Boris: fast in­ter­net for ev­ery home by 2025

Lead­er­ship favourite prom­ises to elim­i­nate the ‘dig­i­tal di­vide’ if he be­comes PM

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Christo­pher Hope Chief Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

EV­ERY home in Bri­tain will have ac­cess to su­per-fast broad­band within six years if Boris John­son be­comes prime min­is­ter, he pledges to­day.

The front-run­ner in the Tory lead­er­ship con­test prom­ises to de­liver “full fi­bre for all by 2025”, eight years quicker than the Gov­ern­ment’s “laugh­ably un­am­bi­tious” cur­rent plans.

Writ­ing in The Daily Tele­graph, he says that it is “a dis­grace that this coun­try should suf­fer from a deep dig­i­tal di­vide, so that many ru­ral ar­eas and towns are sim­ply left be­hind”. Clos­ing this di­vide is part of his “moral mis­sion to unite Brexit Bri­tain”, he adds.

It comes as Mr John­son was crit­i­cised by Jeremy Hunt, the For­eign Sec­re­tary, af­ter fail­ing to turn up for last night’s Tory lead­er­ship hus­tings on Chan­nel 4, say­ing: “Where is Boris?”

How­ever, Brex­i­teer Tories said Mr John­son was right to sit out the 90 minute-long hus­tings be­cause of the way the other con­tenders had been al­lowed to gang up on Do­minic Raab, the only other “hard” Brex­i­teer.

Anal­y­sis showed that Mr Raab was given the least amount of time to an­swer, a third less than Michael Gove, the En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary.

Mean­while, Mr John­son’s cam­paign was set for a sig­nif­i­cant boost to­day with Matt Han­cock, the Health Sec­re­tary, who with­drew from the race on Fri­day, say­ing he would now back him.

Mr John­son’s broad­band com­mit­ment would rep­re­sent a ma­jor vic­tory for The Daily Tele­graph’s Bet­ter Broad­band cam­paign which has been push­ing min­is­ters to im­prove con­nec­tiv­ity to ru­ral homes for the past three years.

Min­is­ters last year iden­ti­fied 10 per cent of UK homes and of­fices, largely in ru­ral and re­mote ar­eas, that were un­likely to re­ceive su­per-fast con­nec­tions un­til 2033.

Su­per-fast broad­band is seen as vi­tal to al­low fam­i­lies ac­cess to sports and films on­line, as well ac­cess­ing pub­lic ser­vices such as HM Rev­enue and Cus­toms, ap­ply­ing for jobs, re­new­ing car tax and book­ing a hol­i­day.

Writ­ing in The Tele­graph to­day, Mr John­son says: “If we want to unite our coun­try and our so­ci­ety, we should com­mit now to de­liv­er­ing full fi­bre much, much faster”. He adds: “A fast in­ter­net con­nec­tion is not some met­ro­pol­i­tan lux­ury. It is an in­dis­pens­able tool of mod­ern life ... It is be­com­ing the sin­gle gi­ant ecosys­tem in which all eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity takes place.

“This is 21st cen­tury Bri­tain – the coun­try that helped to pioneer the very idea of the World Wide Web – and yet we have only 7 per cent cov­er­age of full-fi­bre broad­band. We need to pri­ori­tise the ru­ral ar­eas that are cur­rently at the far back of the queue, the three mil­lion homes and busi­ness that are rated among the 10 per cent most dif­fi­cult to cover.”

His in­ter­ven­tion is a bid to force the five other can­di­dates in the lead­er­ship race to de­clare pol­icy com­mit­ments af­ter they have re­peat­edly at­tacked him.

The Tele­graph dis­closed on Satur­day how Gov­ern­ment whips are con­cerned that the re­peated “blue-on-blue” at­tacks were an own goal for the party and gave ver­bal am­mu­ni­tion to Labour.

Yes­ter­day, Mr Raab warned the party would be “toast” un­less it took Bri­tain out of the EU by the Oct 31 dead­line.

Rory Ste­wart, now the se­cond favourite to be­come Tory leader, said he would re­cruit 50,000 peo­ple for cit­i­zen as­sem­blies that would aim to set­tle the Brexit is­sue in just three weeks.

He told The An­drew Marr Show on BBC One yes­ter­day: “It would be like a jury se­lected very sci­en­tif­i­cally across the coun­try, whit­tled down to be repre- sen­ta­tive of the coun­try as a whole” and then “make rec­om­men­da­tions”.

Jeremy Hunt, the third favourite in the con­test, re­fused to back Mr John­son’s com­mit­ment to leave by Oct 31, say­ing he could not be sure this would hap­pen by the end of the year.

He added: “How can any­one sen­si­bly an­swer that ques­tion when you don’t know the con­text?”

‘[It is] a dis­grace that this coun­try should suf­fer from a deep dig­i­tal di­vide ... ru­ral ar­eas are sim­ply left be­hind’

EVEN be­fore Chan­nel 4’s Tory lead­er­ship de­bate be­gan, front-run­ner Boris John­son was the cen­tral topic of de­bate – and the source of the first joke.

High­light­ing the va­cant lectern where the for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary was be­ing empty-chaired, the C4 pre­sen­ter Kr­ish­nan Guru-murthy said: “There’s still time for Mr John­son to get a taxi from north Lon­don … he is wel­come to take his place at any point in tonight’s pro­gramme.”

It was al­most half an hour, how­ever, be­fore any of the can­di­dates took a shot at the for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary – and it was the man who took his job and is one of his clos­est ri­vals, who broke cover.

“We have been talk­ing about Brexit for 25 min­utes, where is Boris?” said Jeremy Hunt, the For­eign Sec­re­tary. “If he can’t face five friendly col­leagues, how can he face 27 EU coun­tries? He should be here to an­swer all the ques­tions.”

