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Boris Johnson’s speech to the Conservative conference: full text and audio

1 October 2013

3:13 PM

1 October 2013

3:13 PM

Good morning everyone. Good God … good morning everybody, thank you very much. Please, please take your seats, we’ve got a lot to get through. Good morning everybody in Manchester, it’s a great joy to be back here. Not so long ago my friends I … we welcome all sorts of luminaries to City Hall but not so long ago I welcomed the former French Prime Minister, Monsieur Alain Juppe to my office in City Hall and he cruised in with his sizeable retinue of very distinguished fellows with their legion d’honneur floret and all the rest of it and we shook hands and had a tête a tête and he told me that he was now the Mayor of Bordeaux. I think he may have been Mayor of Bordeaux when he was Prime Minister, it’s the kind of thing they do in France – a very good idea in my view. Joke, joke, joke! And what he said … joke! He said that he had the honour of representing, he had 239,517 people in Bordeaux and therefore he had the honour of representing the 9th biggest city in France. I got the ball back very firmly over the net, folks, because I said there were 250,000 French men and women in London and therefore I was the mayor of the 6th biggest French city on earth.
I can’t remember exactly what he said then, I think he said something like ‘Tiens!’ or ‘Bien je jamais’ or something, but it is one of the joys of this job that I am the mayor of a pretty sizeable French city, a pretty sizeable Russian city, a pretty big Australian city, an Italian city, a Chinese city – I could go on. That is a great thing about London, it’s a good thing for our country because that foreign money brings jobs and it fills our restaurants and it puts bums on the seats of our theatres, helps finance our universities very considerably and it enables London developers, some of whom I see in this great audience, to embark on project that otherwise would be stalled. Am I right? Yes. And it brings a buzz of excitement to the city which also of course attracts investors and yet we have to recognise that the sheer global charisma of London is putting pressure on Londoners, with average house prices in our city now six times average earnings and for the bottom 25% of earners, the house prices in the bottom quarter are nine times their earnings.
The pressure is really growing and it is intensifying thanks to an entirely home grown phenomenon to which I alluded at the end of the Olympic and Paralympic Games which took place last year because you may dimly remember that I prophesied that the athletes that Team GP and Paralympics GB had so moved the people of this country to such paroxysms of excitement, I think I said, on the sofas of Britain that they had not only inspired a generation but probably helped to create one as well and like all my predictions and promises as your Mayor or as the Mayor of many of you here, I have delivered mes amis, in that GLA Economics now say that live births in London this year will be 136,942 which is more than in any year since 1966 when England won the World Cup – and the Prime Minister was born I think.
I look around this audience – that means the population is growing very fast and it is going to hit nine million by 2020, possibly ten million by 2031 and I notice when I point this out to people that they start to look a bit worn. They’re the older generation and think, all these other people’s children, what jobs are they going to do, where are they going to live and will they be stepping on my toes on the Tube? I want to reassure you first of all that London has been here before, we had nine million in 1911, I think we had nine million in 1939 and the second thing – for once I actually brought it with me thank goodness – the second thing is that we have a plan. Here it is, the 2020 Vision, and it will ensure that we create a city in which no child is left behind or shut out and everybody has a chance to make of their lives what they can.
Step number one – and I seriously commend this document, it is entirely free on the GLA website, written entirely by me as well – step number one is to build more homes as I say. Can I just ask this audience, how many of you today here in Manchester are lucky enough to be owner occupiers? Can I ask for a show of hands, is anybody here an owner occupier? Look, here we go. Who is an owner occupier? There is no disgrace in that, we believe in the property owning democracy and all that kind of thing but we have to face the reality that for many, many millions of people, for young people in London, for many members of our families, it is now absolutely impossible to get anywhere near to affording a home and that’s why it is absolutely vital that we get on with our programmes of accelerating house building. We have done about 55,000 – Rick, how many have we done so far? 55,000 so far, give or take it will be around 100,000 over two terms.
