LT24:BBC:SKY::Boris Johnson has vowed to defeat Covid and build a better country over the next decade in his leader’s speech to the virtual Conservative conference.
Evoking the UK’s recovery from World War Two, he said he wanted to build a “new Jerusalem”, with opportunity for all, improved housing and healthcare.
He warned the UK could not return to normal after the pandemic, which would be a “catalyst” for major change.
And he rejected suggestions he had “lost his mojo” as “drivel”.
In his speech, delivered without the usual conference audience, he said he wanted to see the back of coronavirus and the “erosion of liberties” it had led to and to see the country flourishing again.
He said: “Even in the darkest moments we can see the bright future ahead. And we can see how to build it and we will build it together.”
The PM praised the UK’s fight against the virus, saying he had had “more than enough” of the disease – which he insisted would be overcome by “collective effort”.
He insisted the pandemic could not be allowed to “hold us back or slow us down” and the country that emerged from the crisis would be very different from the one that preceded it.
Insisting that “we will not content ourselves with a repair job” after the pandemic, he said the government would:
Mr Johnson said the pandemic had “forced” the government into massively expanding the role of the state, but warned against drawing the “wrong economic conclusion from this crisis”.
He said for Conservatives, the increased bail-outs and subsidies to prop up the economy “go against our instincts,” but there was “simply no reasonable alternative”.
“There are many who regard this state expansion as progress, who want to keep the state supporting furlough forever, keep people in suspended animation,” he said.
“We Conservatives believe that way lies disaster, and that we must build back better by becoming more competitive, both in tax and regulation.”
Pledging to rebuild the dream of home ownership for the young, he vowed to help get more 20 to 30-year-olds on the housing ladder by offering fixed-rate mortgages available to those with just 5% deposits.
He added: “In the depths of the Second World War, in 1942 when just about everything had gone wrong, the government sketched out a vision of the post-war new Jerusalem that they wanted to build.
“And that is what we are doing now – in the teeth of this pandemic.
“We are resolving not to go back to 2019, but to do better: to reform our system of government, to renew our infrastructure; to spread opportunity more widely and fairly and to create the conditions for a dynamic recovery that is led not by the state but by free enterprise.”
Having been admitted to intensive care earlier this year when he contracted coronavirus himself, the prime minister admitted his own underlying condition was being “too fat” prior to catching the disease.
He revealed he has since lost 26lbs, almost two stone, and challenged “nonsense” suggestions he was still impacted by his illness.
“Of course this is self-evident drivel, the kind of seditious propaganda that you would expect from people who don’t want this government to succeed, who wanted to stop us delivering Brexit and all our other manifesto pledges,” he said.
In the most eye-catching of the prime minister’s policy proposals in his address, Mr Johnson reiterated his election manifesto promise to encourage a new market in long-term fixed-rate mortgages.
The prime minister said: “We need now to take forward one of the key proposals of our manifesto of 2019: giving young, first-time buyers the chance to take out a long-term, fixed-rate mortgage of up to 95% of the value of the home – vastly reducing the size of the deposit and giving the chance of home ownership – and all the joy and pride that goes with it – to millions that feel excluded.
“We believe that this policy could create two million more owner-occupiers – the biggest expansion of home ownership since the 1980s.
“We will help turn generation rent into generation buy.”
In a hint at the possible introduction of an insurance-based scheme, Mr Johnson also promised to “fix the injustice of care home funding” by “bringing the magic of averages to the rescue of millions”.
“COVID has shone a spotlight on the difficulties of that sector in all parts of the UK – and to build back better we must respond, care for the carers as they care for us,” he added.
In addition, the prime minister confirmed his pledge that offshore wind power would be powering every home in the country within 10 years.
“Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle – the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands,” he said.
“As Saudi Arabia is to oil, the UK is to wind – a place of almost limitless resource, but in the case of wind, without the carbon emissions and without the damage to the environment.”
Mr Johnson also outlined the government’s intent to explore the value of one-to-one teaching – as tried when the pandemic led to the shutting of schools – for pupils “in danger of falling behind, and for those who are of exceptional abilities”.
The prime minister branded Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as “Captain Hindsight” and opposition MPs as a “regiment of pot-shot, snipeshot fusiliers”.
And Mr Johnson sought to put further distance between the Tories and their opponents in parliament.
Despite his government’s intervention in the economy with support packages since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the prime minister warned that “there comes a moment when the state must stand back and let the private sector get on with it”.
“I have a simple message for those on the left, who think everything can be funded by uncle sugar the taxpayer,” he said.
“It isn’t the state that produces the new drugs and therapies we are using.
“It isn’t the state that will hold the intellectual property of the vaccine, if and when we get one. It wasn’t the state that made the gloves and masks and ventilators that we needed at such speed.
“It was the private sector, with its rational interest in innovation and competition and market share and, yes, sales.
“We must not draw the wrong economic conclusion from this crisis.
Having made a comparison with the British government outlining their post-Second World War vision even in the depths of conflict in 1942, Mr Johnson set out his vision of Britain in 2030.
He spoke of zero carbon jets, blue passports, digital IDs, electric taxis, and gigabit broadband.
“Even in the darkest moments we can see the bright future ahead, and we can see how to build it, and we are going to build it together,” the prime minister said.