While the “friendly col­leagues” used ab­bre­vi­ated names in a show of bon­homie – “Dom” for Do­minic Raab and “Saj” for Sa­jid Javid – the di­vi­sions in their po­si­tions on Brexit were quickly ex­posed and ex­ploited.

Rory Ste­wart, the In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment Sec­re­tary, was the first to go for the jugular, chal­leng­ing Mr Raab, for­mer Brexit sec­re­tary, over how he would de­liver a no-deal Brexit in the face of par­lia­men­tary op­po­si­tion: “My ques­tion for Dom is how is he go­ing to do it?”

He ac­cused Mr Raab of suggest­ing some­thing “deeply un­demo­cratic” and “deeply dis­turb­ing” with his threat to pro­rogue Par­lia­ment to drive through a no-deal Brexit. Mr Raab be­came, in ef­fect, a proxy for the ab­sent Mr John­son with their shared hard­line ap­proach to no-deal Brexit, as the three other can­di­dates also turned on him. Mr Hunt said shut­ting Par­lia­ment would be a “pro­found mis­take”, while Mr Javid mocked it with a barbed: “We’re not se­lect­ing a dic­ta­tor of our coun­try, we are se­lect­ing a prime min­is­ter.”

Mr Raab hit back by ac­cus­ing Mr Ste­wart of pur­su­ing a “Venezue­lan op­tion” in his sug­ges­tion of a ci­ti­zens’ assem­bly. And he turned on his ri­vals for “tak­ing things off the ta­ble”. “Un­less we keep no deal on the ta­ble, we can’t de­liver Brexit,” said Mr Raab.

All but Mr Ste­wart made clear that in a choice be­tween no Brexit and no deal, they would choose no deal, prompt­ing the out­num­bered In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment Sec­re­tary to de­clare: “There’s a com­pe­ti­tion of machismo here. Ev­ery­one is say­ing ‘I am tougher’.”

To ap­plause from the stu­dio au­di­ence, Mr Ste­wart then likened the idea of rene­go­ti­at­ing with the EU to “try­ing to cram a whole series of rub­bish bins into the rub­bish bin”. “And my wife said, ‘You’re never go­ing to get these three huge bags of rub­bish in’,” he said. “And I was tempted, like Michael, like Dom, to say, ‘Be­lieve in the bin! Be­lieve in Bri­tain!’ Right? It’s non­sense!”

How­ever, Mr Ste­wart was, in turn, crit­i­cised for sim­ply of­fer­ing a re­heated ver­sion of Theresa May’s failed deal.

Michael Gove, the En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary, played the states­man card by point­ing to his abil­ity to take on dif­fi­cult Cab­i­net jobs and make a suc­cess of them – pre­vi­ously at ed­u­ca­tion and jus­tice. It was for that rea­son he could de­liver a Brexit deal, he claimed: “I led the Leave cam­paign. For me, it’s per­sonal.”

“I am the can­di­date who can se­cure a deal. I’m say­ing I can get the Euro­pean Union to change their ap­proach.”

At­ten­tion turned to the politi­cian who is po­ten­tially the Con­ser­va­tive party’s big­gest threat: Nigel Farage, with a ques­tion from the au­di­ence on bring­ing him into the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

While Mr Ste­wart said he would love to en­gage with the Brexit Party leader as the man who led the Leave cam­paign, Mr Gove ap­peared to rule it out, say­ing “Brexit is not about one politi­cian’s ego trip”. Mr Javid also ap­peared to re­ject it, say­ing Brexit was the “job of the elected Gov­ern­ment”. Mr Hunt said Mr Farage was “not the an­swer” be­cause “we are a tol­er­ant Bri­tain”.

Ev­i­dence of the ten­sions – and what is at stake – came when Mr Gove clashed with the host of the de­bate, Kr­ish­nan Guru-murthy. “You are good at in­ter­rupt­ing,” he told the pre­sen­ter sternly. “Now it’s time to lis­ten.”

One of the fi­nal ques­tions was how the new leader would re­unite the coun­try. Mr Javid men­tioned the third an­niver­sary of the mur­der of Labour MP Jo Cox, say­ing: “One of the things that she said so of­ten was that we have got so much more in com­mon as a coun­try.”

He said he sees divi­sion in his role as Home Sec­re­tary and is at­tacked for his Mus­lim back­ground, adding: “I do feel to­day there is too much divi­sion in our so­ci­ety.” He said it was “the num­ber one thing” to ad­dress in Bri­tain.

Asked about their great­est weak­nesses, Mr Gove said “im­pa­tience” – be­fore Mr Guru-murthy in­ter­rupted, ask­ing if it was hypocrisy, af­ter his re­cent ad­mis­sion to us­ing co­caine.

“I made a mis­take. I learnt from my mis­take,” he replied brusquely.

Mr Raab said he was rest­less, while Mr Ste­wart ad­mit­ted hav­ing “a lot of weak­nesses”. Mr Javid ad­mit­ted he was “very stub­born” and added: “If you want to be prime min­is­ter you need to be ready to lis­ten.”

Mr Hunt said: “My friends would say I’m some­one who looks gen­tle but is in­cred­i­bly stub­born un­der­neath.”

It is a ques­tion Boris John­son will no doubt be asked when he fi­nally ap­pears on the tele­vised hus­tings to­mor­row on the BBC.

Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Do­minic Raab, Rory Ste­wart and Sa­jid Javid take part in Chan­nel 4’s Tory lead­er­ship de­bate, chaired by pre­sen­ter Kr­ish­nan Guru-murthy

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