Conservative Party Conference: Boris casts a spell over Tory faithful

By Henry Hill

If any evidence was needed of the spell that Boris Johnson has cast over the Tory faithful, the reception he got at Monday night’s Rally for Boris was it.

Your reporter was at the front of the throng that crowded the doors to the event, and managed to get a seat in the second row. There in the heart of things, I could observe at close hand how Boris’ speech was received.

Needless to say, it went swimmingly. The crowd laughed along, and at several intervals even burst into spontaneous applause. After the event, many of the younger Conservatives were declaring that it was the best such event they’d ever been to.

This was astounding given that, had anybody but Boris been speaking, the ‘rally’ would likely have been judged a poor show. It opened with a power-point presentation of the Mayor’s achievements, punctuated at intervals with a mock-up of a railway departure board counting down to the Mayor’s arrival: 3 minutes…2 minutes…1 minute…

Finally, in a perhaps counter-productive dedication to the British railways analogy, the Mayor was late.

The audience were treated to his introductory slideshow twice more before he finally arrived, quite obviously scribbling with his speech.

When it came to questions, he permitted only two. One came from a London woman to whom he had awarded a prize to not days before, which went down as well.

The other came from a councillor from the London outskirts, who was talked over and shouted down with what was, if you could get past the Johnson charm, quite surprising disrespect.

Yet all this serves not to undermine, but to enhance the Mayor’s reputation as a darling of the grassroots. After all, it is a rare politician who can turn up late and ill-prepared to a rally in his name and still leave delegates counting themselves lucky to have been there.

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