Boris Johnson’s Conference Speech Was About Blaming the Left for His Brexit Mess

The Prime Minister's conference address cemented the Conservatives as the party of miserable toil and rank privilege.
Simon Childs
London, GB
October 2, 2019, 3:18pm
boris johnson tory party conference 2019
Photo by the author

In his conference speech today, Boris Johnson boasted that he wants to "figuratively, if not literally… send Jeremy Corbyn into orbit, where he belongs". Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, it was he who was speaking from another planet, in a galaxy far, far away.

"We are building two space ports, one in Sutherland and one in Newquay," he boasted, speaking to the concerns of the average person in the street after years of government-enforced austerity. "Soon we will be sending missions to the heavens… conference, can you think of anyone who could trial the next mission? Can you think which communist cosmonaut to coax into the cockpit?"


He's obviously fond of this gag, having made it at the DUP reception on Tuesday night, when he invited the Labour leader to "step quietly into a figurative rocket" – though that time it got a bit dark, when one delegate interjected with the word "noose" after "figurative". Commie-killing lulz for the new breed of Tory Contra.

Next up was this zinger: "If parliament were a laptop, then the screen would be showing the pizza wheel of doom" – a great gag from a Prime Minister who wants to turn democracy off and on again when it doesn't do what he wants. That's our Johnson: he'll give you a chuckle and a warm fuzzy feeling as he sows a stab-in-the-back myth.

So amiable is the posho off Have I Got News For You that you could almost miss the nasty substance of what he says. He sympathised with the "left behind", not only because their towns were "suffering from a lack of love and investment", but also because "their views had somehow become unfashionable or unmentionable". You can't say anything these days, PC gone mad it is! You can't even say… well, I won’t say it, but I'd send them all back… but you can’t say that… so instead, Johnson repeated Home Secretary Priti Patel's pledge of an Australian-style points-based immigration system – a sound-bite designed to evoke a system even more racist than our own without actually saying it.

He also made the case for "dynamic free market capitalism", set against the "ruinous plans" that the Labour Party has "borrowed from the playbook of Bolivarian revolutionary Venezuela".

A reasonable chunk of the speech was dedicated to jibes at those "fratricidal, anti-Semitic Marxists". In particular, Johnson criticised the policies voted in at Labour conference: a four-day week and abolishing private schools. Johnson was cementing the Conservatives as the party of miserable toil and rank privilege. There was no mistaking it: this was a stump speech for the denizens of planet Tory, a small blue sphere light-years away from where most of us live. Three day weekend? No thanks, chaps.

Today, Johnson will make what is touted as a "final offer" to the EU on Brexit, one the Irish said was "not even close" to something they would consider before it had even been made.

From the stage at conference, Johnson repeated the phrase "let's get Brexit done". And should no deal with the EU be forthcoming, there's no-deal: "not an outcome we want", said Johnson, "not an outcome we seek at all, but let me tell you: it is an outcome for which we are ready".

Funnily enough, just repeating something endlessly doesn't actually make it happen. Saying we’re ready for a no-deal doesn’t make it true. Briefing another unworkable proposal on Ireland doesn’t bring us closer to a deal.

Worse than any of Corbyn’s policies, apparently, is that "it has become absolutely clear that he is determined now to frustrate Brexit". The countdown to Brexit is underway, and it seems inconceivable that it won't get stuck on the launch pad one way of the other. This speech seemed to be about placing the blame for a failed lift-off firmly on the left.