Boris Johnson indulges in make-believe with misfiring conference speech.

The Irish Times

The Irish Times online. Latest news including sport, analysis, business, weather and more from the definitive brand of quality news in Ireland.

This time last year, the crowd at the Conservative party conference in Manchester were chanting Boris Johnson’s name before he came onstage to deliver a barnstorming leader’s speech. He might have expected an even more ecstatic reception this year after winning the party its biggest majority at Westminster for more than 30 years.

Instead, coronavirus meant that he gave his speech on Tuesday to an empty room where every joke fell flat and each rhetorical flourish was a reminder of the flatness of the format. His purpose was clear from the start when he declared that he had had “more than enough of this disease” and promised that life would be back to normal in time for next year’s conference.

He scorned as “seditious propaganda” reports – many of which come from his own MPs – that his own bout of coronavirus “has somehow robbed me of my mojo”. But he had nothing to say about why Britain suffered more deaths than any other European country during the first wave of the pandemic and why its test and trace system is so inadequate at the start of the second.

Brexit talks

If he had little beyond platitudes to offer on coronavirus, the prime minister had nothing at all to say about the other urgent issue facing his government – its trade talks with the European Union. Johnson last week revived his October 15th deadline for making progress on a deal but he has not yet shown any sign of making a negotiating move that would help to make an agreement possible.

Insofar as Tuesday’s speech contained policy announcements, most were reheated versions of existing commitments like expanding wind power or ideas floated without any detail, such as introducing a digital ID. After the speech, Downing Street was unable to flesh out any of the speech’s policy proposals.

Johnson’s words were aimed at the party faithful more than at the electorate at large and he tried to cheer them up with some traditional knockabout at Labour’s expense. Here too he misfired, portraying the opposition as unpatriotic, profligate and politically correct, as if he thought he was still up against Jeremy Corbyn rather than Keir Starmer.

It was as if the entire speech was an exercise in make-believe and nostalgia for the age of innocence a few months ago when Johnson was a popular prime minister facing a despised opponent. Wednesday’s polls show the two parties neck and neck with Starmer’s approval rating far ahead of Johnson’s. Tuesday’s flight of fantasy is unlikely to move the needle.

Новини по темі

US set to approve Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine by next week.

Head of public health body warns of ‘rough times’ ahead amid rising infection numbers

The gay orgy that exposes the hypocrisy of Hungary’s illiberals.

Europe Letter: Sense that Hungary on the back foot as EU budget hangs in the balance

Former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing dies.

Tributes paid to man who steered modernisation of French society and was key architect of European integration

Investigation into cash-for-pardons scandal involving White House.

Documents emerge as Donald Trump considers pardons for his children

2 2

Israel faces fourth election in two years after vote to dissolve parliament.

March vote will be triggered automatically if a budget is not approved by December 23rd

Johnson warns of lengthy roll-out after UK approves coronavirus vaccine.

First doses of Pfizer-BioNTech drug will go to vulnerable groups including care-home residents and elderly

1 2

EU bids to renew transatlantic alliance under Biden with US summit.

Ambitions for co-operation on climate change, tech regulation and China

Czechs ease coronavirus rules as Russia plans ‘large-scale vaccinations’.

Kremlin says 2 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine will soon be available

1 4

Lebanon has failed to implement any key reforms, says France.

Political class squabbles over cabinet formation rather than addressing Macron plan

Glut of frustrated elites overlooked in West’s political turmoil.

US Politics: An academic blames ‘elite overproduction’ for breeding resentment in society

2 2