Boris Johnson offered only boosterism and cheesy gags in his conference speech – the nation needs more

Editorial: Outside the hall, Boris Johnson’s satire was inconsistent with the mounting sense of chaos felt across the nation. He will soon have to keep his innumerable promises

Wednesday 06 October 2021 23:20

Inside the hall, it was a typical Boris Johnson performance: a cross between a summing-up speech at the Oxford Union, some after-dinner jokes, and the kind of unguided, busking campaign oratory that helped him win the London mayoralty, Brexit referendum, the Tory leadership and the 2019 general election.

Some of the lines were incomprehensible, meaningless, or both, often pointless schoolboyish puns, such as “Build Back Beaver” and “Jon Bon Govi”, or just random – “Hereward the Woke” and hydrogen-powered buses. There was only one item that could be remotely classified as substance: the £3,000 bonus for teachers of shortage subjects in hard-up areas, and even that wasn’t entirely fresh.

The trick with political speeches, as much as to galvanise the devotees in the hall, is to make them resonate with a much wider public. In this respect, the prime minister’s speech was a disappointment (assuming anyone had much hope for it in the first place).

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