In an exclusive interview with ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks, Boris Johnson had a message for critics: he's not going anywhere
Boris Johnson has denied that it is a source of personal shame that many voters have said they no longer trust him, following two bruising by-elections for the Tories.
In an exclusive interview with ITV News, Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks asked the prime minister about the Conservative Party's defeat to Labour in Wakefield and a huge swing to the Liberal Democrats in Tiverton and Honiton on Thursday, and how many of the electorate said they no longer trust him.
When asked if this was a source of personal shame for the PM, Mr Johnson said "no" and instead stressed the "remarkable" achievements of his government.
"I understand that people are going to want to criticise me, attack me for all sorts of reasons, some of them good, some of them less good," the PM said in response to voters' concerns. “I think that actually when you look at what this government has done, it is pretty remarkable. We're going to continue to do that.
“And I think when I look at those by-election results, I think what people were saying was they were pretty fed up with hearing an awful lot of stuff about me as an individual rather than hearing about what matters to them as voters.
“And that's why what I have to do is focus on what we are doing to change our economy, change the way things work for the better.”
Boris Johnson responds with a "no" when asked if he feels any shame when some voters say they no longer trust him
When questioned about some voters highlighting Mr Johnson as being behind their decisions not to vote for the Conservatives, the PM stressed what he believed to be some of the successes of his premiership.
"If you want to look at examples of my leadership then I would point you to what we did to solve the Brexit problem, very, very tough, what we did was make sure we had the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe and what we are doing now to help people through a tough time," Mr Johnson said.
"The golden rule, I think, is not for politicians to talk about themselves but to talk about our ideas, our arguments, our plans, what we want to do for the country."
Mr Johnson's apparent confidence in his ability to lead the country was echoed hours earlier when he suggested he planned to remain in power into the 2030s with a third term in office.
Asked by journalists at the British high commissioner’s residence in Kigali on Saturday if he would lead his party into the next election, he said: “Will I win? Yes.”
In a buoyant mood, the prime minister added: “At the moment I’m actively thinking about the third term and what could happen then, but I will review that when I get to it.”
Despite Mr Johnson's apparent optimism, Conservative critics are reportedly plotting to oust him after voters rejected the Tories in the two by-elections which come just weeks after 148 of his own MPs sided against him in a confidence vote.
Asked by ITV News whether he was seeking a decade in power, Mr Johnson answered that he is "focused on the immediate job in hand, so that involves helping right now with the cost of living…
"What I am focused on doing all the things we need to do is tide people over in the immediate tough time but then make sure we bounce out of it as strongly as possibly."
Earlier on Sunday, Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis backed the PM and said his desire to look “long-term” when it comes to his leadership “has got to be a good thing”.
The Northern Ireland secretary said he sees in Mr Johnson “drive and enthusiasm for what we want to achieve for our country”, and that kind of “zest” is to be celebrated.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: “We often get criticised in politics when we look short-term, at just the next day, the next election, the next vote.
“Actually we’ve got somebody as prime minister who wants to be looking long-term at how we structurally improve our country for generations to come. That has got to be a good thing.”
Despite the support from his frontbench, the attacks keep on coming from those on the backbenches.
On Saturday night, Damian Green, who chairs the One Nation caucus of Tory MPs, warned the government “needs to alter both its style and content” and called on Cabinet members with leadership hopes to show their stripes.
While former minister David Davis also lashed out at the PM’s claim the only argument of “substance” for a change of direction he had heard from his critics was for the UK to return to the EU single market, arguing this is “plainly not true of me, or many others”.
"The risk" is that Boris Johnson's "bullish" attitude in his interview with Romilly Weeks, just days after two crushing by-election defeats, could "anger" some of the Tory MPs who backed the PM in the confidence vote, says Political Reporter Kathryn Samson
When asked what the biggest regret of his premiership so far is, Mr Johnson said he would "leave that to further reflection".
"I haven’t had time to think about that," the PM told Romilly Weeks.
