Boris Johnson warns Cabinet 'we will have bumpy months ahead'

21 July 2020, 12:09

Boris Johnson has held the first physical meeting of his Cabinet since the nation went into lockdown
Boris Johnson has held the first physical meeting of his Cabinet since the nation went into lockdown. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Boris Johnson has warned his Cabinet that "we will have bumpy months ahead" as his top team meets in person for the first time in four months.

The PM was physically meeting with his senior ministers for the first time since the nation went into lockdown due to coronavirus.

Boris Johnson made a joke about the large room required to facilitate a socially-distanced Cabinet meeting at the Foreign Office.

Quipping: "Welcome to the Locarno Suite, which is the Foreign Office's idea of a modest seminar room, conducted on such an opulent scale that we can both observe social distancing and meet as an entire Cabinet face to face, which I'm sure you'll agree is the right thing to do because we need - every human being needs - the energy and the stimulation that comes from face-to-face meetings - nothing propinks like propinquity, as I think somebody once said.

But his warning was stark, pointing out there would be difficult times ahead as the nation struggles to recover from the effects of the lockdown.

Boris Johnson said: "Whatever the current difficulties, and they will go on - we will have bumpy months ahead and as Rishi (Sunak, Chancellor) has rightly said, there will be difficult months ahead for our people and our country but no one will be without hope.

"We will build back better and come through this crisis more strongly than ever before.

"And for the next few months we have to strike a balance - we have to continue to push down on this virus and keep it under control in the heroic way the British people have managed so far.

"But we must also cautiously, while observing the rules on social distancing, get our economy moving again and get our people back into work.

"So I'm very glad that you've all decided to set an example this morning, come to meet face to face while observing social distancing, while being cautious, so thank you all very much.

"Now, let's get on with our work."

The socially distanced meeting was held in the Foreign Office
The socially distanced meeting was held in the Foreign Office. Picture: PA

The PM also pledged to ramp up investment in public services, he told his ministers: "I think the Health Secretary has identified the 40 new hospitals that we will build, or at least have spades in the ground, in the next four years.

"We are already recruiting record numbers of police officers - I think I'm right in saying more than 4,000 of the 20,000 promised police officers have already been recruited.

"We are going for 50,000 more nurses - we've already got 12,000 more nurses since a year ago, 6,000 more doctors since a year ago and we've delivered on our promise to increase the funding per pupil to £5,500 per head for every secondary, £4,000 for primary school pupils and we will get on with that agenda.

"And of course we have got Brexit done.

"But that is just the beginning of this radical One Nation Conservative administration and we will continue to unite and level up across the whole country through fantastic infrastructure, ever better education and new high technology."