The Prime Minister remained tight-lipped on ‘Freedom Day’ as he made a surprise visit to Bucks this morning.

Speaking exclusively to the Bucks Free Press, Boris Johnson discussed:

  • HS2
  • Turning the Chilterns into a National Park
  • Ending lockdown on June 21
  • The possible impact of Covid on voter turnout next week
  • The impact of the recent local election results on the by-election

Boris Johnson came to Chesham to campaign with Peter Fleet, the Conservative candidate in the upcoming Chesham and Amersham by-election, walking up and down the High Street and handing out election material to shop owners and residents.

On June 21 - 'Freedom Day'

In an exclusive interview with the Bucks Free Press at the Generals Arms, in the High Street, Mr Johnson spoke about ending lockdown completely on June 21 in light of the new Indian Covid variant – also now known as the Delta variant – saying the government was “looking at the data the whole time”.

He also said he was “very much hoping” Mr Fleet would be elected to Westminster for the first time on June 17, saying “it would be a wonderful thing”.

Bucks Free Press:

Speaking about celebrating June 21, dubbed by many as 'Freedom Day', he added: “On the 21st – we’re looking at the data the whole time. We’ve just got to be cautious.

“We’ve achieved a huge amount thanks to the vaccination programme, thanks to the hard work of the British people and thanks to the hard work of people in Chesham and Amersham.

“But it’s just a bit too early to say today what steps we’ll be able to take on June 21. We’ll be saying a bit more in the coming days.”

On HS2

Mr Johnson also addressed the contentious HS2 project, which the late Dame Cheryl Gillan had long opposed and voiced her objections to, saying he was not “going to pretend that it’s without impact”, and described it as a “fact of life”.

Bucks Free Press:

He said: “In the long run we need efficient ways, a clean way of getting lorries off roads and getting freight onto rail.

“We’re still, I’m afraid, some years off being able to run big road haulage with electric vehicles. We’re going very fast with EVs with cars, but lorries take a long time.

“HS2 will make a big difference to our ability to move stuff in an environmentally friendly way up and down the country, and it will take a lot of freight off the roads.

“So I’m keen on it. It’s something that was decided some time ago, we’re going ahead with it, I think it’s a good idea to link up the country in that way.”

He added: “What you can also do is to mitigate that with spending many millions as we are on replanting woodlands and looking after the natural environment.

“I’m not going to pretend that it’s without its impact, of course it’s had an impact, but what we’re trying to do is to mitigate those and make sure the environmental benefits of HS2 are felt across the country.”

Bucks Free Press:

Mr Fleet said he would “try to continue to be the strong voice that Dame Cheryl was in terms of standing up for local residents to see how we can minimise the disruption caused and get HS2 finished with as little disruption as possible”.

Mr Johnson said his constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip had also been “massively impacted” by HS2, adding: “I fully sympathise with what Peter is doing to try to mitigate [the impact], to try and make sure people are properly compensated and there are environmental schemes to protect wildlife and habitat, and indeed to restore wildlife and habitat.”

On the Chilterns becoming a National Park

The PM said he supported Mr Fleet's campaign to turn the Chilterns into a National Park “and not just an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”, adding: “That's something that we are going to do more of.

“Peter also agrees with all Conservatives that insofar as we are going to have new housing anywhere, it's got to be on brownfield land, on brownfield development.

Bucks Free Press:

“There is ample space to do it on brownfield land. It's crazy to build on greenfield sites when you have great brownfield sites to build on.

During his visit, Mr Johnson also shared a pint with Mr Fleet and took selfies with residents and shop owners.

On the impact of Covid and local election results on voter turnout next week

He revealed the government had spent £407 billion so far “looking after the people of this country” throughout the pandemic, adding: “We’re going to need a sensible conservative approach investing in the NHS and education to allow us to bounce back, but one that also looks after the public finances sensibly.”

Mr Johnson added the party was “fighting for every vote” in the by-election after the Lib Dems became the second largest party in the recent Buckinghamshire Council elections.

He said: “We’re standing on a platform of taxpayer value, up and down the country.”

Bucks Free Press:

Mr Fleet also spoke about canvassing on residents’ doorsteps, saying people were feeling “really confident about the opportunity to get out and about” and vote next week despite the pandemic.

He said: “From everything I’ve heard on the doorstep as well, one of the common themes is that people are very grateful for the success of the vaccination programme.

“Not everything has been perfect, but the vaccination programme has been an enormous success.

“Over half of the residents in this constituency have already had two jabs. So people are feeling really confident about the opportunity to get out and about.”