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Boris Johnson today denied supply chain chaos is a ‘crisis’ as he said the economy is ‘creaking’ back into life after Covid and moving to ‘higher wages’.

In a round of interviews at the Tory conference in Manchester, the PM insisted the country is at a ‘turning point’ as businesses are weaned off cheap labour after Brexit.

He compared the disruption to a ‘giant waking up’, saying it was what you would expect of the global economy recovering and ‘sucking in demand’. 

Asked directly if he thought the situation was a ‘crisis’, he replied: ‘No.’ 

But he admitted that Christmas might only be better from a ‘low base’ amid fears of ongoing shortages – after it was effectively cancelled during the pandemic last year.

And he conceded that the government’s efforts to bring in more lorry drivers from abroad are having limited success, with just 127 having applied for emergency visas.

Mr Johnson stressed that there is support for people facing huge pressure on energy bills and other living costs. 

Tensions have been rising between ministers and business over the crisis, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warning that firms will be to blame if the festive season is blighted by shortages and price rises.

One Cabinet source told the Telegraph that companies have been ‘drunk on cheap labour’ and failed to plan for the changes.  

In a round of interviews at the Tory conference in Manchester, the PM insisted the country is at a 'turning point' as businesses are weaned off cheap labour after Brexit

In a round of interviews at the Tory conference in Manchester, the PM insisted the country is at a 'turning point' as businesses are weaned off cheap labour after Brexit

In a round of interviews at the Tory conference in Manchester, the PM insisted the country is at a ‘turning point’ as businesses are weaned off cheap labour after Brexit

Boris Johnson compared the current disruption to a 'giant waking up', saying it was what you would expect of the global economy recovering and 'sucking in demand'

Boris Johnson compared the current disruption to a 'giant waking up', saying it was what you would expect of the global economy recovering and 'sucking in demand'

Boris Johnson compared the current disruption to a ‘giant waking up’, saying it was what you would expect of the global economy recovering and ‘sucking in demand’

In other developments at the Tory conference builds towards the leaders’ speech: 

  • Mr Johnson has branded Insulate Britain protesters ‘irresponsible crusties’ as Priti Patel prepares to unveil tougher measures to stop them blocking roads;
  • The PM called for people to return to offices warning otherwise they will be ‘gossiped’ about and miss out on ‘stimulus’ and ‘competition’;
  • Mr Johnson clashed bitterly with the BBC’s Nick Robinson in his first Today programme interview in two years;
  • The premier refused to rule out calling an early election but insisted he is focused ‘on the job at hand’; 
  • The number of offenders forced to wear electronic tags will double under a major initiative from Dominic Raab;   

Go to the office if you don’t want to be ‘gossiped’ about, says PM 

Boris Johnson today warned Britons working from home that they risk being ‘gossiped about’ and missing out on ‘stimulus and competition’ unless they return to the office. 

The PM voiced growing confidence that Covid will not spark further lockdowns as he urged people to get ‘back to work in the normal way’.

He said the government was always ‘humble in the face of nature’ and recognised that ‘a new variant or another pandemic could always hit us’.

But he insisted: ‘The data that I see at the moment is very clear that we are right to stick to Plan A, which is what we are on.’

He said getting back to offices was ‘essential for young people in particular’. 

‘If you are going to learn on the job, you can’t just do it on Zoom,’ he told LBC radio.

‘You have got to be able to come in, you have got to know what everyone else is talking about – otherwise you are going to be gossiped about and you are going to lose out.’   

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Mr Johnson’s broadcast round including his first interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in two years.

And it quickly descended into acrimony, with presenter Nick Robinson demanding that the PM ‘stop talking’ as he blustered through responses to questions.

A clearly stung Mr Johnson repeatedly referred to the rebuke, asking why he was there if he was not meant to be talking.  

Speaking on BBC Breakfast beforehand, the premier said: ‘The supply chain problem is caused very largely by the strength of the economic recovery.

‘What you will see is brilliant logistic experts in our supermarket chains, in our food processing industry, getting to grips with it, finding the staff that they need, we will help them in any way that we can.

‘But the shortage is global.’

He went on: ‘What you can’t do is go back to the old, failed model where you mainline low-wage, low-skilled labour – very often very hard-working, brave, wonderful people – who come in, working in conditions that frankly are pretty tough and we shouldn’t be going back to that.’

That had led to a situation where there was not investment in the industry and ‘people had to urinate in bushes’ because of the lack of facilities for drivers, he said.

Mr Johnson told LBC: ‘I sympathise very much with the frustrations of people who have been queueing for petrol. I really, really do.

‘I understand how infuriating it is when you can’t get petrol at the pumps, but I must repeat that this has overwhelmingly been a problem of demand, not supply.’

He added: ‘What I am getting at is that the tanker drivers, the lorry drivers, they have got more than the average week’s supply to the pumps for the last few days, and that is the situation.’

He also said: ‘I think even the Petrol Retailers Association have been saying that the situation has been improving markedly.

‘What you are seeing is the UK economy coming back into life, really sort of stretching its legs, starting to move again, and of course there’s been a bit of creaking here and there because we haven’t had such activity in a long time.’

Mr Johnson played down fears over spiralling inflation, saying the tackling underlying productivity problems was the way to ‘fix’ rising prices. 

He said the market would address current demand-led shortages and the shift away from fossil fuels would have a long-term effect on energy bills.

