As the 2019 general election campaign draws to a close, Boris Johnson is hoping to hold on to the position of Prime Minister and seats to secure a Conservative majority.
He spoke to talkRADIO's Julia Hartley-Brewer while out on the campaign trail.
Julia Hartley-Brewer: Prime Minister, thank you for joining us today here at talkRADIO. Now the shadow health secretary, John Ashworth, he’s been secretly taped saying that he thought Jeremy Corbyn could be a threat to national security, it was a mistake to elect him as leader and that Labour’s prospects are dire. If even Labour frontbenchers don't think they're going to win on Thursday, why are you telling voters that it's all not in the bag yet, that it’s all to play for?
Boris Johnson: Because everybody remembers what happened a couple of years ago and everybody knows that polls can be wrong, but where I think John Ashworth was very sensible was in what he said about Mr Corbyn's views on, whether it's Hamas, Hezbollah, the IRA, his associations in the past unquestionably do raise questions about the security clearance that he might have. And I'm afraid even more important than that, John Ashworth identified him as a Brexit blocker. He wants to stop Brexit. And that is something that I think is really holding this country back. You know? That's what we want to do. We want to get Brexit done. Take the country forward, and that's the big choice on Thursday. Do we want more paralysis with Corbyn and Sturgeon or do we want a dynamic, energetic one nation Conservative government that’s going to go places.
JHB: Are you a bit worried, that with such clear stark choices between what Conservatives want to do on Brexit and on spending and what Labour want to do, stopping Brexit and the massive spending splurge, that with that clear divide, that there are still so many undecided voters, does that concern you, particularly women?
BJ: It's a very interesting point. I think that actually a lot of people are starting to make their minds up. But I would just say to everybody who's thinking about it now, look, this is a very, very stark choice. And you know, if it's women voters, the female voters who are hesitating between Corbyn and us, I would say, look at the overall package of what we're offering in terms of protecting public services, massively investing in the NHS, bringing crime down, investing in stuff for kids, massive investment in youth centres, lots of work to help families, to help parents in all sorts of ways, whether it's through, childcare or cutting taxes for all working people. We've got a big, big programme that I think should appeal to everyone in this country, male or female.
JHB: You don't have a woman problem then?
BJ: Well, we've got more female candidates standing at this election than any time in the past. Don't forget to look at my cabinet, or the cabinet that I run, and it's got lots of very talented women in the top jobs. And then, which is the party that produced two female Prime Ministers, Julia? It's not Labour.
JHB: Okay. Now, the whole time through this election, the mantra has been “Get Brexit done”. It's the answer to virtually every question, “Get Brexit done”. The criticism from the other side is, voting on Thursday for the Tory Party isn't going to get Brexit done. Even if you deliver on the 31st of January, it's still going to be months and months of wrangling to the end of the year and years trying to negotiate trade deals elsewhere.
BJ: No well, that's alright because Brexit is a very simple idea and it's a beautiful idea. It means you take back control of your money, your borders, your laws. You could do things differently. You can, you know, for everything from VAT to sanitary products to animal welfare, all sorts of things you do differently. Free ports, you name it. Immigration control, we can take back control of our immigration, have an Australian-style points-based system. We can have a Canadian style free trade deal and Australian-style points-based system for immigration. And so that's the formal position. That happens on January the 31st. You begin that work for the whole of the next year, but you also begin then, of course yes, to develop the free trade partnership with the EU, with China, with Australia with everywhere else and what we're going to have to do – I mean, if we're lucky enough to get a working majority, it'll be a great moment for the UK because we used to be the country that brought free trade to the world. We used to be the great global champions of free trade. We're going to have to recapture that role a bit.
JHB: What do you make of people who think that this country can't go out on its own? That we're too small and that we'll never get a good trade with the United States, for instance, without selling off the NHS. And we're just too small to get that deal and to do it in a short space of time. What's your answer to that?
BJ: Well, it's a view that is really confined to people in this country who take a certain view of this country. I find that there are loads of people around the world, friends and admirers of the UK who look at us and think “My God, you're Great Britain, you're the United Kingdom. You're the guys who gave the world sport, you're the guys who have more Nobel prizes than any other country apart from America. You’re the guys who dominated the world pop music industry. You're the guys are the best universities on earth. You're the guys who lead in finance, in bio science and all the cutting edge technologies of the world. You gave the world the concepts of the industrial revolution. What's holding you back?” You know, that's what they say to me. And I think they're often taken aback by our own reticence, our own reluctance, to see that we can have a fantastic friendship with our European friends. We can develop that partnership. But we can also be global again.
