The Home Secretary's speech took the Conservative Party conference by stormby Jay Elwes / September 30, 2014 / Leave a comment
Two very different characters addressed the Conservative party conference this morning: Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, and Theresa May, the Home Secretary. They differed not only in their delivery and tone, but also in the manner in which they appealed to the crowd. Both speeches were successful and both received standing ovations. Both speakers are potential successors to David Cameron as leader of the Conservative party. These speeches showed the very different characters that a future Conservative party might have.
Johnson, regarded as the main attraction, spoke after May, but his performance is worth considering first. It was a superficial speech, crowned with some good jokes, powerful rhetoric and even pantomime-style call and response. He set out London’s achievements of the last five years, by association his own achievements: the creation of many thousands of apprenticeships, the introduction of the London Living Wage and the reduction of Council Tax in some cases by up to 20 per cent.
His most powerful moment came when he addressed the relationship of London to the rest of Britain, telling the audience that, despite what had been said in the course of the Scottish referendum, London was not a burden for Britain but an engine room of growth, its economic energy bringing benefits to the whole nation. By way of emphasis, he produced a brick from beneath the podium, which he said had been manufactured in the Midlands and was to be used for construction in London. The crowd loved it.
The rhetoric, the jokes, the exhortations for the crowd to feel flushed with national pride, amounted to a classic Johnson performance. And also a revealing one. In his comments on Ed Miliband, Boris contrasted what he saw as the calcified intellectualism of the left with the vigorous praxis of the right. “The difference between us and Labour,” he said, “is they talk and we do.”
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