We’ve put £3.6 billion of public land to the use of so many of the good developers I see around here, since May last year when I was elected by the way, but we need to do more and we need to accelerate our programme of house building dramatically and I think that it is time that we considered allowing companies to make tax-free loans to their employees to help them with the cost of their rent deposit – how about that? Brainy policy, no, put in for the budget considerations. Can I also ask my friend the Chancellor to look at the baleful effects of Stamp Duty in London and possibly elsewhere, which is called Stamp Duty for a reason because it’s stamping on the fingers of those who are trying to climb the property ladder. Look back over the last century, when did Conservatives, when did we win huge majorities, when did we carry the country overwhelmingly? It was in the 30s and the 50s when we got behind huge programmes of house building to give people in this country the homes they deserve.
To make those homes possible of course you have got to get on with putting in the transport links, as I never tire of telling you and we’ve not only cut delays by 40%, comrades, in London since I was elected, we have expanded the capacity of the Jubilee Line by 25%, the Victoria Line is now running at incredible 34 trains an hour – how many is that per minute? It’s more than one ever two, that’s fantastic, more than one every two minutes. There’s no flies on these guys! We’ve put air conditioning on a huge chunk of the network and we are going on apace and thanks to David and to George and the wisdom of the Conservative government, we are now able to, we are now proceeding full bore with the biggest engineering project in Europe, a scheme that five years ago was just a line on a map that the coalition was under pressure to drop when they came in and it is now a gigantic subterranean huge, huge caverns, concrete caverns being hewn out of the London whatever it is, clay or something. I should know that. As we speak, as we speak, beneath the streets of London are six colossal boring machines called Ada and Phyllis and Mary and Elizabeth and Victoria I think, I have got their names wrong, I can’t remember their names but they all have female names for some reason and Phyllis and Ada are coming in from the west and Mary and Elizabeth are going from the east, from the Limmo Peninsula and they are chomping remorselessly through the London clay and they are going to meet somewhere around Whitechapel for this ginormous convocation of worms – I don’t know what they’ll do but it will absolutely terrific because the rail capacity of London will be increased by 10% and we will have done Cross Rail, I confidently predict, as we did the Olympics, on time and on budget. A fantastic example of what this country can do and a calling card that British business is now using around the world.
In my view and in the view of those who are now working on Cross Rail, what we should do is use those world class skills that we’ve been accumulating in London, to get going before we disband them on the next set of projects. I mean obviously Cross Rail 2, High Speed Rail, new power stations, solutions to our aviation capacity problem, so that we have a logical sequential infrastructure plan for our country and don’t do what previous governments have done and that is waste billions by stopping and starting. I think we can do it, I am absolutely confident that we can do it. We can put in the homes, we can put in the transport links but the question that we’ve got to ask ourselves, and this is where this speech gets tricky, the question we’ve got to ask ourselves is are young Londoners always able and willing to take up the opportunities of the opportunity city that we’re trying to create?
Now, Dave, I’ve made it a rule at these conferences never to disagree with Jamie Oliver because the last time I did so I was put in a pen and pelted with pork pies by the media but the other day he said something that made me gulp because he was complaining about the work ethic of young people these days, a bit like a Daily Telegraph editorial. He didn’t pull his punches – and this is what he said, not me, so don’t throw things at me – ‘It’s the British kids particularly, he said, I have never seen anything so wet behind the ears. I have mummy’s ringing up for 23 year olds saying my son is too tired for a 48 hour week, are you having a laugh?’ the celebrity chef told Good Housekeeping. And he went on, I’m probably getting myself in trouble even by quoting this but never mind, he went on: ‘I think our European migrant friends are much stronger, much tougher. If we didn’t have any, all of our restaurants would close tomorrow. There wouldn’t be any Brits to replace them.’
Now I can see looks of apoplectic … well, no I can’t really. Where’s the apoplexy? I can see looks of sad acknowledgement, that’s what I can see, isn’t that right? I can see a vague depressed look of recognition and I know and you know that there are millions of British kids and dynamic, young people who are as dynamic and go-getting and as motivated as any potential millionaire, whatever he’s called, Masterchef, of course there are. But my question to you is, what if Jamie has a point? What if he has half a point or even a quarter of a point? Do you think he does? Half a point, quarter of a point? He’s on to something. He may have phrased it in a provocative way but he was saying something that I think resonates, right? Okay, I’m getting through this with difficulty.
