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Boris Johnson lauds UK's 'fastest' COVID-19 vaccination campaign

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By Orlando Crowcroft
In this Oct. 5, 2021, file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares his keynote speech in his hotel room in Manchester, England,
In this Oct. 5, 2021, file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares his keynote speech in his hotel room in Manchester, England,   -   Copyright  Stefan Rousseau/PA Media
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has used his Conservative party speech to laud his government's COVID-19 vaccination campaign, which he has branded “faster than any other major economy in the world”.

Johnson was speaking against a backdrop of discontent over fuel shortages, a bitter row with France over fishing rights and fears that a Brexit-related labour crunch could see UK supermarket shelves bare in the run-up to Christmas.

Speaking in Manchester's Exchange Hall on the final day of the conference, Johnson struck a typically bullish and unapologetic tone that he has adopted throughout recent weeks.

He said his government was responsible for a "change of direction that has been long overdue" and that it was working towards a “high wage, high skill, high productivity and low tax economy.”

In an attack on the British left, Johnson said that business was responsible for manufacturing the vaccine for COVID-19 and that "wealth creators" should be praised and not vilified.

"Behind those vaccines are companies and shareholders and, yes - bankers. It was capitalism that ensured we had a vaccine in less than a year," he said.

In a statement prior to the conference, Johnson hammered home his "Build Back Better" slogan and said that his government would act on issues such as unemployment and climate change.

His position is made easier by a fractured opposition Labour party, whose conference last month only illustrated the unpopularity of leader Keir Starmer, who replaced Jeremy Corbyn as leader last year.

Johnson spent a good deal of the speech criticising Labour, accusing it of wanting to "level down" rather than "level up" and of being out of touch with the concerns of people in the UK.

He branded Starmer a "seriously-rattled bus conductor" or the "skipper of a cruise liner captured by a Somali pirate" who was in hock to the radical left of the Corbyn movement.

Johnson defended his home secretary, Priti Patel, over the Conservative party's hard-line immigration policy, arguing that Britain had accepted refugees from Afghanistan and Hong Kong.

He said that the UK would continue to fight trafficking gangs that were "taking thousands of pounds" from migrants and refugees to help them reach Britain.

Johnson also criticised what he called a "woke" culture that wanted to "brand Winston Churchill a racist" and rewrite the history of the country.

"This isn't a joke, they really do want to rewrite our national story [...]. We will defend our national history and culture not because we're proud of everything because trying to edit it now is like a celebrity trying to furtively edit their Wikipedia page," he said.