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Boris backs Thatcher's approach


London mayor Boris Johnson has backed a Thatcherite approach to Britain's problems.

London mayor Boris Johnson has backed a Thatcherite approach to Britain's problems.

London mayor Boris Johnson has backed a Thatcherite approach to Britain's problems.

Boris Johnson set out his stall as a political heir to Margaret Thatcher tonight in a speech suggesting their approach would be "one and the same" as the ex-Tory leader.

The Mayor of London said he would be in unison with the former Conservative prime minister on the way to tackle key problems Britain faces, such as housing, taxation, education, airport capacity.

Mr Johnson also suggested Britain is on the verge of returning to 1980s boom times with envy and greed key to spurring on an economic revival, indicated he was in favour of a back-door reintroduction of grammar schools and lambasted the BBC for its coverage of Baroness Thatcher's funeral.

Giving the annual Centre for Policy Studies Margaret Thatcher lecture in London he said: "I realise that there may be some confusion in my prescriptions between what I would do, what Maggie would do, and what the Government is about to do or is indeed already doing, did we but know it.

" I don't think it much matters, because the three are likely to turn out to be one and the same."

In the What would Thatcher do? speech, the mayor claimed that the former premier would back his plans for an airport in the Thames estuary, insisting she would row back on the decision under her tenure to cancel plans for a third airport in the capital.

" Does anyone doubt that she would have the cojones to rectify that second mistake, and give this country the 24 hour hub airport, with four runways, that it needs? When she was in power there were flights from Heathrow to more destinations than from any other European airport.

" Would she sit back and watch the rest of them eat our lunch - the French and the Dutch and the Spanish, the Finns, for heaven's sake, who now send more flights to China than we do?

"She would understand that the plane is the 21st century means of travel, and the vital importance of connectivity to her vision of Britain: open, free-trading, as turned to Asia and Latin America as it is to its traditional markets.

"She would see that the best place to build that airport would be to the east of the city, which is, indeed, the area with the biggest potential for new homes."

In a speech that roved across a wide-range of national policy areas, Mr Johnson said he had sat in meetings where it had been agreed that it would be political madness to bring back grammar schools but suggested that Baroness Thatcher would have found a way to reintroduce them in a different guise.

" I think she would have instantly brought back the assisted places scheme, that helped 75,000 pupils find excellent education in the fee-paying sector.

"She might not have flooded the place with grammar schools, not under that name, because that would have been a U-turn, and we know what she thought of U-turns; but I hope that she would have found some way of making far wider use of that most powerful utensil of academic improvement - and that is academic competition between children themselves."

Mr Johnson said the cranes dotting the London skyline, queues for restaurants and traffic jams made it feel as though there was a return to the 1980s.

He added: "I don't imagine that there will be a return of teddy bear braces and young men and women driving Porsches and bawling into brick sized mobiles.

"But I also hope that there is no return to that spirit of Loadsamoney heartlessness - figuratively riffling banknotes under the noses of the homeless; and I hope that this time the Gordon Gekkos of London are conspicuous not just for their greed - valid motivator thought greed may be for economic progress - as for what they give and do for the rest of the population, many of whom have experienced real falls in their incomes over the last five years.

"And if there is to be a boom in the 20-teens, I hope it is one that is marked by a genuine sense of community and acts of prodigious philanthropy, and I wish the snob value and prestige that the Americans attach to act of giving would somehow manifest itself here, or manifest itself more vividly."

Mr Johnson became the latest senior Tory to accuse the BBC of bias in its output, criticising the way it had covered the late PM's funeral.

" The amazing thing about the funeral of Baroness Thatcher was the size of the crowds, and the next amazing thing was that they were so relatively well behaved," he said. "The BBC had done its best to foment an uprising.

" With habitual good taste, they played Ding Dong the witch is dead on taxpayer-public radio. Asked to find some commentators to give an instant reaction to the death of Britain's greatest post-war prime minister - an event that was not exactly unforeseen - they reached instinctively for Gerry Adams and Ken Livingstone, two of her bitterest foes - if you exclude the Tory wets, that is."

Under a modern-day Thatcher government, personal taxation would be "at least competitive" with the rest of Europe he said.

" What would she do about tax and spending? What is the right approach to the economy? I hope it is not too obvious to say that she would cut the cost of government wherever she could, and she would cut spending as the economy recovers and she would cut taxes such as business rates and she would ensure that our personal taxation was at least competitive with the rest of Europe."

He added: " It seems to me therefore that though it would be wrong to persecute the rich, and madness to try and stifle wealth creation, and futile to try to stamp out inequality, that we should only tolerate this wealth gap on two conditions: one, that we help those who genuinely cannot compete; and, two, that we provide opportunity for those who can."

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