Boris Johnson: I’ll ‘rocket boost’ election promises

Cooper grilled on Lib Dems 'standing aside' in by-election

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The Prime Minister yesterday vowed to use “rocket boosters” to rebuild the country after the “warning shot” by-election loss. He is to redouble efforts to deliver Tory manifesto promises with more nurses, hospitals and police high in his priorities, said a No10 source. Mr Johnson’s reset of his Premiership comes after the Conservatives lost a previously ultra-safe Buckinghamshire seat. He said the loss of Chesham and Amersham to the Lib Dems was “disappointing”, but added: “We are getting on with delivering our agenda for the whole country.”

The PM also intends to follow his recent trade deal with Australia by securing agreements with New Zealand and the Pacific region.

After 18 months dominated by delivering Brexit and tackling the pandemic, he plans to concentrate on meeting manifesto pledges and “building back better” from Covid.

He also intends to help young people get on the housing ladder by creating more homes.

The Government is pushing for benefits in all its international trade agreements that will spread increased wealth across the UK, as it re-balances the economy.

A deal with the United States should also be signed by next year.

Mr Johnson, who yesterday visited a sixth form centre and a biscuit factory in West Yorkshire, is determined the poll setback will not throw the Conservatives off course.

He said “particular circumstances” locally led to the defeat and added: “We are getting on with delivering our agenda for the whole country, that’s what one-nation Conservatism is all about. We believe in uniting and levelling up.”

Amanda Milling, the Tories’ co-chairman, said that the Buckinghamshire result was “extremely disappointing” and pledged the party would redouble its efforts to deliver on its manifesto.

She continued: “It’s a warning shot and we will be working hard to regain the trust of the people of Chesham and Amersham.

“This one-nation Conservative government is determined to continue to build on the promises we made to the British people in 2019.

“We will redouble our efforts as we work hard to continue to level up the whole country and deliver on our manifesto promises as we work to build back better.”

Mr Johnson said claims that he is neglecting the South of England in favour of northern voters – after winning Labour heartlands – were “a bit peculiar, a bit bizarre. We will
continue with our mission to unite and level up because that is the best way to deliver jobs, prosperity across the whole country.”

The Tories’ defeat was fuelled by deep opposition in the seat to the HS2 rail project and concerns about the impact that planning reforms could have on the countryside around the Chilterns.

Mr Johnson claimed there had been “wilful misunderstanding” by opposition parties about reforms.

He added: “What we want is sensible plans to allow development on brownfield sites. We’re not going to build on greenbelt sites, we’re not going to build all over the countryside.

“But I do think that young people growing up in this country should have the chance of home ownership and that’s what we’re focusing on.

“It’s a great dream for young people in their 20s, 30s that they currently don’t have. We want to make it easier and that’s what we’re all about.”

Tory sources said last night they will be analysing the Lib Dems’ election returns to check the party obeyed election rules. It swamped the area with workers and posted huge numbers of leaflets.

The party’s Sarah Green – a fierce opponent of the HS2 high-speed scheme – seized the seat that had been a Tory stronghold since its creation in 1974, overturning a 16,000-vote majority to win by 8,028 votes.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said her victory would “send a shockwave through British politics”, claiming it demonstrated that the “Blue Wall” of Tory southern seats might be vulnerable. Former Lib Dem speech writer Dr Mike Finn, a lecturer at the University of Exeter, warned that the party should not get carried away with any wider implications from the byelection result.

He said: “The Lib Dems have a strong history of winning byelections against Tory governments, but the possibilities of a Lib Dem revival are overstated.” Meanwhile, Labour lost its deposit after coming fourth with just 622 votes.

Polling expert Sir John Curtice said it was the “worst Labour performance in any byelection”.

Party sources said the Lib Dems “threw everything at this seat” and said voters who did not want to back the Tories turned to support their closest local rivals.

Frontbencher Jess Phillips said the result reflected the way British political allegiances were shifting: “There is a realignment in the idea of safe seats, and the result in Chesham and Amersham, I have to say – as somebody who doesn’t really particularly like the idea of safe seats and voters being taken for granted – I quite like it when voters corral to send a very clear message.”

One of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s closest aides is standing down after the result. Ben Nunn said he was quitting as Sir Keir’s director of communications after Labour scraped just 1.6 percent of the vote.

He was said to be leaving to pursue other projects rather than as a direct response to the defeat.

Mr Nunn wrote to colleagues: “I remain as convinced today as I ever have been that [Sir Keir] will be a great prime minister and make this a better, stronger, more prosperous country.”

The pair had worked together since 2017, Mr Nunn helping Sir Keir succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

The defeat came little over a month after Labour also lost Hartlepool, with the Tories securing their first MP in the constituency’s history.

In Mr Nunn’s leaving message, he added: “I’ve worked in politics for about six years now and in that time I’ve worked through the junior doctors’ dispute, EU referendum campaign, a leadership contest, Brexit, a general election, another leadership contest and a global pandemic.

“I’ve had the opportunity to learn and experience so much. Now is the chance for me to go forward and do something different.”

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