However, fears of potential dysfunction at the heart of Number 10 were fuelled after the BBC reported a senior Downing Street source as saying: “There is a lot of concern inside the building about the PM. It’s just not working. Cabinet needs to wake up and demand serious changes, otherwise it’ll keep getting worse.
“If they don’t insist, he just won’t do anything about it.”
Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor, called Mr Johnson’s speech “shambolic” and said it “shows how unseriously he takes British business”. Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, said it was a “perfect metaphor for Johnson’s chaotic, incompetent government”.
Elsewhere in his speech at the Port of Tyne, in South Shields, Mr Johnson said “Mother Nature does not like working from home” and predicted a rush back to offices.
He rejected suggestions that working behaviours have been altered forever by Covid lockdowns and hinted at people who work from offices only on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday being known as “t—s”.
Mr Johnson said: “I don’t want to be dogmatic about this, but I have my doubts and it is not just that young people need to be in the office to learn, and to compete, and to pick up social capital. There are also sound evolutionary reasons why Mother Nature does not like working from home.
“So I prophesise that people will come back, they will come to the office and they will come back on the roads and the rail.”
The Government has faced criticism both that it has not done enough to convince workers to return to offices and has not done enough to support those who have decided to work from home. Ssenior civil servants have urged government departments to conduct safety checks to remove social distancing rules and allow more officials to get back to offices.
Mr Johnson also said the need to “level up” the UK was a “moral mission”. He defended last week’s decision to axe the eastern branch of HS2, calling the Integrated Rail Plan “transformatory” and a “fantastic thing”.