During his speech, Boris Johnson frequently looked down at his notes and then looked a little surprised, as though he hadn’t expected half the content to be there. This wasn’t his strongest speech, but it was clear that among all the jokes about large boring machines, the murder rate in Brussels and other quips that he’s used before, there were two serious messages that the Mayor wanted to convey to the conference.
The first was a very serious policy-focused message, and therefore delegates got a little bit bored when Boris was delivering it. They still come for the jokes, not the ideas. He wanted to talk about the need for more homes, asking audience members to indicate how many of them were owner occupiers. Then he warned them that the next generation was being shut out and that he wanted to build more homes in London.
But the second was one that delegates applauded, and that will leave David Cameron confident that for the time being at least Boris isn’t one of the many thorns in his flesh. He closed his speech by describing the next general election as a simple choice between the ‘fool’s gold’ of Labour and the Conservatives. Delegates cheered happily as he said ‘let’s cut that yellow Liberal Democrat albatross from around our necks and let it plop into the sea’. He didn’t even take a pop at Cameron.
The Prime Minister has rewarded this new-found loyalty this morning by telling the Today programme that he would welcome Boris back into the Commons. He said:
‘That’s up to Boris. I’ve had this conversation with Boris and my message to him is ‘you’re a brilliant Mayor of London, you’ve done a great job, you’ve got a lot more to give to public life and it would be great to have you back in the House of Commons at some stage contributing to public life’. But that’s up to him, but I’ll certainly be giving him a warm welcome.’
The message is: let’s not tread on each other’s toes for the time being. The truce has relaxed the situation to the extent that the Mayor’s funniest joke – ‘I think he may have been mayor when he was Prime Minister… It’s the kind of thing they do’ – will be treated as genuinely funny, rather than a snide pop at anyone.Tags: Boris Johnson, Conservative conference 2013, UK politics