It’s a strange kind of race where the frontrunner hasn’t even started until two days in, but that is where we find ourselves in the Tory leadership race.
Boris Johnson, at long last, launched his campaign with a speech given to a room full of his allies which was classic BoJo – engaging, welcoming, and largely drivel.
Back in the heady days of the Brexit catastrophe, when the full realisation of how badly the situation was had set in, there was round-the-clock coverage of Parliament. There was also a single man who stood outside the news tent and, during every interview, shouted, at the top of his lungs, “STOOOOP BREEEXIIIIT.”
That man, in a show of true British spirit, was outside Boris’ campaign launch today, shouting “BOLLOOOCKS TO BREEEXIIIIT.”
He was audible on Boris’ microphone.
Boris, in the first few sentences of his speech, saw fit to use the fact that four English teams were in the Champions League and Europa League finals as a reason for demonstrating how well Britain was doing. This, despite once describing Liverpudlians as “seeing themselves as victims, and resent their victim status, yet at the same time they wallow in it.”
Rings slightly more hollow, doesn’t it?
It paved the way for a speech that paved over some of the cracks of his time as a politician. While verbose, passionate and driven, as is Boris’ style, his speech portrayed himself as a champion of the most vulnerable in society, which is a pretty disputable claim.
He stated that he helped drag London’s poorest boroughs out of despair, which again rings hollow when you remember that one of his major campaign pledges is to raise the 40p tax threshold, which helps middle-earners and not the most vulnerable.
He elaborated his views on Brexit as being “prepared for no-deal, but aiming for a better deal,” against the backdrop of MPs today preparing to take no-deal off the table again. It is thought that this cross-party move today will succeed, making his claims somewhat less believable.
In fact, his speech sought to drive forward the populist nature of his politics by trying to inspire emotional backing with giving next to no actual facts whatsoever.
Trial By Fire
Far more telling than the speech itself were Boris’ responses to the questions put to him by journalists in the room. The reporters asked him some pretty robust questions:
- Whether he stood by his previous, arguably offensive descriptions of women in burkhas as “letterboxes,” and whether or not he thought these were fitting for a Prime Minister – he said the quotes were taken out of context;
- Failed to answer a question about whether or not he will resign if he fails to take Britain out of the EU on October 31st;
- Asked to elaborate on his infamous “F*ck Business” statement, he hurried to ensure his support for all businesses across the UK, including the financial sector;
- Stated that no-deal was “a last resort,” a real climbdown from his previous rhetoric;
- And avoided a question on drug-use, saying that the only illegal thing he has done is “not always stick to 70mph speed limits.
So What Do We Make Of It?
Look, it comes down to this. If you like Boris, you absolutely would have liked what he had to say. His rhetoric was passionate, he spoke of “courage” and “guts,” and tried to inspire support through the nationalistic argument of having pride in Britain.
If you dislike Boris, you would have thought that everything he said was as shallow as his new haircut – all bluster, with no substance.
It won’t have hurt his chances of becoming leader, but nor was it the barnstorming speech that it could have been.
All eyes turn to Parliament – will they block no-deal and scupper one of his major policies before he’s even leader?
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