Boris Johnson to call on Tories to trust their conservative instincts
Boris Johnson will use his eagerly-anticipated speech at the Tory conference to issue a clarion call to activists to “believe in Conservative values”.
In what will undoubtedly be seen as a pitch to replace Theresa May as leader, Mr Johnson will not only restate his opposition to the Prime Minister’s handling of Brexit but call on Tories to focus on law and order, tax cuts and house-building in order to defeat Labour.
His call for Tories to stick to their tax-cutting guns will come as a rebuke to Chancellor Philip Hammond, who has openly admitted taxes will rise to help pay for the £20 billion spending boost promised to the NHS.
The Tory gathering in Birmingham is becoming a grudge match between the former foreign secretary and the Chancellor, who launched a savage assault on Mr Johnson in a series of newspaper and broadcast interviews.
Mr Hammond mocked his former Cabinet colleague by mimicking his style of speaking in an interview with the Daily Mail, in which he predicted that Johnson will never become PM.
Accusing Mr Johnson of lacking the attention to detail to succeed in “grown-up politics”, he dismissed the “super-Canada” Brexit deal favoured by the former foreign secretary as a “fantasy world” plan.
Extracts released ahead of Mr Johnson’s speech to a fringe meeting on Tuesday suggest he will present himself as ready to stand up for Tory values and lead a fight against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.
In what may be seen as a swipe at Mrs May’s focus on righting “burning injustices” in society, he will urge the party not to “ape Corbyn” but to “take basic conservative ideas and fit them to the problems of today”.
Speaking at a fringe meeting hosted by the ConservativeHome website, Mr Johnson will say: “We must on no account follow Corbyn, and start to treat capitalism as a kind of boo word.
“We can’t lose our faith in competition and choice and markets but we should restate the truth that there is simply no other system that is so miraculously successful in satisfying human wants and needs.
“We should set our taxes to stimulate investment and growth. We should be constantly aiming not to increase but to cut taxes.
“It is the conservative approach that gets things done, so let’s follow our conservative instincts.”
Attacking Mr Corbyn’s leader’s speech to Labour’s conference in Liverpool last week, Mr Johnson will say: “It was astonishing that he had absolutely nothing to say about the wealth-creating sector of the economy – the people who get up at the crack of dawn to prepare their shops, the grafters and the grifters, the innovators, the entrepreneurs – he didn’t mention any successes.
“We Conservatives know that it is only a strong private sector economy that can pay for superb public services and that is the central symmetry of our one nation Toryism.”
Mr Johnson will pay only a flying one-day visit to a conference which has witnessed open warfare within the Tory party over Brexit, which critics say he has done nothing to calm.
He used a Sunday Times interview to describe Mrs May’s own policy on EU withdrawal as “deranged” and “preposterous”.
And he pointedly contrasted his record as the figurehead of the Leave campaign with that of the Remain-backing Mrs May, saying: “Unlike the Prime Minister, I fought for this.”
As Mrs May celebrated her 62nd birthday, Mr Johnson was pictured jogging through a field near his Oxfordshire home, in a photo apparently designed to mock the PM’s famous memories of “running through wheatfields” as a mischievous schoolgirl.
Mr Johnson is not speaking from the stage at this year’s conference, after walking out of Cabinet in July in protest at the plan agreed at Chequers for the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
But his scheduled speech on the fringe is the hottest ticket of the four-day gathering, with activists expected to start queuing hours early for what is certain to be a jam-packed event.
In a round of broadcast interviews on Monday, Mr Hammond was repeatedly asked whether Mr Johnson could ever become prime minister, and stated several times: “I don’t believe that will happen.”