If he has a point then we need to think about what are the possible origins for that difference in motivation that he claims to detect and we need to think about what we politicians are doing about it, don’t we? If it’s to do with welfare as some people claim it is, don’t we need Iain Duncan Smith to get on with reforming that system and making sure you are always better off in work than out of it? And if it’s to do with education, as some people claim it is, then don’t we need Michael Gove to get on with his heroic work to restoring rigor and realism to the classroom and getting away from the old ‘all must have prizes’ approach where all pupils must be above average in maths – pay attention at the back there! – which is not possible. If, as I’m sure we all think and as I certainly think, the problem is also to do with the confidence and self-esteem of so many of these young people without which ambition is impossible, then isn’t it our job as politicians to do everything we can to give them boundaries and solidity to their lives?
That’s why I have spent a lot of my time as Mayor on projects like the Mayor’s Fund for London and Team London and encouraging volunteers to read to kids across our city and mentoring programmes which we are expanding and the support of the uniformed groups, the Scouts, the Guides, all those kinds of fantastic organisations, bringing sporting facilities to schools that don’t have any, mobile pools we’ve been sending around London, beautiful glorified sheep dips we send round, they love it. They work brilliantly well and we’re helping to get talented young musicians to cross that barrier that they confront when they reach the age of eleven and have to go through into secondary school and so many of them give up their instruments and it’s a real, real tragedy and we are setting up funds to help with creation of excellence in our schools and to improve standards all round, to support the work that Michael Gove is doing.
It’s when I look at the huge range of projects that we’re engaged in now at City Hall together with hundreds, if not thousands of other projects, many of which are supported by people in this room, I do think we are making a difference to the lives of those young people and we have got loads of them into apprenticeships, about 118,000 over the last couple of years, we’re going to get on to 250,000 by 2016 and thanks to the police, thanks very largely to their work, we are seeing significant falls in crime as Jane was just saying. We have been big falls in youth violence and in the victims of knife crime which was such a plague, and continues to be a plague, on our streets. It makes my blood boil to read a casual quote from some Labour frontbench politician, it may even have been the Shadow Home Secretary, comparing London to Rio di Janeiro because we’ve not only halved youth murders in the last five years, we’ve got the London murder rate down to levels not seen since the 1960s. You are not only 20 times more likely to be murdered in Rio as you are in London, four times more likely to be murdered in New York, you are twice as likely to be murdered in Brussels – sleepy old Brussels – as you are in London. Presumably with lobster picks.
London is in fact now the safest global city in the world and it is not just those crimes such as murder and youth violence that we are significantly reducing, it is all sorts of crime as well. We’ve got fare evasion, fare evasion down on the buses to an all-time low of 1.1%, whatever 1.1% means, mainly thanks to getting rid of the bendy buses. That I think is the way forward. You’ve got to tackle that complex of problems, crime well frozen, educational underachievement and you’ve got to make sure that kids growing up in London are able to take opportunity that our city offers and at the same time we must make sure they don’t dismiss some jobs as quote/unquote ‘menial’, which is a word I sometimes hear, and that they see them, those jobs that London creates in such abundance, in the same way that Jamie Oliver’s East Europeans see those jobs, as stepping stones, as a beginning to a life in work that can take them anywhere.
Now I’m conscious today that I am speaking very frankly about this issue, I have probably got myself as usual into trouble, that’s my job, because I think there is a vast and latent genius in these young people and if we could harness their talents more effectively then they would not only have fulfilling lives but we could drive even faster the great flywheel of the London economy that is now the most diverse in Europe and we not only lead the world as the financial centre, artistic centre, cultural centre, we now have, we now have the biggest text sector anywhere in Europe, we have a growing NED city of academic health science institutions along the Euston Road and in ten years, in the next ten years it is forecast that London’s media industry will produce more film and TV content than either New York or Los Angeles. I can scarcely believe that but that’s what I am assured. That is an extraordinary change that is taking place in the London economy and it is this prodigious, pulsating demand of London that helps to drive the rest of the country.
