Boris Johnson has just given a rather urgent-sounding, fast-paced speech in Downing Street. So fast-paced, in fact, that it almost appeared he was in a hurry to catch a train.
He of course promised to deliver Brexit by 31 October, but the bulk of his statement was in fact focused on what he wanted to do on domestic policy. He did so using typically tangible promises, telling voters that ‘my job is to make your street safer’, that ‘my job is to make sure that you don’t have to wait three weeks to see your GP’ and ‘my job is to make sure your kids get a superb education’. He also promised that his government would ‘fix the crisis in social care one and for all with a clear plan we have prepared’. He was clearly determined to show that he wasn’t just going to make vague promises about what he wanted to achieve (as Theresa May did in Downing Street three years ago), but start right away with this work. He announced ’20 new hospital upgrades ensuring that the money for the NHS really does get to the frontline’. In the background, there were hecklers at the gates trying to get their boos picked up by the broadcast microphones. But you could also hear the sound of Whitehall spending taps being turned on to fund all these pledges.
He insisted that all this was his personal responsibility, telling the crows that ‘I will take personal responsibility for the change… never mind the backstop. The buck stops here’. That’s a clip for his opponents to replay whenever something goes wrong on his watch.
This was a very ambitious speech, and while it wasn’t full of jokes, it still had the primary colours and flamboyant language that Johnson has made his brand. He started by saying that: ‘The critics are wrong: the doubters, the doomsayers, the gloomsters, they are going to get it wrong. The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts.’ He also didn’t bother to spend that much time praising Theresa May, focusing more on the failure to make decisions over the past few years, and arguing that he would be the one to take those decisions.
Johnson closed by saying ‘the work begins now’. He now has a reshuffle and a summer of working out how to get those big policies past a fractured parliament. No wonder he sounded as though he was in a hurry.