Ed Davey: Boris speech was most out of touch display by a PM in decades

For me the week of the Conservative Party Conference is usually a week of low level nausea. Seeing Conservatives in their comfort zone is never going to be pleasant for any liberal. This week was particularly bad.  The bottom of the barrel was seeing Peter Bottomley whinging that 81 grand wasn’t enough for him to live on and using words such as “grim” and “desperate” to describe MPs’ financial circumstances.

I suspect the millions of people who are facing a £20 week cut in Universal Credit just at the same time as food and energy prices are going through the roof will be full of sympathy for him.

And then there was Boris Johnson’s bizarre stand-up routine in place of a speech. Unfortunately he and his team have learned over time that if you repeat an untruth often enough and loud enough, you win big.  It’s clear that the Conservatives want everyone to be talking about culture wars – if they can set us up to be kicking lumps out of each other, maybe we won’t notice the empty shelves in the supermarkets and the rising prices, all of which signify that his flagship Brexit project was the ultimate pig in a poke.<

His words might have been red meat to the Tory faithful in the hall today. We’ll have to see what the country feels like after a Winter that is not going to be funny.

Ed Davey was pretty scathing about Johnson’s speech:

Boris Johnson’s speech was the most out of touch display by a Prime Minister in decades, he has created a cost of living crisis which he refuses to fix.

The Conservative Party conference may as well be happening in a parallel universe. Johnson pretends that somehow long queues at the petrol station and empty shelves in the supermarket are all part of his cunning plan and blames anyone he can for the wreckage he is causing: UK businesses, journalists and the British public.

People across the country are working hard and making big sacrifices, yet the Prime Minister refuses to offer any meaningful support. Instead he’s hitting millions of working families with an unfair jobs tax and a £1000 Universal Credit cut, and leaving them to fend for themselves as their energy bills explode.

No wonder millions of people across the Blue Wall, sick of being taken for granted by Boris Johnson, are turning to the Liberal Democrats in their droves.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Barry Lofty 6th Oct '21 - 9:53pm

    I just cannot watch or listen to him, why anyone trusts anything he says is beyond me, I do hope you are right Sir Ed.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Oct '21 - 10:00pm

    Excellent from Caron and Barry here, in reply.

    The Johnson speech, the few minutes I saw, appallingly flip[pant, the joke re: corona, and sweating on the nightclub, floor, horrible as one hundred and fifty people daily are dying because this govt and much of the country seem to think business as usual is best!

    The Bottomly thing is quite reprehensible, apart from his being so well meaning towards that income bracket, and so clueless about the bottom, no pun intended, of the scale!

    The Tories are really at rock bottom, morally!

  • David Evans 7th Oct '21 - 1:04am

    Sadly, it was a consummate speech delivered by a consummate bulls***ter, but it will work on so many levels with many voters the left (Labour and Lib Dem) have lost over the last 10 years. Until we learn that telling each other how rubbish the Conservatives are will not convert a single voter, and in fact will simply consolidate his core vote on so many areas.

    He exploited the chaos to the M25 and the Blackwall Tunnel by Insulate Britain supporters – interesting people, right about the need to do things about the climate crisis, totally wrong in their assessment of what will be successful in achieving the change of attitude needed. Ambulances delayed, some with fatal consequences; hundreds of thousands of people held up for over an hour on the M25 – 90% of them will simply say “About time.” An open goal presented to him by those too fired up with their own rightness to think things through.

    Likewise the opposition to AUKUS by Labour: so naive, so weak, so guaranteed to embolden China, so clearly wrong to the majority of people. People are realising this, the Trendy left have to grow up – believing you are absolutely right is not enough to change things. What you have to do is persuade people you are broadly right more often than not and sadly for them voting through silly resolutions like that will not do that.

  • Off topic, but on my browser (Firefox running on Linux) the right hand sidebar has now shifted leftwards and is cutting off the right side of the below the line comments. This change has happened sometime within the last 16 hours.

