Boris Johnson may have been pelted with balls on his way into the Conservative Party conference but he received a rapturous welcome inside, earning cheers, laughs and a standing ovation with his speech.
The outgoing Mayor of London’s appearance was eagerly awaited as speculation continues over who will run to succeed David Cameron and the pressure was on following Theresa May’s address to delegates.
As expected, he struck a more jocular tone than the Home Secretary, even on the subject of immigration.
“It should be up to this parliament and this country - not to Jean-Claude Juncker - to decide if too many people are coming here,” he said.
“Because it is not that we object to immigration in itself - I speak as the proud great grandson of a Turk who fled his country in fear of his life. To Wimbledon for some reason…he was then assassinated by his political opponents - a fate I intend to avoid.”
It did not take long for Mr Johnson to hit out at the Labour Party and the “left-wing agitators” he claimed wanted to divide society.
Mr Johnson called the London Labour Party “trots and militants with vested interests and indeed interesting vests… the people who idolise Hugo Chavez and toast the revolution in taxpayer funded vintage burgundy”.
“Where there is a grievance, they foment it; where there is sectarianism, they take sides; Where there are racial or religious or ethnic divisions their instinct is always to play them up and of course there is one conflict they relish above all others, and that is economic class war,” the Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP continued.
He dubbed John McDonnell, the shadow Chancellor, an “avowed Marxist” and cautioned young people against embracing socialism.
“And so I say to all those £3 Corbynistas – we tried that. We tried fermenting anti-capitalism in the Soviet Union; we have tried brewing it in Britain in the 1970s and in many other parts of the world and the result has been the kind of toxic moonshine that sends you blind.
“Give that hooch a miss.”
He painted a picture of One Nation Conservatism that used capitalism to “deliver social and economic progress” but said checks must be maintained on the gulf between rich and poor.
“I say we one nation Tories cannot ignore the gulf in pay packets that yawns wider year by year,” Mr Johnson continued, citing an FTSE 100 company were cheif executives pay themselves “780 times” the average pay.
“We will accept it if and only if they pay their taxes – rich corporations and individuals, if and only if those firms are paying their employees decently…and we must ensure that as we reform welfare and we cut taxes that we protect the hardest working and lowest paid.”
Directing a barb at protesters, who he referred to as “our crusty friends outside”, Mr Johnson listed Conservative policies he claimed were benefitting the poor by cutting crime, pollution and raising life expectancy.
After being loudly booed and pelted with plastic balls, eggs and water bombs by protesters stationed outside the conference in Manchester yesterday, Mr Johnson described the experience as “a kind of Khyber pass".
Rallying the conference, he asked: “Were we intimidated? No. “Will we give up our plans to take this country forward? No.
“Will we surrender to the hard-left agitators – preposterously supported by Jeremy Corbyn – who believe in these tactics and want to divide this society? No.
“In fact I drew only one conclusion – that we need to do more to encourage sport in schools, because they managed to miss their target with every projectile.”
Conference delegates described Tories "rolling over with delight" as the speech continued, while commentators afterwards wrote that it was Mr Johnson's "best ever", "quite brilliant" and "just superb".
Others were unconvinced, describing the speech as "random incoherent nonsense" and the ramblings of a "posh buffoon".
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