Working from home DOESN'T work, says PM: In Mail interview, Boris Johnson demands millions get back to the office - and reveals 50 illegal migrants are set to go to Rwanda in two weeks

  • Boris Johnson has in interview slammed out-of-office culture across Whitehall 
  • The PM has said full workplaces will be 'more productive' and 'more energetic' 
  • It comes as he says 50 'illegal entrants' will be sent to Rwanda in fortnight 

Working from home doesn't work, Boris Johnson declares today as he calls for a return to the office.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, the Prime Minister says full workplaces will lift productivity and revive town and city centres.

Taking a swipe at the out-of-office culture that has taken hold across Whitehall, he adds: 'My experience of working from home is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you're doing.'

He claims staff are 'more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas' when surrounded by colleagues. He says: 'I believe in the workplace environment.

'And I think that will help to drive up productivity, it will get our city centres moving in the weekdays and it will be good for mass transit. And a lot of businesses that have been having a tough time will benefit from that.'

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, the Prime Minister says full workplaces will lift productivity and revive town and city centres

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, the Prime Minister says full workplaces will lift productivity and revive town and city centres

In the wide-ranging interview, the Prime Minister also vows to change the law if 'Leftie lawyers' obstruct plans to send Channel migrants to Rwanda.

He says that he is ready to 'dig in for the fight' against those seeking to block 'the will of the people'.

Mr Johnson reveals that the first 50 'illegal entrants into this country' have already been served notice that they will be sent to Rwanda within a fortnight.

But Government sources say they are braced for a blizzard of legal claims under human rights laws.

In the wide-ranging interview, the Prime Minister also vows to change the law if 'Leftie lawyers' obstruct plans to send Channel migrants to Rwanda

In the wide-ranging interview, the Prime Minister also vows to change the law if 'Leftie lawyers' obstruct plans to send Channel migrants to Rwanda

Asked whether he might respond with a review of the European Convention on Human Rights, Mr Johnson replies: 'We'll look at everything. Nothing is off the table.'

In other developments:

  • Unions threatened strike action over plans to axe 91,000 civil servants;
  • The PM warned EU leaders he was 'not bluffing' over moves to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol;
  • He predicted Britain could avoid a recession, despite gloomy economic data;
  • A consultation was launched on increasing the number of children who can be cared for by a minder, in a bid to cut costs;
  • Ministers agreed to delay a ban on supermarket promotions of unhealthy food;
  • Mr Johnson warned Vladimir Putin to 'find a way out' of the war in Ukraine;
  • He hinted he is considering a drive to persuade over-50s to return to the workplace.

Ministers are locked in a struggle with Civil Service unions over the working from home culture in Whitehall.

Tens of thousands of officials are required to attend the workplace for only two or three days a week, and unions are resisting a full return.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case is expected to launch a major push on the issue in the coming weeks, amid concerns that failure to return to the office will damage long-term productivity.

Ministers are locked in a struggle with Civil Service unions over the working from home culture in Whitehall (stock photo used)

Ministers are locked in a struggle with Civil Service unions over the working from home culture in Whitehall (stock photo used)

Ministers have blamed large-scale working from home for the huge backlogs built up at the Passport Office and DVLA.

The PM says flexible working has a role to play but will damage productivity and creativity if allowed to become the norm.

He says he is 'not antediluvian about technology...things like Zoom and Teams can increase productivity, rather than just be an excuse for people to stay at home.'

But he adds: 'We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office. There will be lots of people who disagree with me, but I believe people are more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas, when they are surrounded by other people.'

Members of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, this week said work was 'no longer a place' and urged ministers to drop 'indiscriminate demands... for civil servants to return to office-based working'.

Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday warned the calls from unions could lead to employers 'offshoring' their staff.

The Brexit opportunities minister told LBC Radio: 'It's a very privileged thing to say – for people in manufacturing, work is a place, for people cleaning work is a place, for security work is a place, for millions of people across this country work is a place.

'The idea that civil servants should swan off abroad to do their job is slightly giving the game away, that this isn't about efficiency, this is about lifestyle.

'Unless of course the FDA means that they'd like us to go for offshoring, but I'd be very surprised if a Left-wing trade union thought the answer to problems was sourcing cheaper labour overseas.'

The PM's plan to send potentially thousands of Channel migrants to Rwanda is designed to smash the business model of people-smuggling gangs by breaking the link between boarding a dinghy in France and achieving a new life in Britain.