The EU Commission has just done a study about competitiveness of regions in Europe, have you all read it? You should read it, you’re in it folks. They have discovered, they have determined, the EU Commission – and I dare not dissent – has concluded that Surrey and West and East Sussex – anybody here from Surrey and West and East Sussex? Well done, well done Surrey and West and East Sussex, you belong to the fifth most competitive region in Europe. They have looked at Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire – anybody here from Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire? Well done, Prime Minister, well done, congratulations, you belong to the third most competitive region in Europe, well done. And why are those regions so fizzing with competitiveness according to the EU Commission? Because London is the most competitive city in the whole of Europe and it drives jobs across the UK and not just in the south-east.
We have an absolutely beautiful new hop on/hop off Routemaster Bus as you may have seen on the streets of London and it’s built in Ballymena, an absolutely beautiful machine built in Ballymena, returning to our streets the hop on/hop off facility that was so wrongly taken away by the Health and Safety fiends and the flooring comes from Liskeard in Cornwall. Yesterday I was at a factory in Middleton, Greater Manchester, where they are making the destination blinds with a beautiful 2000 year old Chinese silk-screening technique, the destination blinds for our new London bus. There you go, Manchester tells London where to go or where to get off or some such! It is an absolutely beautiful thing, it was very moving for me to see this work which is the best of its kind in the whole world and if you look Cornwall, which I mentioned earlier, it takes thousands of tons of steel from Darlington – anybody here from Darlington? From Middleton? Come on folks, from Oldham? Well there we go. Cranes from Derbyshire …[cheer] There you go! Newcastle? Bridges, bridges from Shropshire, anybody from Shropshire here? Well done, we love your bridges. Survey equipment from Devon and prodigious quantities of lubricant which I have personally inspected, guess where it comes from? Bournemouth. Bournemouth, isn’t that fantastic. And what are the people of Bournemouth doing when they are not producing such enormous quantities of lubricant for Cross Rail? Shall I tell you what they are doing? I’ll tell you. Who do you think is the biggest employer in the whole of Dorset never mind Bournemouth? Who is the biggest employer in the whole of Dorset, you know this one – excluding the NHS which is still pretty big – do you know who it is? Insurance is very close, it’s the right idea, it is J.P. Morgan mes amis. J.P. Morgan. If there wasn’t a strong banking sector in London then there would be no strong banking sector in Edinburgh and there certainly wouldn’t be one in Dorset.
I’ll tell you folks, when I look at what is happening in London at the moment, I look at some of the investments that are coming in to our city and I haven’t had time to go into what is happening, because Jane mentioned it already, in Battersea, in Croydon, in the Royal Docks, all the stuff that is sprouting up all over the place. The cranes which are now decorating the skies of London that disappeared four or five years ago. When I see what’s happening I must say that I share the optimism and the excitement of George Osborne completely, I thought he gave a brilliant speech yesterday but I also, I also share his realism, his realism and his determination to remove the remaining barriers to competitiveness in our country and what is the greatest barrier to competitiveness folks, for London and indeed for Britain? What is it? Not visas, much worse than visas. What is the greatest threat we face, come on folks, pay attention. A Labour government, correct.
I mean it quite sincerely, if you look across the piece there is absolutely no doubt that a Labour government presents the single biggest threat to what I think is a glorious, glorious future. Do we want to go back to all that again? Do we want to put them back on the bridge when they ran the ship aground? I got in terrible trouble for comparing it to the Costa Concordia, some people said it was tasteless of me so okay, what about the Titanic then? Is that better? Is that more acceptable?
