It’s the Conservative Party Conference this week in Birmingham, and given all the issues facing them it was hardly ever likely to be a quiet night in at the library.
There is a huge divide running through the Tories’ membership right now based upon Theresa May and co’s handling of the Brexit negotiations.
For some, those rumblings of discontent are uttered privately, or at least as diplomatically as possible in the public eye.
For others, such as Boris Johnson, there is literally no chance of him going quietly.
BoJo Prepares for Leadership Assault
Make no mistake, Johnson’s speech at the conference was designed to be a rallying call to his supporters. The Etonian has his eyes set firmly on 10 Downing Street.
Ever since he resigned as Foreign Secretary – and again, don’t be fooled, he walked before he was pushed – BoJo has been aligning himself in a way that is a polar opposite to the current prime minister; a tactic designed to give him strength whenever May takes flak from her Brexit bumbling.
Johnson not only stuck the knife in but gave it a good old twist in Birmingham this week, with a speech that distanced himself from the current establishment and set forth a plan for an extreme, typically Boris exit from the EU. After all, he’s no stranger to divorces himself.
Apparently, more than 1000 delegates queued up to get into his talk, which hints at a lack of things to do in Birmingham on a Tuesday, and they were met with a wide-ranging discussion in which Boris stuck the boot into May, the EU and Jeremy Corbyn, while defending the much-maligned stop-and-search powers of the police.
The Speech: Key Excerpts
Numerous publications, generally the right-wing newspapers, have published Boris’ speech in full if you were unable to catch it the first time round.
As ever with such Marmite characters, most observers have been split as to the content and delivery of his missive. Is this an expert orator primed for leadership, or a bumbling fool who would be better served in keeping his mouth shut?
Here are some of the key excerpts from Boris Johnson’s Conservative Conference speech, as published by the Daily Express:
“My friends, there is only one thing I really worry about in this critical autumn of 2018, and that is that after 200 years this oldest and most successful of all political parties should somehow lose confidence in its basic belief in freedom.
“And that after 1000 years of independence, this country might really lose confidence in its democratic institutions.
“And that we should be so demoralised and so exhausted as to submit those institutions – forever – to foreign rule.
“If I have a function here today – it is to try, with all humility, to put some lead in the collective pencil, to stop what seems to me to be a ridiculous seeping away of our self-belief, and to invite you to feel realistic and justified confidence in what we can do.
“Think what we could do with proper free trade deals. And that is why it is so sad, so desperately wrong, that we are preparing to agree terms with Brussels that would make it difficult if not impossible to do such deals.
“And that is why it is such a mistake for us to leave on the Chequers terms, locked in the tractor beam of Brussels.
“We will not only be prevented from offering our tariff schedules. We will be unable to make our own laws – to vary our regulatory framework for goods, agrifoods and much more besides. This is politically humiliating for a £2 trillion economy.
“My fellow Conservatives, this is not democracy. This is not what we voted for. This is an outrage.”
May Displeased by Johnson Discourse
What Boris’ speech confirmed, in addition to his love of starting sentences with the word ‘and’, is that he is prepared to directly, and quite deliberately, raise the hackles of Leave voters both on the back benches and those sat on their armchairs at home.
Why? Because he’d love nothing more than a crack at the prime ministership.
The current incumbent signalled her displeasure at the speech in her best, middle class mumsy way, by telling the BBC she was ‘cross’ with Boris.
“There are one or two things that Boris said that I am cross about,” she said. “You know we, he and I are all members of the Conservative and Unionist Party. That’s because we believe in the union of the United Kingdom.
“There’s one thing we all know about Boris is that he’ll put on a good show.”
So the battle lines have, ever so politely, been drawn in readiness for a May vs Johnson battle. And depending on your view of Boris, you will be either thrilled or exasperated that he is now the bookmakers’ favourite to be the next prime minister ahead of Corbyn, Sajid Javid and Jacob Rees-Mogg.