Boris Johnson mused on the past, present and future of one-nation Conservatism to students on campus at Brunel University London in a talk in which Brexit was, inevitably, a recurring theme.
The Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP – Brunel's local representative – drew parallels between predictions of how the financial crisis of 2007–2008 would affect London and predictions of how Brexit will affect the UK.
"My point to you this afternoon, fellow Brunel scholars," said Johnson, alluding to his honorary Doctor of Laws, which he received from Brunel in 2007, "is that the prophets of doom almost always get it wrong. And actually what did happen in those ten years that followed all those prophesies about London was that our city went from strength to strength."
For Johnson – accompanied by Councillor Ray Puddifort, Leader of the Council for the London Borough of Hillingdon, in which Brunel lies – the reason for this strength was clear. During his tenure as Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016, he "pursued – as Ray and his colleagues in Hillingdon pursued – sensible policies of moderate one-nation Conservative government.
"At the heart of our philosophy is a very simple idea that there's a balance between the public sector and the private sector," he added. "Unless you have a strong and dynamic and innovative entrepreneurial free-market economy; unless you encourage the wealth creators in our society, and you have sensible tax systems, you don't push up taxation, you allow business to flourish – that is the way to pay for great public services."
To bring to life his vision of a thriving post-Brexit future for the UK, Johnson spoke of free trade deals, unhindered by Brexit backstops, enabling a creative, dynamic economy – typified by:
- the lightsaber from 'Star Wars': "That weapon, invented in Uxbridge, has earned more money than almost any other weapon exported by this country, I bet – and in a wholly benign way, too"
- bus shelters, manufactured in the local borough and exported to US cities such as Las Vegas
- strong higher education institutions: "This place – Brunel – attracts students from around the world. We have the best universities anywhere in this hemisphere here in the UK, and here in London particularly."
The students kept Johnson on his toes during a Q&A session, with questions ranging from what happens if Prime Minister Theresa May fails to survive the upcoming key House of Commons vote on Brexit, to whether Johnson had regrets about the size of the weekly NHS rebate figure on the side of the 'Brexit Bus'.
Johnson was invited by the Brunel University Conservative Society, speaking on 30 November as part of a series spanning the academic year.
Main image courtesy of the Office of the Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP. Additional images from @ConSocBrunel.
Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
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