THE sight of Boris Johnson bigging up Theresa May in his conference speech stirs an image you may not thank me for sharing.
Mocking the buoyant mood of Labour and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, at their Brighton conference, Johnson said: “He didn’t win. You won – we won. Theresa May won.”
Boris was building bridges. But the thing with a Boris Bridge is that you ever know where it’s going to touch ground. Or indeed if it will even get built: that preposterous garden bridge across the Thames, now abandoned, had £37m of public poured into it: who’s going to stump that up? Not Boris, for sure.
Anyway, BJ was giving TM the big treatment. “She won more votes than any party leader and took this this party to its highest share of the vote in any election in the last 25 years and…”
Well, my concentration wandered after that. Something about Mrs Maybe getting a fantastic Brexit deal – you know, the one she has so far failed to make any progress on.
Listening to Boris, I couldn’t shift this thought from my mind. He sounded just like a faithless husband who was talking sexy to his wife – “You’ve still got it, baby!” – having just returned from an extracurricular shag with his secretary.
As an already suspicious wife might be wary of an unusually offered bunch of flowers, so Theresa May should poke those warm words from Boris with a sceptical finger. What really lies beneath that pile of colourful blandishment? Boris playing faithful, while pushing himself forward as a rival leader, that’s what.
His speech went down well with the party faithful, but they’d not had much to lift the glum mood all week. There was only Theresa May’s conference closing speech to look forward to, and as she’s the dullest speaker around, and half of them don’t much like her anyway, Boris was all they had to enjoy. They stood up and cheered, and the Daily Telegraph dutifully portrays Boris Johnson on its front page today as the “roaring lion”.
If he’s a roaring lion, Theresa May is a limping gazelle. And if you ask me, behind the carefully choreographed bluster, he’s more of a boring lion, but never mind.
While the overnight reviews from the faithful weren’t bad, Boris Johnson immediately undid the good of talking sexy to Mrs Maybe by having one of those Boris moments. Asked at the conference what it was like visiting Libya, he said that the city of Sirte, where Gaddafi was killed, could become a world-class tourism and business centre – once they “clear the dead bodies away”.
That will be the bodies of those who died in the battle to reclaim the city from Isis. His remarks are reported to have drawn gasps and embarrassment laughter from the audience – and a call from fellow Tory MP Heidi Allen for him to lose his job in the cabinet.
She said it was “100 per cent unacceptable from anyone, let alone the foreign secretary. Boris must be sacked for this. He does not represent my party.”
What Boris Johnson gives, his big mouth then takes away. Could this man really end up leading his party? Stranger things, and all that.