Six key takeaways from Boris Johnson's Conservative Party conference speech

Boris Johnson has wrapped up what he called a "fantastic" Conservative Party conference in Manchester after delivering a rallying cry to Tory members in his key-note speech.

But what did we learn from a speech laden with jokes and slogans, but devoid of major new policy announcements?

  • NHS improvements are the ‘priority of the British people’:

With society reopening following more than a year of Covid-19 restrictions, Mr Johnson said the focus needed to be on getting through the backlog of hospital and doctor appointments.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government is investing in skills as part of its levelling up agenda Credit: Jacob King/PA

“Covid pushed out the great bow wave of cases and people did not or could not seek help, and that wave is now coming back,” he told the conference.

“Your hip replacement, your mother’s surgery… and this is the priority of the British people.”

  • There are 'difficult' times ahead as the Brexit vote allows an economic shift towards higher wages

Mr Johnson, who led the Leave campaign, said the British population “need and deserve” a move towards a “high-wage, high-skilled” economy following the Brexit result.

The Tory party leader admitted it would “take time, and sometimes it will be difficult, but that is the change that people voted for in 2016”.

  • The PM is not afraid to criticise past Conservative governments

Before Mr Johnson entered Downing Street, the Tories had been in power for nine years.

But that did not stop him from including David Cameron and Theresa May’s time in No 10 in his swipe at the “decades of drift and dither” from previous governments, who he accused of lacking the “guts” to take on major changes.

  • Science and maths teachers are to benefit from a “levelling-up premium”

In what turned out to be the headline policy announcement, the Prime Minister said the UK Government would give an incentive worth up to £3,000 to encourage science and maths teachers to head to different areas of the country.

The move will be on top of a £30,000 starting salary for teachers.

  • Mr Johnson thinks Margaret Thatcher would have approved of his tax rise to pay for social care

Affection for former prime minister Margaret Thatcher runs deep in certain sections of the Tory Party even though her reign ended more than 30 years ago.

Liz Truss had an early ‘fascination’ with former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher Credit: PA

Despite Thatcher being known for her low-tax ideology, Mr Johnson went so far as to announce that the former party leader, who died in 2013, would have approved of his manifesto-busting 1.25 percentage-point rise in National Insurance to pay for a social care overhaul.

Mr Johnson told activists: “She would have wagged her finger and said: ‘More borrowing now is just higher interest rates, and even higher taxes later.’”

  • The PM wants people back in offices and not working from home

In a message drilled home by ministers during the conference, Mr Johnson said that for companies to be productive, they would need “face-to-face meetings and water cooler gossip” as he called for the pandemic working patterns to end.

He showed particular concern for young new starters, arguing it would be difficult for them to “learn on the job” if they were left to work from home.

“We will and must see people back in the office,” he urged.