With the Conservative party conference opening in Manchester today, Johnson gave the usual pre-conference interview to Andrew Marr this morning.
The political backdrop to this interview, and the Conservative conference more broadly, is widely understood to hold several problems for our PM. He is currently grappling with shortages across the economy, as well as the social and political ramifications of Sarah Everard’s murder.
Johnson might have hoped that the conference in Manchester could recast his government’s purpose following two years of crisis management, but today’s Marr interview shows this will not be so easy.
Issues with HGV lorry drivers, winter food shortages and concerns with British policing highlighted by the Sarah Everard murder were Marr’s key talking points.
After extensive pushing from Marr, Johnson admitted that problems with lorry drivers could last until Christmas, something Sunak had already told The Daily Mail. Johnson confessed: “Rishi is right invariably in everything that he says, but… it depends how you interpret what he’s saying”.
Johnson says that the UK has the fastest growing economy in the G7 and that the ongoing shortages are part of a “period of adjustment” as the UK moves to a higher wage model. In fact, Johnson said the ongoing issues highlight “the stresses and strains” of a growing economy. Marr retorted that the latest ONS figures show that wages are not keeping pace with inflation.
Distancing himself from blame for the shortages, Johnson said that for decades the road haulage industry did not invest correctly in work conditions or pay to attract potential drivers. Johnson implored the industry to invest in equipment, such as better truck stops. Our PM also underlined that he does not want to return to the old model of low wages and low skills, supported by uncontrolled immigration.
Johnson’s refusal to accept responsibility for shortages contradicts the thoughts of more than half of Britons who think our PM is doing a bad job of ensuring essential supplies according to a new poll conducted by The Independent. The Independent found that 54% of voters think Johnson has done a bad job of ensuring supply chain security.
Earlier in the interview, despite admitting that rape prosecutions are taking too long to be processed, Johnson denied that cuts to criminal justice funding had affected the process. He also said he would “stop at nothing” to drive up the rate of successful prosecutions for rape. Johnson refused to answer whether he would reverse the 25% cut to criminal justice funding.
Making a broader point, Johnson stated that “the police do overwhelmingly a wonderful job” and are “overwhelmingly trustworthy”.
Johnson also refused to back holding a public inquiry into Sarah Everard’s murder, instead blaming the Crown Prosecution Service and police for failing to coordinate well enough in preparing cases for court. In total, only 2% of reported rapes result in prosecution.