Boris Johnson’s speech made little sense – but it was ruthlessly effective politics

The prime minister has one big idea, which is enough to overcome contradictions, says John Rentoul

Wednesday 06 October 2021 17:24
<p>A Boris bridge, connecting the Tory party to traditional Labour voters</p>

A Boris bridge, connecting the Tory party to traditional Labour voters

William Hague, one of the most astute observers of New Labour, says in the new BBC Blair and Brown TV documentary: “Tony Blair saw himself as a bridge. Some leaders see themselves as a personal bridge that can connect things that can’t normally be connected, and it’s a great skill in a leader. He could connect the traditional Conservative voter with the Labour Party.”

Boris Johnson showed in his latest speech that he sees himself as the bridge going the other way, linking two different, apparently incompatible islands. He can connect the traditional Labour voter with the Conservative Party.

Blair did his bridging with more elegance and rigour, and tried to argue with his party that it was the right thing to do in principle as well as in practice. Johnson’s effort is more like a huge improvised pontoon made up of a jumble of contradictory ideas. So his speech didn’t make much sense in policy or logic, but as an assembly of feelings and associations, it was a work of genius.

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