Bombastic, brilliant yet blithering – Boris Johnson held court in Manchester today for 45 minutes to close the Conservative Party Conference.
His supporters were out in force at the GMEX complex and loved every minute as he spoke about Brexit, the NHS, his love for buses and contempt for Jeremy Corbyn.
But what will the nation make of Johnson’s first party conference speech as Prime Minister? Reaction will come thick and fast throughout the day but here MM writers Sean Byrne, Ben Parsons and Richard Baker guide you through the key points of today’s speech.
The B Word (by Richard Baker)
Johnson addressed the Europe question early on in his speech and offered a more rosy and positive look to the future for post-Brexit Britain.
His comments on the EU were against a constant soundtrack of the PM reiterating the phrase “get Brexit done” and reminding the country to “move on” from the “super masticated topic of Brexit” to focus instead on the many domestic policies desperately needing attention right now.
No surprise then that the majority of his speech today was centred on the stance the Tories are to make over domestic issues such as the NHS, schools, employment and policing.
The PM made a subtle departure from his previous rhetoric of leaving on October 31 no matter what, as he stressed for a more “positive and confident relationship with the EU”, setting aside time to exclaim “We’re European… I love Europe!” which was met by a wave of applause from the audience.
Johnson attacked Labour and the Lib Dems for wanting a second referendum and in his eyes, going against the democratic will of the people. He warned of the “years of uncertainty” and “pointless and expensive” delays to Brexit that Jeremy Corbyn is advocating.
He suggested therefore, to “take the word democrat out of Liberal Democrats”, one of the many jovial remarks he made throughout a speech that was notably lacking in substance. Not that the audience of ministers and party members were concerned.
In response to the debate over the backstop, a topic that has proven to be a thorn in the side of his Tory party, Johnson explicitly said there will be no checks near or on the island of Ireland and stated he will respect the Good Friday Agreement to keep the “precious agreement” between the UK and Northern Ireland at this time when such a relationship is under considerable strain.
Johnson also stressed how the deal he is trying to broker with Brussels will promise that the UK has “control over our own trade policy from the start”.
Johnson made sure the crowd at the GMEX today went home more confident about the state of the country as he cited record employment and investment in London as factors to fuel this thought.
The takeaway message from the somewhat short section about the EU in his speech today was that “we can, we must, we will” leave the EU at the end of this month.
Domestic policy (Sean Byrne)
Outside of Brexit, Johnson passionately celebrated the success of the Conservative party in areas such as the NHS and school education, whilst promising to strengthen the police force, bus transport and even broadband connection.
Starting off with the NHS, Johnson talked about his recent visit to a North Manchester hospital, claiming that the Tory party will “totally rebuild that hospital” whilst also building 40 new hospitals over 10 years.
Describing his party as “the party of the NHS”, Johnson promised to improve facilities within the NHS across the UK, and also thanked North Manchester staff for their incredible work.
The current Prime Minister also allocated a large section of his speech to improving the police force, suggesting that this would be one of his main priorities following Brexit. He claimed that under his leadership the UK would be recruiting “20,000 new police officers”, whilst also preventing crime in the future by ensuring “every child in the country has a superb education.”
As their former Mayor, Johnson praised London, however promised to “unlock new talent in every corner of the UK.” He also said how his increase in police funding would be used to tackle county line gangs which would help him to achieve this.
But how will this all be funded? Johnson’s rather simple answer to this question was through an increase in productivity, complementing the shipyards in Scotland and the UK electric car industry for their work at improving this already.
Further comments on education quickly turned into an attack on Jeremy Corbyn, as Johnson laughed off ideas of abandoning OFSTED and promised to continue improving education for the next generation.
More policies were also announced on improving public transport and faster broadband connection as he ended the speech repeating how vital it was that Corbyn cannot be in office if the UK wants to achieve any of these policies.
‘Are we ready for it? Yes we are’ (Ben Parsons)
Johnson was in defiant mood in his first conference speech as Conservative leader, his speech full of messages of hope and optimism as he repeatedly vowed to ‘get Brexit done’.
In front of a joyous crowd of Conservative Party members, Johnson reiterated his confidence in Britain’s future. Johnson’s positive speech was littered with humorous comments; he had the Manchester crowd in stitches with a host of jokes, noticeably taking aim at opposition party leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Liberal Democrats.
At times, the speech could have been mistaken for a stand-up comedy performance as he reeled off his many gags
“Send Corbyn to orbit,” Johnson quipped as he poked fun at the Labour leader Corbyn for his ambitions for a general election if a no deal Brexit was removed from the table.
‘Brexit’ and ‘Corbyn’ were the key words of the 45-minute speech, but not many would have expected to hear ‘kangaroo testicle’.
Here, Johnson was comparing the current state of Parliament to reality TV show I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, on which his father Stanley appeared.
“At least we would have the consolation of watching the Speaker being forced to eat a kangaroo testicle,” Johnson joked about speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow.
It was a safe environment for Boris to perform in his engaging and comical style in front of his fellow party members, but there were parts of his speech that lacked substance, and his jokes were often prioritised over delivering key messages of how Britain was progressing in its exit from the European Union or his domestic policies.
Johnson’s performance was loved by the hall, but was void of any real substance on the policies and negotiations that really matter for Britain.
Image courtesy of The Sun via YouTube, with thanks.