it shows that the economy is finally embarking on a transition away from a low wage, high immigration model, towards a high wage, high skill, high productivity alternative.
According to extracts from the speech released in advance, Johnson will effectively blame some of his Tory and Labour predecessors for the old model, claiming that he is ending “decades of drift and dither”. He will say:
After decades of drift and dither this reforming government, this can do government that got Brexit done, is getting the vaccine rollout done and is going to get social care done.
We are dealing with the biggest underlying issues of our economy and society.
The problems that no government has had the guts to tackle before …
Because we are embarking now on the change of direction that has been long overdue in the UK economy.
We are not going back to the same old broken model with low wages, low growth, low skills and low productivity, all of it enabled and assisted by uncontrolled immigration.
And the answer … is not to reach for the same old lever of uncontrolled migration to keep wages low.
The answer is to control immigration, to allow people of talent to come to this country but not to use immigration as an excuse for failure to invest in people, in skills and in the equipment or machinery they need to do their jobs.
And that is the direction in which this country is going – towards a high wage, high skill, high productivity economy that the people of this country need and deserve, in which everyone can take pride in their work and the quality of their work.
To deliver that change we will get on with our job of uniting and levelling up across the UK – the greatest project that any government can embark on.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.10am: Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary and former vaccine deployment minister, hosts a panel discussion on the vaccine rollout.
9.50am: Neil O’Brien, the levelling up minister, and Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley mayor, speak in a panel on levelling up.
11.30am: Boris Johnson delivers his speech.
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