Manchester news No longer riding 2019's wave, the PM fights to keep his head above 2020's tsunami Manchester united news
MetiNews.Com - The Prime Minister’s speech in Dudley today sounded a lot like the election roadmap he unveiled here almost a year ago. But the honeymoon is over
Breaking News ! Last summer a freshly-anointed Boris Johnson gave his first major speech as Prime Minister at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. It provided the first outline of his roadmap to general election victory. The new Tory leader’s language was of left-behind towns and let-down communities, more focused on winning over Leigh or Heywood than appealing to the shire counties Conservatives that made up his traditional low-tax, low spend base. Six months later, that roadmap would lead him to the landslide he craved. It was never clear whether it was ever any more than a sketch. Neither in that speech in Manchester, in the Conservative manifesto that followed nor at any point during the general election campaign itself was there much more than a big, bold, bright outline: new hospitals, no tax rises, no staying in the EU. Build, build, build. It was more than enough for his purposes last year, even if the picture in between - particularly where balancing the books was concerned - was left pretty blank. Crowds gathered to watch the PM leaving MOSI last July (Image: Joel Goodman) Today he delivered another landmark speech, this time his first since lockdown began to ease. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since that election win, half of it furiously swept along by the tide of a global pandemic he could not have foreseen last year. No longer riding the crest of 2019’s wave, now the Prime Minister is fighting to keep his head above 2020’s tsunami. Perhaps it's no wonder that there was little substantially new, aside from some ramped-up rhetoric that declared the scale and ambition of his original vision to now be comparable with that of US President Franklin D Roosevelt. Most of the £5bn trailed spending blitz - including £200m for college estates, as welcome as it will be - had been announced before and amounted to a fast-tracking of existing promises. The ‘Project Speed’ policy, promising to rip up a planning system whose ‘newt-counters’ he blamed for being a ‘drag’ on housebuilding, looks an awful lot like an announcement made by the housing secretary Robert Jenrick at Tory conference last autumn. Boris Johnson meeting construction apprentices during a visit to Dudley technology college today (Image: PA) Social care is still going to be fixed via a mystery plan he first spoke of on the steps of Downing Street last summer, one that he fleetingly said is being ‘finalised’.
. The £10m to draw up a plan for Manchester’s cripplingly congested rail corridor, originally meant to be fixed by George Osborne’s largely stalled £600m Northern Hub plan in 2014, felt particularly unambitious for a Prime Minister with his sights on being a leader of wartime dimensions. Even so, the outline narrative of big, bold rebuilding remained. The direction of travel still rhetorically criss-crosses through seats that this time last year were bricks in the red wall, now coloured in blue. And given that the deficit is likely to hit £300bn this year in the wake of the government’s coronavirus bail-outs, the Prime Minister’s insistence that austerity is not in the offing this time was significant, even if the Treasury may have other ideas.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver a Budget later this month
(Image: Peter Summers/Getty Images)
So today's speech still spoke to the same audience as the one he delivered in Manchester nearly a year ago. The problem is that this July will not be last summer’s honeymoon. In 2019, the mumbled answer ‘fiscal headroom’ may have sufficed when he was asked by journalists how he would pay for his plans. But as the economic clouds gather and Tory backbenchers get restless, his refusal - twice - to rule out tax rises in today’s Q&A may be received less forgivingly within his own ranks. Fresh ideas seem thin on the ground. Still, there could be an upside. As some of the sharper minds in policy development note privately, the sense Number 10 still doesn’t know how to flesh all this rhetoric out could be an opportunity. Those with clever ideas and solutions may get a decent hearing among a team more used to campaigning than governing, if they get their skates on. But today, at least, suggested a roadmap with ‘election’ crossed out and ‘recovery’ written in its place.
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