We don’t want to go back to the high tax, high spend approach of Ed Miliband who emanated from the bowels of the trade union movement like his party, we want to go forward with a low tax enterprise equality. We don’t want a mansion tax do we? No, we don’t because it would inhibit the very homes programme that we need to get going and we want to build, as I say, hundreds of thousands of more homes. We don’t want to go back never mind to the age of old Labour, we don’t want to go back to the age of Diocletian, Emperor Diocletian that is, with some crazed attempt at governmental price fixing, which is what Ed Miliband came up with last week, we want to go forward with a serious programme of new power station building and, for my money, with fracking, why not, absolutely, let’s get going.
We must not go back to the old failed Labour idea of a third runway at Heathrow. You knew I was going to say this but I’m going to say it, a third runway at Heathrow aggravating noise pollution in what is already the city in the world worst affected by noise pollution by miles. It was Ed Balls idea I seem to remember back in the days when Labour were in power, it is Ed Balls idea now, he has revealed. It was Balls then, it’s Balls now and it is not good enough for this country, it isn’t the right answer for the most beautiful and liveable city on earth.
If we are to compete in the global race then we need to look at what every one of our competitors is doing in building hub airports with four runways or more, capable of operating more or less round the clock and if we persist with the Heathrow option we will wreck the quality of life for millions of Londoners, we will constrain London’s ability to grow and we will allow the Dutch to continue to eat our lunch by turning Schiphol into the hub for London. Thank you.
Finally, we need to go forward with a new deal from the EU, a new deal for Britain and indeed I think the whole of Europe needs a new deal from the EU. Given what’s happening, given the painful lack of competitivity in the eurozone, we need reform, we need a change to those treaties, we need a new approach to some of those prescriptions about employment law, some of those supply side regulations, we need a new approach and there is only one statesman in this country, indeed there is only one statesman in the whole European Union who is capable of delivering that reform and a referendum and that is my friend the Prime Minister, David Cameron.
It’s true, absolutely true. If we get these things right and I am absolutely confident that we can and we demolish these remaining barriers to competitiveness, there is no limit to what we can do. I saw the other day some geezer from the Kremlin said something about this country that was even less polite than what Jamie Oliver had to say. He said that Britain was a small island that no one paid any attention to except oligarchs who bought Chelsea. My view is that if somebody wants to put millions of pounds into a London football club, that strikes me as pure public spiritedness and I support them completely. I don’t want to risk polonium in my sushi by bandying statistics with the Kremlin about per capital GDP or life expectancy except to say that the UK of course vastly exceeds Russia in both.
The serious point is that this alleged spokesman underestimates where our country, the UK, is going and what it can do. If you look at the demographics and the knowledge base and indeed the manufacturing industries, if you look at what is happening with Tata, in which this country excels, then there is every chance in our lifetimes and I mean to live a very, very long time, that the UK – mark what I say – the UK could be the biggest country in the EU both in population and in output. That had you, it’s true. Scary thought. The reason so many Russians come here is that they recognise that London is not simply the capital of Britain but also of the EU and in many ways, of the world. A city with more American banks in it than there are in New York for heaven’s sake. A 24 hour city in which there are 100,000 people working in supplying us all with coffee in the coffee bars of London, how about that? We have more baristas than barristers, there are quite a few barristers as well, and yet with so much green space in London that we produce two million cucumbers a year from London. Eat your heart out, Vladimir Putin. It is partly thanks to our cucumber yields, our staggering cucumber yields, comrades, that London now contributes almost 25% of UK GDP, which is more than the city has contributed at any time since the Romans founded it.
In the next couple of years obviously we need to take all sorts of crucial decisions about how to ensure the harmonious development of that city and I want those decisions to be taken by Conservatives. The choice at the next election is very simple – it’s between the fool’s gold of Labour gimmicks which we all understand, we’ve all fought before and a government that is willing to take tough and sensible decisions, to cut unnecessary spending but to make the key investments in transport and infrastructure and housing and in our communities that will take this country forward. I know what I want as Mayor of the greatest city on earth, I think I know what you want, am I right? I know that we can do it so let’s go for it over the next two years. Cut that yellow Liberal Democrat albatross from around our necks and let it plop into the sea, let it plop into the sea by working flat out for David Cameron as Prime Minister and an outright Conservative victory in 2015. Thank you very much, thank you everybody.


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