  • jayne mansfield 7th Oct '21 - 8:45am

    @ Barry Lofty,
    Me neither.

    Unfortunately, he is parking his Tory tanks on the lawns of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. It is all empty rhetoric of course, he is, in my opinion, a chameleon with no principles and no substance, but I dread to see the post conference polls.

  • John Marriott 7th Oct '21 - 9:07am

    The usual knockabout stuff, which he can get away with speaking to the faithful. It won’t do anything to solve the mess we are in. Why oh why didn’t the opposition parties get their act together in the Autumn of 2019 and not allow themselves to be suckered into a General Election. With his parliamentary majority, Johnson is untouchable at the moment.

  • David Garlick 7th Oct '21 - 9:51am

    Lots there to Focus on in Focus.

  • Barry Lofty 7th Oct '21 - 10:08am

    @Jayne Mansfield
    If course you are right but isn’t it so depressing and frustrating?
    @ John Marriott
    Johnson suckered both main opposition party’s into that election, one of the worst miscalculations made in recent years, I agree!

  • Nonconformistradical 7th Oct '21 - 10:42am

    Re Adam 7th Oct ’21 – 8:31am
    Same problem here – both Firefox and Opera but running Windows, not Linux.

    Problem seems confined to this particular page – I’m not seeing it on any other LDV page I’ve looked at today.

  • John Marriott 7th Oct '21 - 11:02am

    The Adam Smith Institute called the speech “economically illiterate”. I’d go further and suggest that they strike out the “econ” and substitute a “c”. It so reminds me of Jean Luc Picard on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise as he ended most episodes with the words to his crew; “Make it so”.

    Let’s look at one theme to emerge. “Higher wages” without increased productivity = higher inflation. A higher skilled workforce would now have been in place had the 2004 Tomlinson Report on 14 to 19 Education been adopted. Earlier in the decade the same (Labour) government did not introduce transitional arrangements in order to benefit from cheap labour from several new members of the EU.

    Unlike many of its competitors British Industry (or what was left of it after Lady Thatcher had her way) has for decades been reluctant to sign up to proper skills training, while the education establishment, especially from secondary through to further and higher education, has been hooked on delivering a progressive liberal education to all. We have far too many fee paying students studying a series of ‘ologies’ and probably the highest qualified baristers in the world! Labour introduced the ‘Modern Apprenticeship’. If my young son’s experience is anything to go by, many firms took the money and delivered very little.

    Compare that with Germany, for example, where apprenticeships are a valued path to meaningful employment and acquiring the ‘Meisterbrief’ or being able to add ‘Diplomingenieur’ after your name was clear proof that you could do the job, either on the shop floor or in the Board Room. Mind you, let’s not paint Germany as perfect. West Germany benefitted massively after WW2 from an exodus of skilled workers from the GDR before the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961 put a stop to that. Yes, training people does cost. The alternative is a continuing decline. Nothing new, then?

  • David Evans 7th Oct '21 - 11:14am

    Barry Lofty – Actually I think Nicola Sturgeon suckered Jo into it, not Boris Johnson. Nicola was never on our side. A defeat for Boris Johnson in the General election would be a nice win for the Nats. However a win for Boris Johnson would be a great win for the Nats as it would stoke up support for independence even more as an anti ‘Conservative England imposing its will on a pro EU Scottish people’ rallying cry.

    Our leader was completely out thought and ill advised by naive optimists who could never see the down side risks in any of their ideas.

    Sadly I still see so many of those naive optimists still in positions of influence, and they are still totally convinced they are right.

  • I know most people will have voted by post but will be interesting to see whether we hold all 4 seats we are defending today.

  • Peter Martin 7th Oct '21 - 11:55am

    I’ve just noticed that the Adam Smith Institute is calling Boris’ speech “economically illiterate”. Apparently we can’t have a high wage high productivity economy. It really should be a Labour leader who is at loggerheads with a right-wing think tank. I’d be taking these remarks as a compliment.

