Boris Johnson sets out to defend record on farewell tour

Dorset maybe as far West as he comes, no obvious successes to celebrate in Devon – Owl

George Grylls www.thetimes.co.uk

Boris Johnson will kick off a farewell tour of Britain today as he spends his last week as prime minister highlighting his achievements in 10 Downing Street.

Johnson will travel to Dorset to trumpet his government’s record expanding broadband to rural communities.

When Johnson took over as prime minister, only 7 per cent of households had gigabit broadband. That number has risen to 70 per cent today.

“From Sherborne to Stirling, lightning-fast broadband is levelling up towns and villages across the country,” Johnson will say in a speech today. In just three years we have increased the coverage of gigabit broadband from 7 per cent of households to 70 per cent.

“I am proud that today more than 20 million households, businesses and organisations are able to tap into rapid and reliable internet, unleashing their potential, creating opportunities and driving growth across the country.”

The target date in the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto to supply gigabit broadband to every home and business across the UK was 2025. This date will be missed, and some households will instead have to wait until 2030 before they are hooked up with fast internet.

Johnson’s visit to Dorset will celebrate work beginning on the first major contract awarded under the government’s £5 billion Project Gigabit.

After his visit to the southwest, Johnson will embark on a tour of other parts of Britain this week.

He boasts about the progress the government has made in recruiting police officers, another manifesto pledge. The culmination of the week will be a speech on energy in which Johnson intends to highlight his achievements in nuclear power and wind energy.

“There is a lot of stuff that he can feel rightly proud of,” a No 10 source said. One of Johnson’s most outspoken critics, however, predicted that despite the messages appearing to signal his departure from frontline politics, the prime minister would attempt to make a comeback.

Rory Stewart, the former international aid secretary, likened Johnson to Silvio Berlusconi and Donald Trump, both of whom are trying to force their way back into politics having been ousted from office.

“I’m afraid he has an extraordinary ego and he believes that he was badly treated,” Stewart told BBC Radio 4.

“He doesn’t see the reality, which is that he was a terrible prime minister and that he lost his job because of deep flaws of character. I fear we’re going to end up with a second Berlusconi or a second Trump trying to rock back in again.”

As Johnson tours the UK, Nadhim Zahawi will be in the US to take part in meetings on global energy security in what is likely to be his last week as chancellor.

He will visit New York to discuss the international competitiveness of the City of London following post-Brexit deregulation, and will then travel to Washington DC for meetings with US Treasury officials.

“I’m determined, here in the US, to work closely with my allies on the common challenges we face to create a fairer and more resilient economy at home and abroad,” he said.

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