The return of vintage BoJo

Boris Johnson, pictured at the world summit, served a generous helping of sour grapes on the Northern Ireland issue – Dan Kitwood/Getty

The former prime minister had chosen the decidedly non-Boris environment of the “Brand Finance global soft-power summit” to break his silence on the new Brexit deal.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba addressed the conference via video link; Andrew Neil dragged away the weak-moving carcass of a TikTok creator he had previously mauled. Then, at last, those familiar fuzzy manes – reminiscent today of a thatched cottage in disrepair – sauntered across the stage and climbed the stage.

Boris Johnson began by describing how a member of the public shouted an expletive at him – “The cheery London greeting of w*****” – while recently running near Westminster. Frankly, the longlist of potential driveby curses will make up most of the current cabinet. Perhaps it was the former prime minister’s innovative pronunciation of “w*****” (to rhyme with “auto” instead of “cur”), but even the global soft power summit couldn’t suppress a collective giggle.

His next sentences swirled like a truck driven by a drunken jack-of-all-trades, around his notoriously arcane frame of reference: Vladimir Putin, Augustus Gloop, and Miss Moneypenny were all name-checked in about a minute. It was almost as if this was a deliberate Vaudevillian twist to contrast itself with the slick, managerial glow of the current Prime Minister; but that kind of cynical presentation trick doesn’t sound like Boris “Peppa Pig World” Johnson at all, does it?

As with any old vaudevillian, the old jokes were back: a risqué joke about Prince Andrew’s legal woes and a return of our favorite villain – “the great human bollard”, Sir Crasheroney Snoozefest who, Johnson claimed, was only a few points ahead when he himself led the Conservative Party. This was less of an exercise in historical revisionism and more of an elaborate piece of fanfiction: the entire speech seemed to be an invocation of the good old days of Merrie England, when Johnson was in charge and, er, 90 percent of the population was incarcerated. in their homes.

After reminding the audience of the role of the establishment – including the state broadcaster – in frustrating Brexit, he asked for a show of hands from all Leave supporters in the room. In the circumstances of a BBC-sponsored soft power summit in Westminster, this was a bit like going to Comic Con and asking who was on the school’s rugby team.

A generous helping of sour grapes on the Northern Ireland issue; Boris confessed he had reservations about backing Rishi Sunak’s deal – though he voted for his own deal easily enough. As for the next general election, “we’re going to win that” – he muttered, with the same exuberant enthusiasm with which he might one day have unveiled a new fleet of flexible buses or a bridge to Northern Ireland. He demanded a reduction in corporate tax, to “Irish level or below”. I liked this Boris; even if he had been missing for a while.

As the speech gave way to a Q&A, the former prime minister was asked about his political future. “I think it’s very, very unlikely that I’ll have to do anything big in politics,” he replied — which doesn’t entirely rule out the squad being brought down in Cincinattian at some point in the future. All in all, this was a vintage Boris, free to do what he does best: entertain and most importantly bring in the right people. Just not near the levers of power.

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