On the day the Tory conference finally achieved lift-off, it was Boris Johnson’s zest for the English language (and at one point even a spot of Khmer) that galvanised the crowd.
As he finished with a jowly riff of ‘let the British lion roar’, the hall leapt to its pins, folk wolf-whistling and clapping over their heads. At last – at ruddy last! – they had heard a volley of speeches (from Liam Fox, David Davis, Priti Patel and Boris) which were optimistic about Brexit.
All that glumbucketry of the first two days had been replaced by something liberatingly hopeful.
On the day the Tory conference finally achieved lift-off, it was Boris Johnson’s zest for the English language (and at one point even a spot of Khmer) that galvanised the crowd
For much of this conference the hall has been Tumbleweed Alley. For yesterday afternoon’s Brexit session it was packed. Whatever the Dominic Grieves say, volunteer Tories tingle for Brexit. They are fed-up with Establishment wimpery.
‘Okay, it’s time for some optimism,’ cried International Trade Secretary Fox. ‘We need to stop the negative, undermining, self-defeating pessimism that is too prevalent in certain quarters.’ Fetch that, Hammond!
Brexit Secretary Davis asserted that there was a ‘determined exercise in Whitehall devoted to contingency arrangements’ should Brussels fail to offer us a good deal.
It was a mark of our diplomats’ abilities, he said, that they were able to work with the Foreign Secretary. Some of Boris’s unofficial campaign team was standing just behind me. They laughed at this gag. Phew.
As he finished with a jowly riff of ‘let the British lion roar’, the hall leapt to its pins, folk wolf-whistling and clapping over their heads
International Aid Secretary Patel had to be given a special platform to help her see over the lectern. ‘Some of our most successful leaders have been our smallest,’ she said. Priti has a habit of half-turning her head and giving a look of utter sauciness to the cameras.
It is the expression of a woman at dinner who has just slipped off her heels and is about to stroke her companion’s upper calves. Filthy!
‘I have been ruthless,’ she purred, as she gave one of those little looks, ‘in closing aid programmes that did not meet the standards I have been set.’
She was certainly ruthless about using the word ‘I’: 37 of them in one speech.
All that glumbucketry of the first two days had been replaced by something liberatingly hopeful
Communication, however, is about grabbing your audience by the glockenspiels linguistically. To do that, a good orator avoids or adapts cliches.
Foreign Secretary Boris neatly flipped the conference’s stodgy tagline of ‘creating a government that works for everyone’. He said Labour, with its nationalisation plans, wanted ‘a Britain where everyone works for the government’.
No other statesman in the Anglophone world would, in a tense and vital speech, deploy the word ‘voletrousered’.
‘I know Jeremy Corbyn has an innocent and voletrousered air but his domestic policies would rack up unfair debts for our children and grandchildren,’ said Boris.
Artful comic juxtaposition: the mouldy informality of Comrade Corbyn and the shattering likely consequences of his borrowing billions for his dotty policies.
International Aid Secretary Patel had to be given a special platform to help her see over the lectern
Manchester was ‘the thrumming engine’ of northern England. Boris spoke of Remainers spreading ‘gloom and dubitation’. They claimed Brexit was ‘a plague of boils or a murrain on our cattle’. The Financial Times was compared to Eeyore.
Bottle-out, lefties, vacillating, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, British Rail sandwiches, zombie fingers, the pulsing jugular of the Malacca straits, numbskull terrorists in Nigeria, the syncretic genius of Britain and the gigantic cyclotron of talent here: these were just some of the flourishes which made Boris’s speech work.
Sneerers mock his language. They are daft. It is a wonderful gift.
And the Khmer passage? He noted that we export to Cambodia the TV programme ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ – or Neak Neng Klay Chea Sethey, as it is called.
Brexit Secretary Davis asserted that there was a ‘determined exercise in Whitehall devoted to contingency arrangements’ should Brussels fail to offer us a good deal
The other speaker of note was the Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, who turned up in scout scarf with a couple of impressive teenagers.
Did you know scouting was fantastically popular with Muslim children? Apparently so.
TV star Grylls got the conference creakies to stand and stretch their muscles. He told them: ‘If you ignore young people, you perish. Embrace them.’
Embrace children? Don’t tell the chief constable of Wiltshire.