UK vaccine success down to ‘capitalist energy’ not government, says Boris Johnson
Urging the party faithful to campaign on the jabs achievement, the prime minister doubled down on his controversial claim that the private sector delivered it.
“Yes, government played a pretty big role,” Mr Johnson said – pointing to the vaccine taskforce set up and the “incredible work of our NHS, our GPs, our nurses”.
“But, in the end, none of this would have been possible without the innovative genius and commercial might – you know what I’m going to say – the might of the private sector,” he said.
“The free market economy is at the heart of this vaccine rollout. There is a huge, unmissable lesson about about the need for private risk-taking and capitalist energy.”
Speaking to the Tory spring forum, Mr Johnson repeated his belief that there is “absolutely nothing in the data” to prevent the planned timetable for easing the lockdown.
“In just a few days’ time” he would be having a haircut and then “cautiously, but irreversibly. I’m going to drink a pint of beer in the pub”, he vowed.
However, despite insisting the lockdown-easing is on track, Mr Johnson also admitted to unanswered questions about the blowback from rising Covid-19 infections on the continent.
“Bitter experience” had shown that a wave such as the one sweeping Europe would hit the UK “three weeks later” – although experts say it started in the UK, with the outbreak of the Kent variant.
“I think the second half of the year will have the potential to be really fantastic, but it depends on things still going right,” Mr Johnson said.
“The question is, is it going to be, this time, as bad it has been in the past? Or have we sufficiently mitigated, muffled, blunted impact by the vaccine rollout?
“That’s a question we still don’t really know the answer to.”
The prime minister was also asked whether the UK could be given a bank holiday – a “national hangover day” – once the pandemic subsides, but appeared to duck the plea.
“The general view is people have had quite a few days off, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing for people to see their way round to making a passing stab at getting back into the office,” he replied.
On the lockdown, he said: “As things stand, I can see absolutely nothing in the data to dissuade me from continuing along our roadmap to freedom, unlocking our economy and getting back to the life we love.”
Although there were “plenty of risks”, the country was “in a different world from last spring”, because of inoculations providing protection.
Mr Johnson’s claim that capitalism explains the successful vaccination programme is controversial because the AstraZeneca jab was delivered by scientists at Oxford University.
Furthermore, the programme is run by the NHS – in stark contrast, critics say, to the failure of the test-and-test scheme, which was outsourced to private firms.