‘Economically Illiterate’: Prime Minister’s Conservative Conference Speech Receives Frosty Reception | Business
Boris Johnson’s vision for the UK has received a chilling reception from business and union leaders, with a think tank condemning the Prime Minister’s speech at the Conservative conference as “economically illiterate”.
Adam Smith Institute research chief Matthew Lesh also called Johnson’s address “bombastic but meaningless,” while travel industry union leader Manuel Cortes said that it was “only hot air”.
Business leaders hit back at the PM and his cabinet’s suggestions that they were unprepared for Brexit and sought out-of-control immigration, with Next boss Simon Wolfson a prominent Brexiter, warning he There was “genuine panic and discouragement” in the hospitality and nursing home sectors due to understaffing.
Reacting to Johnson’s opening address to the Tories in Manchester on Wednesday, Lesh said: “Boris’s rhetoric was bombastic but meaningless and economically illiterate. It was a program of a race to the bottom towards a centrally planned, high tax, low productivity economy. Boris paralyzes the labor market, raises taxes on a fragile recovery and avoids significant planning reform.
“Shortages and rising prices simply cannot be brushed aside with rhetoric about migrants… There is no evidence that immigration lowers the standard of living of indigenous workers. This whistle shows that this government does not care about pursuing evidence-based policies. “
The free market think tank said Johnson “lacks policies to stimulate growth,” adding: “The ‘race to the top’ so far is to list regions and their local products.”
Cortes, the secretary general of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said: “As always, this political buffoon is nothing but hot air.
“We had slogans about details at a time when costs are rising, inflation is a real concern, universal credit is being cut by millions, there are widespread food and fuel shortages and a very real climate crisis. . “
The TUC has targeted the government’s cut in universal credit, with the £ 20 per week increase ending from Wednesday. Its general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “If Boris Johnson were serious about upgrading Britain, he wouldn’t cut universal credit amid a cost-of-living crisis. “
In comments made ahead of Johnson’s widely followed speech, Lord Wolfson dismissed the Prime Minister’s suggestion that he and other business leaders were advocating unchecked immigration to ensure the flow of labor. foreign work at low cost.
The Tory peer told BBC Radio 4’s Today show that he envisions companies paying migrant workers the same wages as UK workers, plus a visa tax on top of say 7% of wages.
Regarding the acute staff shortages in many industries, Wolfson said, “When I talk to people who work in the restaurant industry, or the hospitality industry or the nursing home industry, there is real panic and real discouragement. “
The Next boss dismissed the idea that UK companies needed a shock because they had gotten used to cheap labor. “This approach leads to queues at gas stations and unnecessary shooting at pigs. I don’t think this is a particularly constructive approach, ”he said.
Warehouse wages in the UK have increased by 60% over the past decade, he said, but Next was still struggling to find enough staff, especially at Christmas, as the British didn’t want to move for three months, get away from their families and miss Christmas.
Howard Davies, chairman of NatWest Group and former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, told Today that paying people more without increasing productivity will only drive up inflation.
To achieve productivity gains, more investment is clearly needed, he said, but the UK has invested less than any other European country except Greece over the past five years. due to business uncertainty around the new trade relationship with the EU.
He said that “companies invest in technology all the time” but “all of these things have deadlines”, and called on the government to deal with short-term problems “whether it is pigs or truck drivers. heavy goods vehicles or waiters in restaurants “.
Tony Danker, managing director of corporate lobby group CBI, was more positive about the speech, calling it a “compelling vision for our economy.”
However, he added: “The Prime Minister only expressed his ambition on salaries. This must be accompanied by actions on skills, investment and productivity. The ambition on wages without action on investment and productivity is ultimately only a path to higher prices. “