A conference speech is just a PR exercise, a rally-rouser, but it signals something of an approach, perhaps, even if it just shows how the speaker perceived what the grass-roots members of the party want to hear as their priorities.
Boris is a stand-up comedian – the only one to reach such high office since Disraeli- and he can speak. It was another virtuoso stream-of-consciousness performance with jokes, roasting of colleagues’ foibles, plenty of classical references and populist touches, woven seamlessly around disparate themes. The paean to the NHS makes the teeth grind a bit, but it is the religion of the people so it has to be said, just as the candidates in the Roman Forum threw in praise for Jupiter and whoever was the favourite goddess of the day. This has been a very medical two years.
The theme of opportunity is a key Conservative theme, and sound money – though reconciling sound money and elimination of debt with the big spending he also announced is a head-scratcher to be sure. he hinted that tax revenues are going to be bigger – but shall we see tax cuts, a month after a manifesto-breaking tax rise? It sounds unlikely, yet, but that is what the grass roots and the Old Red Wall want to see.
Yes, the levelling up is good, and long overdue, but there has been a Conservative PM in office for eleven years and progress has been invisible. Admittedly Michael Gove was not put on the case before. Yes, he railed with force against left-wing wokery, but that rubbish is being spewed out of Whitehall with ever greater intensity: even the Army this week were handed a leaflet telling soldiers about preferred pronouns and multitudinous genders – is the Government not in charge?
It was a good speech, full of triumph, patriotism and hope. It will sour though without action. Action is possible and imperative. Let us see what the months ahead bring.
- Is Boris Good Enough? (24 May 2019)
- Boris unleashed
- You dirty, double-crossing chatty rat
- Jacobean court farce
- By Boris Johnson:
- The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History
- The Dream of Rome
- Have I Got Views For You
- The Spirit of London
- Johnson’s Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World
- By others:
- The Borisaurus: The Dictionary of Boris Johnson by Simon Walter
- The Liberal Delusion by John Marsh
- All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class by Tim Shipman
- Woke: A Guide to Social Justice by Titania McGrath