The plan has provoked howls of protest from the Left. Legal claims against the initiative have been lodged at the High Court before removals have even begun.

But the Prime Minister says he is determined to drive the plan forward

Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday warned the calls from unions could lead to employers 'offshoring' their staff

Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday warned the calls from unions could lead to employers 'offshoring' their staff

Boris Johnson says 50 migrants have already been warned they have two weeks to produce legal representation or face removal to the African state. (file photo used)

Boris Johnson says 50 migrants have already been warned they have two weeks to produce legal representation or face removal to the African state. (file photo used) 

'There's going to be a lot of legal opposition from the types of firms that for a long time have been taking taxpayers' money to mount these sorts of cases, and to thwart the will of the people, the will of Parliament. We're ready for that.

'We will dig in for the fight and you know, we will make it work. We've got a huge flowchart of things we have to do to deal with it, with the Leftie lawyers.'

Mr Johnson rejects claims that the scheme is inhumane saying the Government has a duty to tackle the 'evil trade'.

n Conservative MPs rounded on Jeremy Hunt last night after he claimed Mr Johnson has a 'big mountain to climb' to win the next general election.

The former foreign secretary said it was wrong to put the Conservatives' losses at last week's local elections down to mid-term blues.

'To win an election, the Conservative Party has to promise a well-funded NHS and the prospect of tax cuts. If we make people choose between one or the other, we're not going to win,' he told Times Radio.

But a Tory ex-minister said: 'History shows that divided parties lose elections. If Jeremy were to stop being so critical publicly and if he stopped his scheming ... then the Tories' chances of winning will be much better.'

 

WFH? You spend all your time walking to the fridge, hacking off cheese and then forgetting what you're doing: Boris Johnson on 'war criminal' Putin, battles with 'Leftie lawyers', kick-starting the economy...and the perils of home working 

By Jason Groves for the Daily Mail  

Boris Johnson can't resist a boast.

'I remember sprinting down the Olympic track in Beijing,' he tells a group of young athletes, who have been showing off their skills at the new Commonwealth Games stadium in Birmingham.

The youngsters look him up and down incredulously and chorus: 'Really? Did you?' 

With a sheepish laugh the Prime Minister revises his claim downwards, saying: 'Well, I tried to sprint.'

It later transpires that the incident involved an after-hours 'race' in the famous Bird's Nest stadium with his press aide Guto Harri, who is now reunited with him after more than a decade apart.

Both men wore suits. Neither troubled the record books.

The PM is nursing a troublesome cough today but is otherwise in irrepressible form. 

He won't comment on Sir Keir Starmer's 'Beergate' woes, but he can't prevent a broad grin creeping across his face when asked whether he has experienced a tinge of schadenfreude over the tangle the Labour leader has got himself into over allegations of lockdown rule-breaking.

On his own Partygate troubles, which have now produced 100 fines for No 10 staff, he sticks rigidly to the line that he'll 'have more to say' once the police have finally completed their exhaustive enquiries.

But, despite continuing rumbles of discontent from his own MPs, not to mention the loss of 500 council seats at this month's local elections, it is clear he thinks things are going significantly better than they might seem.

At a rally for local activists in Solihull later, he appears astonished by Labour's failure to exploit the Government's mid-term woes, saying it is 'absolutely extraordinary' that the Opposition managed to make net gains of just 22 seats in England 'after all this country has been through and after everything thrown at this Government'.

Anaemic growth figures have just landed showing GDP rose by only 0.8 per cent in the first three months of this year, and actually shrank in March as families starting tightening their belts.

But asked whether Britain can avoid recession, the PM remains boosterish.

'Yes!' he replies. 'If we continue to make the investments that we're making in infrastructure, skills, and technology.

'I'm not going pretend that it's going to be plain sailing but the fundamentals are very, very strong.

The demand in the UK, the opportunities in the UK, are massive. International investment coming into the UK is massive.'

Giving an example, Mr Johnson enthuses about ceramics firm Churchill China, in Stoke, which he visited earlier.

'They are booming,' he says of a firm which is taking on an extra 300 staff to help cope with demand from the EU which has jumped 30 per cent.

'The economic issue that the country faces is totally different from the challenge that we faced in the 80s or the 90s when you had millions of people effectively thrown on to the economic scrap heap, who were made to feel that they had nothing to contribute because we had mass unemployment, and that was an utter moral disaster,' he says.

