Blind optimism from 'big picture' Boris but what about the here and now?

Always one for the big picture, Boris Johnson's speech to close the Tory conference set out a wholly upbeat vision for the future.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester
Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester

Outlining what he described as his "mission", the PM said Britain was on course to become a high productivity economy with wages and skills to match.

And stressing his insistence that no one will be left behind, Mr Johnson vowed to reduce opportunity gaps between regions such as the Midlands and the south east.

In a speech peppered with gags that ran for 45 minutes – half as long as Sir Keir Starmer's effort at the Labour conference last week – the PM promised to fix the adult social care crisis and the "broken" housing market, and boost infrastructure to level up the economy.

Blind optimism and setting out bold ambitions for the future have been hallmarks of Mr Johnson's administration.

As has his tendency to tacitly criticise the work of his predecessors, and by admitting that so many things need fixing he is surely suggesting that previous Tory governments of the past decade have been, well, a bit crap.

But the question that many people are asking is what about the here and now?

As the PM conceded, the country faces some "difficult" times ahead before his vision of utopia is realised, as if the last two years have not been difficult enough.

His speech was delivered against a backdrop of tax increases and a Universal Credit cut - very real and immediate issues that are concerning millions of people across the country today.

The PM addressed both measures, but saying the tax rise is necessary in order to fund social care investment will not wash with some – including many 'true blue' Tories – who are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic.

The cut to the Universal Credit uplift meanwhile, has also been widely criticised, including by this very region's Conservative Mayor Andy Street.

To Mr Johnson, it is an effort to shift away from a benefits culture, but to many the decision comes across as unnecessary and poorly timed.

His "levelling up" up pledge has been rattling around for two years now, and while there have been positive developments in this region – mainly in terms of new infrastructure – there is no evidence that the gap between the haves and the have-nots is closing under his watch.

While critics will say Mr Johnson has over-promised and under-delivered, many people are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

He has credit in the bank after delivering Brexit and the vaccine roll-out, and the pandemic has undoubtedly held up his plans for the country.

However, it is time for less talk and more action.

There is a view that such is Labour's current predicament, the party has been reduced to relying on Tory mistakes to try and get back into power.

In the same respect, the Tories would be foolish to think they can hold onto it simply because the opposition is so inept.

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