Boris Johnson celebrated the role of the “free market economy” for being at the “heart” of the vaccine rollout as he launched the Conservatives’ campaign for the May elections.
The Prime Minister told activists on Saturday they should hail the “incredible scientific breakthrough” in the fight against coronavirus as they try to drum up support for the Tories.
In a speech to the Conservatives’ virtual spring forum, he said the party will be “holding down taxes and spending wisely” while fostering a private sector to aid the road to recovery “jab by jab, job by job”.
Labour hit back accusing the Government of “cronyism” and saying the Tories are cutting nurses’ pay and NHS spending while hiking taxes on families.
Mr Johnson said that the state had “played a pretty big role” in the vaccination programme, celebrating health workers, council staff and the Army as all playing an important part.
“But in the end, none of this would have been possible without the innovative genius and commercial might,” he added.
“And you know what I’m going to say – the might of the private sector – the free market economy.
“Because at the heart of this vaccine rollout, there is a huge and unmissable lesson about the need for private risk-taking capitalist energy.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner hit back, calling on the public to vote for the party on May 6 for a “more secure and prosperous recovery for Britain out of the pandemic”.
“The success of the vaccine rollout shows how brilliant our NHS is, in stark contrast to the outsourced £37 billion Serco test and trace system that failed to control infections and failed to prevent further lockdowns,” she added.
“A vote for Labour is a vote for our NHS and a pay rise for our nurses. A vote for the Conservatives is a vote for more cronyism, more incompetence and more cuts to local services.”
Voting on May 6 will include polls for district and county councils in England, police and crime commissioners and city mayors, including in London.
Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly elections are also taking place.
There will also be a by-election in Hartlepool, where Labour will hope to defend the heartlands seat.
Meanwhile at the virtual conference, Tory party co-chairman Amanda Milling warned that Labour could see a “post-Corbyn bounce”, with Sir Keir Starmer now in charge of the party following his predecessor’s disastrous general election campaign.
Launching Labour’s campaign earlier this month, Sir Keir targeted the Government’s controversial 1% pay rise for NHS workers, declaring “a vote for Labour is a vote to support our nurses”.
The Conservatives will have to defend their handling of the coronavirus pandemic during the campaign, which has seen the UK hit by a high death rate and suffering a financial slump.
But the party is clearly hoping the successful rollout of vaccines will boost its chances of success.