Jason Groves writes: 'He won't comment on Sir Keir Starmer's 'Beergate' woes, but he can't prevent a broad grin creeping across his face when asked whether he has experienced a tinge of schadenfreude over the tangle the Labour leader has got himself into over allegations of lockdown rule-breaking'

Jason Groves writes: 'He won't comment on Sir Keir Starmer's 'Beergate' woes, but he can't prevent a broad grin creeping across his face when asked whether he has experienced a tinge of schadenfreude over the tangle the Labour leader has got himself into over allegations of lockdown rule-breaking'

Mr Johnson and Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson sign a declaration of political solidarity at the Swedish Prime minister's summer residence Harpsund, Sweden this week

Mr Johnson and Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson sign a declaration of political solidarity at the Swedish Prime minister's summer residence Harpsund, Sweden this week

'But it's the opposite of the case today. You've actually got businesses that are growing so strongly, ones that have such demand that we need to get more people to do those.'

The PM hints at a drive to get more over-50s back into the workplace after half a million dropped out during the pandemic, saying: 'We need to persuade those people to come back because, you know, we need them.'

He also points to measures in this week's Queen's Speech on issues such as skills training, infrastructure and rebuilding the UK's energy supplies as being crucial to future growth.

On the cost of living, he insists that growth has to be the answer, given the parlous state of the public finances.

Few in government doubt that further economic help will be forthcoming this year, and the Tory clamour for tax cuts is getting louder by the week.

The PM won't be drawn on specifics. But where he does enthuse is over the scope for the Government to trim its own spending to provide savings for the taxpayer.

He has arrived directly from a Cabinet meeting where ministers were told to slash 91,000 jobs from the Civil Service headcount of 475,000, taking it down to pre-pandemic levels.

'We have got to cut the cost of government to reduce the cost of living,' he says.

The plan, which could save around £3.5billion a year, has already provoked howls of outrage from trade unions.

Could the savings be ploughed into tax cuts? The PM won't say directly, but offers a broad hint: 'Every pound the Government pre-empts from the taxpayer is money they can spend on their own priorities, on their own lives.'

Q&A 

BORIS ON...RWANDA

There's going to be a lot of legal opposition from firms that have been taking taxpayers' money to thwart the will of the people. We will dig in for the fight and deal with the Leftie lawyers

ARE WE FIGHTING A PROXY WAR IN UKRAINE?

If your neighbour's house is on fire, you lend them a hose. If your neighbour's being attacked by an armed robber, you might give them a weapon. That doesn't mean you're fighting the burglar yourself

WOULD HE SPEAK TO VLADIMIR PUTIN?

I'm not sure what the point would be. He's broken international law, his troops have been committing war crimes, he's getting more deeply embroiled in a disaster

NI PROTOCOL

I'm not bluffing in my concern about Stormont. We need it back up and running

THREAT OF RECESSION 

It won't be plain sailing. But the fundamentals are very, very strong

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The state of the economy is far from the only dark cloud hanging over British politics.

Next week Mr Johnson is set to make a final decision on whether to press ahead with legislation that would allow the Government to suspend part of the Northern Ireland Protocol in order to deal with the post-Brexit trade checks threatening to drive a wedge between the Province and the rest of the UK.

The threat has provoked alarm in both Washington and Brussels, with his 'dear, dear friends' in the EU threatening a trade war in response.

But the PM says the long-running sore has been thrown into sharp relief by this month's Stormont Assembly elections. These were topped by Sinn Fein and returned Unionist parties with a 'mandate' to boycott power-sharing unless the protocol is torn up.

'The problem with the current situation is that the Ulster unionists simply won't go back in now,' he says.

'As Prime Minister of the UK, my top priority is the Good Friday Agreement, the peace process, the balance in Northern Ireland, restoring government. And I think legally, politically, morally, that's what we've got to focus on.'

Warming to his theme, he suggests EU talk of a trade war is overblown when dealing with an issue that has some 'pretty simple bureaucratic fixes'.

'Do you know what I really think about this?' he says. 'I think in the scale of things at the moment, in the sweep of things, what we're really trying to fix is...we're trying to solve a very difficult political problem in Northern Ireland itself with what is actually some pretty simple bureaucratic fixes. And that's what we've got to do.'

Is he bluffing about blowing up the protocol, as some in Brussels believe? 'I'm certainly not bluffing in my concern about Stormont and where we need to go. We need to get it back up and running.'

Then there is Ukraine, where the PM has formed a bond with Volodymyr Zelensky that has seen the UK pour arms into the country and even help pay the wages of some of those fighting to defend their homeland.

