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Boris Johnson's speech at Conservative Party conference analysis

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Most political speeches, particularly by leaders at their conference, are designed to appeal to two different audiences.

There are the loyal activists who have queued for hours to get a seat for the main act; then there is the outside audience, who may not be paid-up party members.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the ‘priority’ for the country would be to reduce doctor and hospital backlogs (Jacob King/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the ‘priority’ for the country would be to reduce doctor and hospital backlogs (Jacob King/PA)

The trick is to offer enough goodies to leave both with an impression that they know what they are doing and the other parties do not.

When it is Boris Johnson at the lectern, there is always the prospect of the off-the-cuff remark, the unscripted aside and the odd - well actually quite a lot - joke.

In theatrical terms, the PM is political box-office entertainment.

No one could say that he didn't cover a lot of ground but the pace at which he delivered it suggested that he was running late for a train.

There was of course multiple references to the government’s levelling up agenda but anyone trying to dig out something concrete from the rhetorical thickets would have struggled.

There was an announcement about bringing the best tutors to struggling schools - offering then a £3,000 premium to do so - but no explanation as to to what would happen to those schools that these tutors came from.

On housing he did not do much to quell the disquiet of MPs and council leaders in Kent about the reforms the government has in mind.

Instead he focused on those who currently cannot afford to buy their own homes, arguing that the Conservatives would revive the dream of home ownership for young families; leading to a characteristic Johnson detour about the joy of painting your own front door whatever colour you like.

On Brexit - which he had to mention - he made some questionable claims about the dividends of leaving the EU. Among them that it had enabled the government to see off the plan for the European Super League.

He even invoked the success of the Kent teenager Emma Raducanu as a sign of how leaving the EU had benefitted the country.

Emma Raducanu
Emma Raducanu

He did mention the plans to crackdown on on protesters who who caused misery for motorists and others this week but kept it brief, perhaps because long before he became prime minister, he had threatened to lie down in the front of bulldozers at Heathrow Airport.

In fact the speech was more notable for what it omitted than for what it contained.

There was no reference to fuel shortages; rising energy prices; empty supermarket shelves or even the continuing crisis surrounding the numbers of migrants landing on Kent’s coastline and claiming asylum.

Did he forget? Of course not. This was a speech designed to lift the spirits of party members. The bad news is a few weeks away when the government’s spending review is announced..

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