JHB: So on trade deals, on the EU, is no deal still on the table if we can't get a trade deal with Michel Barnier, and is the NHS up for sale for a US trade deal?
BJ: Well on the second point, absolutely not under no circumstances will that happen, will the NHS be on the table. But I think that that a sort of UFO type allegation has been pretty comprehensively demolished to the course of this campaign. The documents that Labour produced didn't show, what Mr Corbyn produced, didn't show what Corbyn wanted them to show. And I think that Corbyn was really trying to distract from the whole of the heart of his own Brexit policy. There's a very, very clear choice. You know, we have a great deal. We're ready to go. Uh, we can come out in January, get going on with things…
JHB: You’re confident it’s all going to be done and dusted?
BJ: Well, we have a deal. Here's the contrast. Our deal is approved by every one of the 630 plus candidates, Tory candidates, standing this election. They all back the deal. Whatever view they have about the EU, and contrast that with Jeremy Corbyn. He hasn't got a single candidate that I know of, no member of his shadow cabinet, backs his deal. Not McDonnell, not Starmer, not Abbott. He doesn't even back in himself, but how can he possibly negotiate a deal when he doesn't support it? I mean, the thing is beyond satire. Or it would be beyond satire if it wasn't so tragic for the country because you'd spend a year, he'd spent another year negotiating this pointless deal putting the whole country through the agony of a referendum again and then, but not getting anything done on, on the NHS, on fighting crime or investing in infrastructure. All the things we want to do.
JHB: And can I ask, what if you do get elected on Friday morning, you are serving a full term as Prime Minister. How many terms do you plan to serve? You've got to get Brexit done, get all these trade deals, all the stuff you want to do, the NHS. How long will it take you to deliver all that? Would you like to serve more than one term?
BJ: Julia, I've got to get elected with a working majority on Thursday. There’s a very, very stark choice. Working majority for us, we've got a parliament working for the people of this country. Or chaos, a hung Parliament with Corbyn and Sturgeon.
JHB: You keep telling us your Brexit plan is oven ready? Just put it in the microwave. It’s confused a lot of people, do you actually cook?
BJ: Yes, I know, I know. I do. I also use the microwave.
JHB: What was the last thing you cooked?
BJ: Uh, I think steak and chips, but they were kind of oven chips that were already done really.
JHB: There was a bit of pop pop ping ping was there?
BJ: It was a bit of that.
JHB: Also you've been putting out this campaign video the other day, a Love, actually video. It’s been very popular, it's gone viral. It's very amusing. Um, do you actually like the film Love, actually?
BJ: Uh, well actually, I've only seen it in episodic...
JHB: You’ve not seen the film Love, actually?
BJ: I've not seen all of it from beginning to end because I’m so busy, but I, I'm familiar with the basic concept and the fantastic work done by Hugh Grant.
JHB: Well I was going to ask you, I mean, he plays the character of a Prime Minister who stands up to the United States in particular. Do you have anything in common with Hugh Grant's character as Prime Minister?
BJ: I think we do have to stand up to the United States sometimes, and there are issues where we take a very different view. I mean, for instance, on climate change, this is a government that's going to cut CO2 emissions massively. We are leading the world and want to be carbon neutral by 2050, we’ll be Corbyn neutral by Christmas, by the way. We want to be carbon neutral by 2050, and we can do it by championing fantastic green technology. The current White House doesn't share our point of view about climate change. I think they’re wrong. But we make that case very forcefully and we will continue to do so.
JHB: Now just finally, we're sitting in the JCB factory. Lots of background noise, no doubt, right in front of a huge, big yellow JCB Digger. A few moments ago you were smashing a red, white, and blue flagged JCB through a wall with “Get Brexit done”. You looked like you rather enjoyed doing that.
BJ: I do. I love driving JCBs. It's a backhoe loader. I reviewed one for GQ magazine about 15 years ago.
JHB: I hope you gave it a good review?
BJ: I did, I did, uh, they’re beautiful machines. And the incredible thing about JCB is that they, you know, they back and have long backed coming out of the EU. This is a company that is global, that is ambitious around the world. It obviously has just-in-time supply chains, but sees the future for the UK as being, you know, they manufacture in Russia, in China, in America, in India. They're a truly global company. And we've got to think in that way again, that we used to have that mindset. We can prosper mightily with a bit of confidence. Get Brexit done, move the country forward. And as I say, that's the choice on Thursday. Progress with a one nation Tory government, get Brexit done. Chaos, confusion, drift, dither, delay with a Corbyn-Sturgeon coalition. Plus a referendum on Scotland.
JHB: Prime Minister Boris Johnson, thank you for speaking to us at talkRADIO.
BJ: Thank you very much. Thank you.
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