Are we now fighting a proxy war, as Vladimir Putin likes to suggest?

'No. Look, if your neighbour's house is on fire, you lend them a hose to put it out.

Mr Johnson says Putin has made a 'catastrophic misjudgment', adding: 'If Putin thought he was going to get less Nato on his doorstep, he's going to be proved likely 100 per cent wrong'

Mr Johnson says Putin has made a 'catastrophic misjudgment', adding: 'If Putin thought he was going to get less Nato on his doorstep, he's going to be proved likely 100 per cent wrong'

The Prime Minister 'he has no interest in pursuing the kind of unproductive dialogue with the Russian tyrant tried by Emmanuel Macron' Mr Groves writes

The Prime Minister 'he has no interest in pursuing the kind of unproductive dialogue with the Russian tyrant tried by Emmanuel Macron' Mr Groves writes

'If your neighbour's being attacked by an armed robber, you might give them a weapon, with which to protect themselves. That doesn't mean you're fighting the burglar yourself.

'It's a totally different situation. And I think it's moral, it's humane, compassionate, to help the Ukrainians to fend off this absolutely barbaric, unprovoked, unnecessary attack.

He says Putin has made a 'catastrophic misjudgment', adding: 'If Putin thought he was going to get less Nato on his doorstep, he's going to be proved likely 100 per cent wrong.'

And he has no interest in pursuing the kind of unproductive dialogue with the Russian tyrant tried by Emmanuel Macron.

'I'll be honest with you, at the present time I'm not at all sure what the point would be to have a conversation with Putin,' he says. 'He's broken international law, his troops have been systematically committing war crimes.

'And he's getting himself more deeply embroiled in a disaster of his own making. What he needs to do is to capitalise on the surprising strength of support he has in the Russian population and find another way out.'

Elsewhere, the PM is gearing up to do battle with the 'Leftie lawyers' threatening a blizzard of law suits to prevent his plan to break the business model of the people smuggling gangs operating in the Channel by sending illegal migrants to Rwanda.

He says 50 migrants have already been warned they have two weeks to produce legal representation or face removal to the African state.

He acknowledges that ministers face a legal battle, but says ministers are up for the fight, even if it means changing the law.

'There's going to be a lot of legal opposition from the types of firms that for a long time have been taking taxpayers' money to mount these sorts of cases, and to thwart the will of the people, the will of Parliament.

'We're ready for that. We will dig in for the fight – we will make it work. We've got a huge flowchart of things we have to do to deal with it with the Leftie lawyers.'

Could this include a review of the European Convention on Human Rights, of which the UK is a signatory? 'We'll look at everything,' he says. 'Nothing is off the table.'

He bridles at claims from the Left that the policy is inhumane, saying the Government cannot ignore the 'evil trade' plied by gangs who are 'literally killing people at sea in unseaworthy vessels'.

On the home front, the PM is determined to get Britain's workers back to their desks, not least in the Civil Service (stock photo used)

On the home front, the PM is determined to get Britain's workers back to their desks, not least in the Civil Service (stock photo used)

He reveals he abandoned the idea of turning back boats in the Channel because it was too dangerous. 'I wasn't prepared to make those orders, because you risk losing lives and I'm not going to do that,' he says.

'So we had to come up with something cleverer and I think this will be the beginning of an approach that a lot of countries will start to adopt.

'But clearly that will be opposed by some people on absolutely specious grounds. They will oppose it just because they're basically in favour of people's right to move freely across borders everywhere. And that's just not sustainable.'

On the home front, the PM is determined to get Britain's workers back to their desks, not least in the Civil Service, where tens of thousands are currently required to go to the office for only two or three days a week.

'My experience of working from home is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee, and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you're doing,' he says, laughing.

But, as so often, he is using a joke to make a serious point. 'I believe in the workplace environment,' the Prime Minister says.

'And I think that will help to drive up productivity, it will get our city centres moving in the weekdays and it will be good for mass transit. And a lot of businesses that have been having a tough time will benefit from that.'

He insists he is 'not antediluvian about technology' such as Zoom, provided it is used for productivity 'rather than just be an excuse for people to stay at home.'

But he is unmoveable in his belief that people are 'more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas, when they are surrounded by other people'. The Civil Service should consider itself warned. He is not joking this time.

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Working from home DOESN'T work, says PM: Boris Johnson demands millions get back to the office

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