Boris was fizzier than a can of Vimto, splurging cash and back to his best. Yowzers, says HENRY DEEDES
Hard hat? Check. Oversized high-vis jacket? Check. Daft stunt in hardcore heavy machinery? Check, check, check.
With a crash and a bang and a no small wallop, Boris Johnson rolled into the West Midlands yesterday to outline his ‘new deal’ plans for the economy. Finally, a chance to blow away some of those coronavirus cobwebs and get back to turbo-charging Britain.
First item of business: The obligatory visit to a building site to muck about on a digger. Thud! Clank! Screeeeech!
Amid the din of Boris crunching his way through the gears, there may even have been a prime ministerial yell of ‘yowzers!’ The site’s poor ’elf and safety officer must have been having kittens.
With a crash and a bang and a no small wallop, Boris Johnson rolled into the West Midlands yesterday to outline his ‘new deal’ plans for the economy
Next up, a rallying cri de coeur at Dudley College of Technology to get Britain back to work. It was bustling, back-to-his-best stuff. Fizzier than a can of Vimto.
The Prime Minister took his place shortly after 11am behind a lectern which read: ‘Build build build.’
For the next 20 minutes we heard how he planned to bring forward £5billion worth of infrastructure spending. New schools, new hospitals, new homes. New trees, even.
The slogan might just as well have read: ‘Spend! Spend! Spend!’
We heard so much splurging that at one point the Prime Minister had to remind us: ‘I’m not a communist.’
All I can say is, I hope Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s keeping the stubs from all those cheques. Rishi, my boy, you’ve got some tricky book balancing to do.
Hurry, hurry, hurry, was his message. This was a prime minister desperate to make up for lost time. After all, he may have survived corona but it is killing his legacy
Boris was desperate to shake the country out of its sclerotic, lockdown-induced state. ‘We cannot continue to be prisoners of this crisis,’ he said. Although back to full health he does look terribly pasty under the television lights.
Unfortunately, his handlers have as much chance of applying powder puff to his nose as they do getting him into a well ironed shirt.
Hurry, hurry, hurry, was his message. This was a prime minister desperate to make up for lost time. After all, he may have survived corona but it is killing his legacy.
We were told we could hang around for ‘lightning and the thunderclaps’ from its economic reverberations.
There was frustration at the axles of government which sometimes turn far too slowly for his liking, like a ‘recurring bad dream when you are telling your feet to run and your feet won’t move’.
Small wonder he was calling this initiative ‘Project Speed’. Boris even spoke with impatience, spitting out some phrases in rat-a-tat-tat fashion.
London ‘as/was/is’ the capital of the world, he said, jabbing his right arm repeatedly like a darts player aiming for the bullseye. He wants to build homes that were ‘better/greener/faster’.
There was frustration at the axles of government which sometimes turn far too slowly for his liking, like a ‘recurring bad dream when you are telling your feet to run and your feet won’t move’
It was noticeable how keen he was to distance himself from his predecessors. So many of these plans he said should have been carried out yonks ago.
Boris pointed out the crisis in our social care system, for example, had been ‘flunked’ by successive governments for 30 years.
He planned to build some roads meant to have been built when John Major was in power.
The Prime Minister said he would not try and ‘cheese-pare’ us out of recession.
Was this a pop at David Cameron’s austerity programme after the 2008 financial crisis? Wouldn’t surprise me. He still pulls a face whenever Dave’s name gets mentioned.
Of his opponent Sir Keir Starmer, there was no mention. The closest Boris came to referencing Labour was when he talked of wanting to lift the country up rather drag everyone down to the lowest common denominator.
‘I don’t believe in tearing people down any more than I believe in tearing down statues that are part of our heritage let alone a statue of our greatest wartime leader,’ he said. Nice line.
He ended with a Tiggerish rally. ‘We will not just bounce back,’ he said. ‘We will bounce forward – stronger and better and more united than ever before.’
Boris isn’t great at telling us how it is, as this crisis has sometimes shown. But what a performer he is when he’s telling us how it might be.
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