Conservative Conference Bubble Rises to Cheer Prime Minister’s Lightweight Entertainment | Jean Cracé
NOTnot so much a conference speech, more a long column from the Daily Telegraph. One of them rushed in at the last minute. It was politics as light entertainment, any collision with the real world being entirely accidental. Lots of jokes – one or two even moderately good – and TV sound bites, but nothing substantial. Just another day like any other in the life of Boris Johnson.
The lights went out and the Spandau Ballet performed through the sound system. “You are indestructible, always believing you are gold” is the theme tune of the narcissist. No wonder Boris loves it. It is the man who does not have to make too much effort. Even when the country feels like it is collapsing around him, in his universe, he can reconfigure it to his image of dazzling success. All you need is to believe. If you don’t like the world you find yourself in – and 4 million homes were waking up to a £ 20 a week cut in Universal Credit – then it’s probably your fault.
Moments later, the cabinet moved to the new room – enlarged to twice the size both to accommodate Boris’ ego and to remind his party that he is his supreme leader – to polite applause . Still, that was more than many of them had received from their own 10-minute slots in the small tent earlier in the week. Then a short video of Boris being kind and interacting with grateful Little People before the Prime Minister takes the stage.
Johnson looked up and smiled. The conference center was his kingdom. His bubble. He could say whatever he wanted and no one would care. The public just wanted to be kissed in their kingdom. Experience his vision of an England where there were no lines for gasoline, no shortage of food and labor, no inflation and no raise taxes. These things were all constructs of a media and Labor Party obsessed with denigrating the country.
And what a world it was. First, Johnson practically said Covid was over. It had been a difficult 18 months – made more difficult for everyone by Labor’s insistence on treating it as a major public health problem – but now it was about business as usual. Thanks to the vaccine he had personally developed, the UK was one step ahead of other countries to get back to normal.
Then there was the welfare issue, which he solved by simply saying he had a plan to deal with it. Yes, that could involve higher taxes – almost all of which would go to the NHS rather than social services – but he hoped things could be sorted out simply by removing some red tape. It was so easy.
The gags came thick and fast. Funny stories with funny voices with even a little Frenglish. The old are the old. Diversion tactics as Boris jumped from topic to topic, never allowing himself to be distracted into the details in case anyone noticed the complete lack of substance or politics. He could only impose his reality by force of will. Because his story was more seductive, more comical and above all less painful than anyone else.
He created an economy with high wages and low taxes. Like many of his colleagues, he is unaware that many people suffer a pay cut after inflation and that his government has raised taxes to their highest level since the 1940s.
And he was going to level up. Whatever it is. There have been so many meaningless definitions over the past few days at the Conservative Conference that it was difficult to keep up. Today that meant that the people of Stoke Poges could relax about any foreigners trying to settle in their village as there would be plenty of homes and jobs for them in the north.
Above all, Boris wanted no reality to interfere with his vision of the world. Labor was billed as Islington’s party when it was he who lived there before being kicked out of the family home. The sale of beef to the United States was the crème de la crème of trade deals. Make a hamburger. Groan. The Kabul airlift had been a magnificent triumph.
Oddly, he thinks he’s a historian, but seems totally oblivious that one of the purposes of history is to question the past again. So there was the obligatory clickbait of a wake-up war. We can’t ask people to edit Wikipedia entries, he said. Conveniently forgetting that he hadn’t admitted that he had six children until recently.
The further he went, the more disjointed and lazy the speech became. It lasted 45 minutes, thankfully brief, but it wasn’t even immediately clear that he was actually done as he seemed to end in the middle of his sentence. No one cared. The audience applauded, and neither did the cabinet – each of them was desperate not to be seen as the first to stop applauding.
He was a classic and complacent Boris. He hadn’t really tried because he hadn’t needed to. He feels impregnable. The Tories had loved him because they still loved him. It makes them feel good about themselves. Comfort of binge eating on a diet of longing and wishful thinking. And besides – if nothing else – the conference had been a stark reminder that they weren’t exactly spoiled for choice in the search for alternative prime ministers.
But it was also a speech that ignored the experience of most people in the country. Queues, shortages, feeling broke. A Brexit that did not really go as promised. The devotees might have knelt down to worship, but in reality his speech had been an act of contempt. Both for them and for everyone else. The speech may have allowed Boris to breathe a little, but not much else. Sooner or later something has to give. And then the shit will hit the fan.