Despite saying his government would "look after" people amid the soaring cost-of-living crisis, with inflation now at a 40-year high of 9.1%, the PM suggested that public sector workers would not be getting a pay rise of more than 3%.
Asked about comments from Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke that public sector workers such as teachers, doctors and nurses can't expect a pay rise of more than 3%, Boris Johnson says increasing wages too much amid soaring inflation levels will just "worsen the situation"
Mr Johnson said he knew this was "frustrating" for those employed in the public sector, but said that large pay increases amid high inflation would further worsen the situation and "cancel out the benefit".
"I know people will find that frustrating, I have to be realistic about where we are," Mr Johnson said.
"I think, I am pretty certain that our inflationary pressures will abate over time and things will start to get better.
“But what I'm saying to people, as I said during the pandemic, we will look after you during a difficult time, we will continue to provide an arsenal of support.
“But we've got to make sure that we're taking the sensible and responsible decisions to have the strongest possible economic recovery and so that's why we've got the plan for a stronger economy that I've been, I've been setting out to you.”
Mr Johnson was also asked about allegations in The Times that he planned to build a £150,000 tree house in the grounds of his Chequers country residence but was forced to abandon the idea after police raised security concerns.
The report said Mr Johnson and wife Carrie had wanted to build the tree house at the grace and favour retreat in autumn 2020 for their son Wilf.
Sources said Tory party donor Lord Brownlow was considered to draw up the project, which was said to have been dismissed because of the security risk of the structure being visible from the road, despite the design featuring bulletproof glass.
When quizzed by ITV News about the newspaper's claims, Mr Johnson did not outright deny the story, instead saying "no such structure" had been built and said he would not discuss his private life.
"There is no such structure," Boris Johnson tells ITV News when asked about claims in The Times that he and Carrie wanted to build their son a £150,000 tree house at Chequers
Mr Johnson also said he would like to offer Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a state visit "if he ever becomes free".
Mr Johnson was speaking ahead of the G7 summit in Bavaria where he will call on world leaders not to waver in their support for Ukraine as the conflict drags on, which could result in Mr Zelenskyy being pressured into accepting peace terms which cede large tracts of territory to Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Mr Johnson would not single out individual nations but said there was a “general sentiment” among some of his fellow leaders as he seeks to rally them.
Mr Johnson told ITV News the G7 - the seven most 'advanced' economies in the world and the EU - must "unite" and stand with Ukraine.
"People in G7, the leaders can still see how vital it is we stand together for freedom because we will pay a much much higher price later on if we allow Putin to get away with it.
"The consequences for the world in legitimising further aggression are much much worse."
At the G7 summit at the luxury spa retreat Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian Alps the PM will promise further financial support for Ukraine in the form of £429 million ($525 million) in guarantees for World Bank lending and urge allies to commit to supporting President Zelenskyy as the war against Russia drags on.
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Mr Zelenskyy is due to address the G7 countries – the UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and the EU – remotely on Sunday.
The Ukrainian government fears it could run out of funding by the autumn unless it is given urgent financial help and Mr Johnson will lobby counterparts to do more, following the example set by the UK.
The loan guarantees provided by the UK will take economic and humanitarian support offered by the government to £1.5 billion and will cover costs such as public sector wages, and the running of schools and hospitals.
The prime minister will also urge Western allies to increase sanctions “against Putin and his cronies, ensuring they feel the cost of their barbarism”, the spokesperson said.
Mr Johnson’s aims also include finding ways to allow Ukrainian grain exports to resume to alleviate global food shortages.
The prime minister said there is little hope of sending the Royal Navy to rescue grain from the Russian president’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports as he set sights on talks with Turkey to prevent famine being a consequence of the invasion.
Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be at the Nato gathering, which takes place in Madrid from Tuesday to Thursday, with Mr Johnson.
At the Nato summit, the prime minister will also push for increased defence spending across the alliance and support Sweden and Finland’s bids to join the organisation.