It’s been a quiet day in Westminster with the main excitement involving a suspicious package containing white powder that was delivered to an office in Parliament. The powder was later found to be non-harmful but police are investigating the incident.
Tomorrow the relative calm will end when Boris Johnson gives his big speech. Titled ‘a United Kingdom’, the Foreign Secretary is to give the first in a series of government speeches that together form Downing Street’s ‘roadmap to Brexit’. Boris’s aim is to reach out to those who voted Remain and reassure them that Brexit Britain will be a country that reflects their liberal values.
The last time Johnson wanted to give a big speech on Brexit No 10 slapped him down and a 4,000-word essay wound its way into the Daily Telegraph. This time around, Johnson has Downing Street’s backing – but all eyes will be on whether he uses his Valentine’s Day outing to put pressure on May over the government’s negotiating position. Behind the scenes, the Foreign Secretary is warning against high alignment with the EU.
But regardless of whether Johnson touches on trade a lot is riding on how tomorrow’s speech is received. Johnson’s critics like to make him out as a divisive figure who has been unable to appeal to non-Brexit voters since the referendum. Earlier this month it was reported that party figures think the chief Brexiteer could alienate voters in Remain-backing London ahead of the local elections (on that subject, on Coffee House I’ve written about why those May elections might not actually be so bad for May). This is his chance to prove them wrong.