'He doesn't need to announce everything': Zahawi defends PM's conference speech

7 October 2021, 08:28 | Updated: 7 October 2021, 08:49

By James Morris

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has defended Boris Johnson’s Conservative conference speech, telling LBC: “The PM doesn’t need to announce everything.”

Mr Johnson is facing a backlash over his “economically illiterate” keynote speech in Manchester on Wednesday.

The speech, which some Tory activists queued five hours to attend, was peppered with jokes, including about Michael Gove, Jeremy Corbyn and Sir Keir Starmer.

Mr Johnson pledged to tackle "long-term structural weaknesses" in society, but business leaders have condemned it for lacking a coherent economic plan and being too light on detail.

Mr Zahawi told LBC’s Nick Ferrari other economic schemes had already been announced at the conference before Mr Johnson’s speech.

He added: “The PM doesn’t need to announce everything in his speech, is really the point I’m trying to get across to your listeners and viewers.”

Boris Johnson during his conference speech on Wednesday
Boris Johnson during his conference speech on Wednesday. Picture: Getty

The Adam Smith Institute think tank labelled the speech “bombastic, vacuous and economically illiterate”.

Asked by Nick if Mr Zahawi was embarrassed by that assessment, he said: “Respectfully, I would disagree.”

Read more: Analysis: Boris Johnson's keynote speech was light on policy and full of bombast

However, he then went on to promote economic schemes promoted by chancellor Rishi Sunak – and not Mr Johnson.

Mr Zahawi said the PM is "challenging all of us" over "the long-term fix [which] is skills". He said the government's Lifetime Skills Guarantee is an "extraordinary policy that this PM will deliver".