Strangely, Johnson’s speech is not the most important event today

Boris Johnson’s first conference speech as prime minister – at this crucial juncture for Brexit – is, strangely, not the most important political event of the day.

That will happen later when the government finally publishes its formal proposals, and the moment of truth looms as to whether the EU agrees they are basis for a deal.

But the speech gave us an important message on Brexit: for all the briefing over the last couple of days from Number 10 about the “final offer”, take it or leave it, the language of ultimatum and inflexibility, the tone was strikingly conciliatory.

Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid
An awkward kiss and a missed high-five

Yes, all the key buttons were pressed – “we must come out by the end of October”, the “surrender bill”, and of course the conference catchphrase “let’s get Brexit done”.

And yet in terms of the negotiations, he in fact talked about compromise on both sides.

The Brexit section was very short and had three key ingredients: one, the need for democratic consent from the Stormont Assembly for any deal, although it is unclear how this can be delivered.

Second, Northern Ireland aligning with the EU on some rules, including on food and agriculture.

But third, no compromise on the whole of the UK leaving the customs union which will involve some checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland, but, Mr Johnson stressed, not along the border.

Stanley Johnson, father of the Boris, mouthed 'I didn't know that' when the pm said that his mother had voted leave.
Surprise after PM reveals ‘my mother voted Leave’

The message – to Europe more than the Tory activists – from Boris Johnson is that he wants a deal, that no deal “is not an outcome we want; or seek at all” – and he sees this as a big offer he believes may just, possibly, break the deadlock.

That is significant.

The rest of it, though, was for the activists and the tone was vintage Boris. I’m told he wrote it himself, with the help of his chief adviser.

It was full of Johnsonian flourishes.

“If parliament were a laptop, then the screen would be showing the pizza wheel of doom,” he said, to guffaws from the audience.

Jeremy Corbyn, he suggested, could be a “communist cosmonaut” manning the next space mission.

Boris Johnson is joined by his girlfriend Carrie Symonds after delivering his keynote speech
Image: Boris Johnson with girlfriend Carrie Symonds after delivering his speech

The non-stop jokes at times felt like an after-dinner speech, but the activists lapped it up. It’s been a while since they felt a sense of optimism.

Make no mistake: this was a pre-election speech.

Mr Corbyn, he said, would blight Britain with his “damaging and retrograde ideas” and brings with him a following of “fratricidal antisemitic Marxists”.

Labour, he said, would inflict a second referendum on the country, which would mean all of next year spent arguing about Brexit.

There was no new policy – perhaps a missed opportunity. Just optimism about more money being put into the NHS, into education, the prospect of solving social care.

He ended with an entreaty to “get on with sensible moderate one nation but tax-cutting Tory government”.

The question is whether the voters Johnson needs to win over Labour-leaning voters in the North and the Midlands who want to deliver Brexit, will be convinced.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Political News – International and UK Politics | Sky News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *