Amongst an atmosphere of intra-Cabinet drama, Boris Johnson’s highly anticipated speech at the Tory Party Conference in Manchester provided one of the strongest examples of why Johnson used to be seen as a future Prime Minister.
Johnson’s speech focused distinctly on changing the tone about the discussion of the state of Britain today and looking into the future. He explicitly called out the media for being seemingly obsessed with presenting the most negative assessment possible of Britain, noting that it seems that every piece of economic news that could be seen as positive (such as the UK boasting its lowest unemployment rate in 42 years and the highest number of workers in its history) has to include some kind of “despite Brexit” qualifier.
Johnson’s speech was also remarkable in the way that he weaved humor and anecdotes into a vision of relentless British innovation and progress against any odds. Amongst positing several ways that he believes Britain can “think forward” — such as cracking global warming through the pursuit of clean energy technologies and increasing female education — Johnson recounted personal stories about the successes of the British nation, such as London bouncing back from the Great Recession. In a sense, this speech demonstrated Johnson’s public speaking strengths to the detriment of the Prime Minister, who has struggled over the past year to captivate the British people with her vision of the future.
Additionally, Johnson made a strong case against the assault on capitalism presented by the Corbynist Labour Party. In particular, he noted that even countries with a strong history of socialism — such as China, Vietnam, and the ex-Soviet states of Europe — have brought millions of people out of poverty through free market and deregulation policies. Additionally, Johnson correctly noted that a large part of the future of Britain’s economy will be in industries such as biotech, fintech, and cybernetics, all of which require the incentives to innovate that only capitalism can provide. Thankfully, then, it seems as if the Tory Party is finally waking up to the challenge on Western liberal society presented by Corbyn and his allies.
All in all, Johnson speech was an important step to put aside the negative perception of Britain’s current state and its future. Additionally, Johnson reminded the world that he is a staunch advocate for globalisation and free market capitalism, not some right-wing, nationalist caricature of the Leave campaign. While it still might be too early to tell what the outcome of Johnson and May’s tense relationship will be in the future, it is safe to say that Johnson boosted his standing as a positive, forward-thinking politician who can present a vision of Britain’s post-Brexit future that people can get behind.