Boris Johnson’s speech today was an attempt to set this election up as a choice between a Tory majority government and a hung parliament. He argued that if the Tories got the nine extra seats they need from their 2017 performance, then Brexit would ‘get done’ and the country would be able to move on to other priorities. By contrast, he claimed that a hung parliament would lead to a Corbyn/ Sturgeon coalition and two referendums. (Both Labour and the SNP have ruled out a formal coalition).
What was striking about today was how many of the Tories’ 2015 campaign themes, Boris Johnson was trying to revive. We had the warnings about a ‘coalition of chaos’ if you don’t vote Tories and the attacks on how the SNP would be pulling Labour’s strings. But while as in 2015, the Tory target was Lib Dem seats in the South West, this time it is Labour ones in the West Midlands: Boris Johnson launched the Tory campaign there and returned for his speech today.
In another flashback to 2015, the Tories want to attack the Labour leader as weak. So when asked about Corbyn’s comments about how it would have been better if Isis leader al-Baghdadi had been arrested rather than killed, Boris Johnson said that it showed him ‘to be naïve to the point of being dangerous’ rather than attacking his worldview more broadly.
Several of the media questions focused on the government’s handling of the recent floods; Boris Johnson had a difficult visit to some of the flood hit areas today. This was a reminder of the particular risks to a governing party from a winter election. But, overall, today’s speech was a reminder that—unlike in 2017—the Tories know what their campaign message is and intend to keep hitting it. Their hope is that Boris Johnson’s ability to coin a phrase can keep getting attention for what is essentially a very repetitive message.