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Johnson denies UK is in crisis as £6bn benefit cut bites

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (File photo)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will deny the United Kingdom is in crisis as his plan to slash £1,040 a year from the incomes of 6 million of poorest Britons comes into effect on Wednesday.

In his keynote speech to the Conservative Party’s annual conference on the same day, Johnson will defend his plan despite protests from charities warning that the £20-a-week cut in universal credit will drag half a million more people, including 200,000 children, below the poverty line and inflict hardship on millions more.

His speech to delegates in Manchester will come after he denied the UK was in crisis more than a week of queuing at empty petrol pumps, sharp spikes in energy costs and warnings from retailers that the country faces shortages of food and other goods in the run-up to Christmas.

Johnson has demanded that business increase wages to attract recruits to shortage occupations like HGV drivers, but such demand risks pushing up inflation and triggering rises in interest rates.

In response to concern over his demand, the prime minster replied, “There is no alternative.”

He also laughed off warnings from farmers who are facing a lack of workers in meat-processing plants after Brexit ended free movement for EU staff.

Elsewhere in his address on the final day of the first in-person Conservative conference since the Covid pandemic, Johnson will try to distance himself from Tory predecessors like David Cameron and Theresa May, arguing that the UK has suffered from “decades of dither and drift” under previous governments.

He will say his “reforming government” is “dealing with the biggest underlying issues of our economy and society, the problems that no government has had the guts to tackle before”.

His speech comes after new Ipsos Mori polling which found that only17 percent of voters believe the Conservatives are “concerned about people in real need in Britain” and just 22 percent think the Tories look after the interest of “people like me”.

The anti-poverty Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the planned £20-a-week cut will bring the main rate of out-of-work support to its lowest level ever.

The PM was “abandoning millions to hunger and hardship with his eyes wide open,” the think tank’s deputy director Helen Barnard said.

Also, Save the Children chief executive Gwen Hines said the move would “devastate families up and down the country”.

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