PM refuses to rule out calling early election 

Boris Johnson today refused to rule out an early general election in 2023 as he insisted he is ‘focusing on the job in hand’. 

The Prime Minister said that ‘nobody is thinking about that right now frankly’ and ‘we want to get on with delivering’. 

He repeatedly declined to commit to serving a full term, with the next election currently scheduled to take place in 2024. 

There is growing speculation that Mr Johnson could go to the country earlier than planned. 

The Government is in the process of repealing the Fixed-term Parliaments Act which was rolled out in 2011 and dictates that parliamentary terms last for up to five years. 

The legislation, introduced by the Coalition Government, dictates that following the election in 2019, the next national poll will take place on Thursday May 2, 2024.

The Conservative Party pledged in its most recent manifesto to get rid of the law, arguing that it should be up to the PM when elections are called.     

Currently an election can only be triggered outside of the normal parliamentary cycle if two thirds of MPs vote in favour of one or if the Government loses a vote of no confidence.    

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‘This Government is going to fix it for the long-term by making investments in renewable power that we can rely on in this country,’ he said.

Mr Johnson added: ‘This Government is doing the difficult, long-term things. We got Brexit done, which was a very difficult thing to do, and we are now going to address the big, underlying issues that face the UK: long-term lack of productivity, long-term lack of investment in energy and infrastructure.

‘We are going to fix that.

‘That will have a big downward pressure on costs and that is the way to tackle inflation.’

He also defended ending the £20 a week boost to Universal Credit, arguing the taxpayer should not subsidise low wages. 

‘I understand that people feel times are difficult at the moment because we have got an economy that’s coming out of a very tough period with the Covid pandemic and it’s growing strongly now,’ he said.

‘We’ve got the fastest economic growth in the G7.’ 

As the Conservative gathering enters its final stages, Home Secretary Priti Patel will today announce plans to hit eco-warriors with a new type of Asbo in an attempt to halt their motorway protests.

And Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will a unveil a deal to force criminals in ‘chain gangs’ to clear rubbish from waterways.

Mr Johnson said Insulate Britain protesters are ‘irresponsible crusties’ who have been ‘doing considerable damage to the economy’. 

‘There are some people who call those individuals legitimate protesters,’ he said.

‘They are not. I think they are irresponsible crusties who are basically trying to stop people going about their day’s work and doing considerable damage to the economy.

‘That is why we have taken the powers and why Priti Patel is doing the right thing to bring in powers so they can get six months or an unlimited fine.’

The Home Secretary is expected to confirm plans for tougher powers against the likes of Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion in her conference speech.

Protesters from Insulate Britain have blocked major roads including the M25 and the M4 in recent weeks.

A court injunction was taken out to prevent their blockade of the M25, but demonstrations have continued, most recently on roads across London on Monday.

Boris brands Insulate Britain protesters ‘irresponsible crusties’ 

Boris Johnson has branded protesters who have blocked major UK roads as ‘irresponsible crusties’.

The PM said Insulate Britain protesters, who have blocked highways across the South East in recent weeks, have been ‘doing considerable damage to the economy’.

His comments come ahead of Home Secretary Priti Patel’s speech to conference, in which she will lay out new measures to deal with demonstrators deemed to be disruptive. 

Mr Johnson told LBC: ‘There are some people who call those individuals legitimate protesters.

‘They are not. I think they are irresponsible crusties who are basically trying to stop people going about their day’s work and doing considerable damage to the economy.

‘That is why we have taken the powers and why Priti Patel is doing the right thing to bring in powers so they can get six months or an unlimited fine.’

The Home Secretary is expected to confirm plans for tougher powers against the likes of Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion in her conference speech. 

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A hearing on the original injunction, granted to National Highways on September 22, will take place at the High Court in central London later on Tuesday.

Ms Patel is preparing to announce an increase in the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway, while also criminalising interference with major roads, railways and the press.

The Home Office will also give the police and courts new powers to deal with the ‘small minority of offenders’ who are ‘intent’ on travelling around the country with the aim of ‘causing disruption and misery across our communities’.

Ms Patel will also use her Conservative Party conference address to announce a £15 million expansion in testing suspects for drugs on arrest, and is expected to say that ‘unconscionable crimes and acts of violence against women and girls have no place in our society’.

Mr Johnson is expected to use his Tory conference speech tomorrow to encourage a return to the workplace.

‘He believes very strongly in the value of face-to-face working,’ a senior source told the Daily Mail. ‘It is critical for the training and development of young people. How can you learn a new job on Zoom?’ 

Mr Johnson launched an ill-fated attempt to get office staff back to their desks last year, which was wrecked by the emergence of the second wave of Covid.

Scientific advisers have pressed him not to repeat the exercise this year because working from home is one of the most effective ways of slowing the spread of the virus.

Instead the Government left it up to employers to encourage a ‘gradual return to the workplace’.

But a second Tory source said ministers were now hopeful they would not have to issue another work from home order this winter.

‘You can never rule anything out with Covid,’ the source said. ‘But we are now in early October and hospitalisations are still running at manageable levels.

‘We are not at the point of anyone thinking about Plan B.

‘Even if we get to that point, it would start with things that cause relatively little disruption, such as mandatory masks and Covid certification.’

In other developments at the Tory conference: 

Source: Daily Mail UK

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