Boris Johnson to ‘Restore a Smaller State’ After 2 Years of COVID-19 Curbs: UK Minister

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
February 13, 2022Updated: February 13, 2022

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is committed to restoring “a smaller state” and “taking a step back from people’s lives” following two years of COVID-19 restrictions and massive public spending, his new chief of staff has said.

Steve Barclay, who was handed the role as part of the shake-up of Number 10 Downing Street in response to the “partygate” scandal, said the prime minister is “taking a close look at where he can cut the size of the state.”

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay arrives for a regional cabinet meeting at Rolls Royce in Bristol, southwest England, on Oct. 15, 2021. (Steve Parsons /Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Barclay said the government made the “right decisions” in spending £400 billion ($543 billion) fighting the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.

But he said the priority now is to “restore a smaller state—both financially and in taking a step back from people’s lives.”

“It’s time to return to a more enabling approach,” he said. “To trust the people, return power to communities, and free up business to deliver.”

Barclay said the prime minister is “raring to get the economy fully firing and determined to build more efficient and more responsive public services.”

Number 10’s pledge to cut back the size of the state comes as Johnson strives to keep Conservative MPs on side while facing questions from police investigating alleged lockdown breaches in Downing Street, including in his own flat.

Downing Street confirmed on Friday that the prime minister will respond to a police questionnaire about events in Number 10 during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Fifteen Tory MPs have publicly called for Johnson to quit, while more are thought to have privately written to the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs calling for a no-confidence vote.

More are poised to do so if the prime minister is found to have broken his own COVID-19 laws.

Barclay said he knows “how frustrating the recent weeks of speculation about the workings of government have been.”

But he said Johnson has apologised and “is the best person to deliver the mission of renewal and recovery.”

Number 10 said the prime minister will start the week with a visit to a manufacturing site in Scotland before heading to an oncology centre tackling COVID-19 backlogs in the northwest of England.

In a statement, Johnson said: “I’m getting out of London this week and taking a simple message with me—this government is getting on with the job of uniting and levelling up the country.”

PA Media contributed to this report.