    The GDP per person in the UK is approximately £31k pa. There are approximately 32.4 million people working in the UK or around 50% of the total population. So that means each worker is generating, on average, £62 k for the economy. This would obviously be higher if we allow for the number of part-time workers.

    So I would have thought we should be able to guarantee everyone a reasonably high wage, say at least £20k per year, possibly more, if they are prepared to put in 35 hours per week for 48 weeks per year. What’s the problem?

  • A quick reminder of Boris Johnson’s real record before he even became Prime Minister;


  • Peter Hirst 7th Oct '21 - 1:55pm

    It’s the effect of Boris’ persona on the culture within the country that bothers me. The country can cope with one such person even if the leader but his effect is permeating the whole country. Politics is a serious business and leaders need to reflect that.

  • Barry Lofty 7th Oct '21 - 1:58pm

    Mark: Caroline Pidgeon sussed out Johnson pretty well didn’t she, I hope the voters do the same sooner rather than later?

  • Apologies for the technical issue with this page, which is now fixed.
    But please don’t use the comments to report a bug as we may not see it for a while – use [email protected].

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Oct '21 - 3:20pm

    Excellent comments.

    I reckon as often David Evans has it correctly. The obvious areas, HS2, an example, where our party ought to have said a resounding no to, are missed opportunities.

    So , also, on the abysmal caving in to the SNP, on an earlier election. I voted for Jo Swinson and always liked her. She failed terribly in that period.

    This party needs to be less politically correct. Insulate Britain are criminal in their activity. No less can do as a description of the damage to people that is likely their fault when delays and disruption happens, and it is so dangerous. Grimond would have been more fierce than even right wing Conservatives on such behaviour.

  • When every other politician seems miserable and talking about how bad everything is Boris always looks on the bright side. He might be hated by the activists of the opposition parties, but he remains a very popular winner. After the fuel shortages, the media screaming about empty shelves, raising NI etc he’s still 8% ahead in the most recent YouGov poll. The Lib Dems and Labour need to stop sounding like every day is the end of the world – it does nothing but depress people.

  • Alex Macfie 7th Oct '21 - 5:19pm

    Malc: Other polls are available. Of more importance than the 8-point Tory lead in that particular poll is the Tory vote share of just 39%. This is roughly in line with other pollsters, and is unchanged from the previous YouGov poll, indicating that the Tories have not enjoyed a Conference bounce. YouGov seems to be giving higher poll ratings for the Green Party and lower ratings for Labour than other pollsters do, hence the larger Tory poll lead.

  • Barry Lofty 7th Oct '21 - 5:21pm

    Malc: I do not think I only speak for myself but what depresses me most is having to read such over optimistic hogwash that eminates from the mouth of the person who presumes to be Prime Minister and prime mover in the levelling up of our so divided country. I hope and believe that the old saying” you can fool some of the people etc etc” will prove to be correct!

  • Johnson is the epitome of a snake oil salesman who returns year after year selling the same nonsense to a gullible township..I blame the towmspeople..
    The media and the general population seem to have the attention span of goldfish; like his US equivalent, his promises rarely last a day before he promises the opposite (during an interview during the conference he denied the need for an enquiry into the Sarah Everard/Wayne Couzens affair and yet, the very next day, applauded Priti Patel’s promise of an enquiry..
    Starmer’s speech was criticised for being too full of detail on policies; Johnson offered nothing except vague aspirations and jokes about Blackford/Starmer..This country now seems to prefer three word slogans to serious politics..As a nation we were conned in 2016 and 2019; now, sadly, we’ve been ‘suckered’ again in 2021.. The old adage of “Cheat me once, shame on you; cheat me twice, shame on me” no longer applies..

    As for Ed Davey’s “millions of people across the Blue Wall, sick of being taken for granted by Boris Johnson, are turning to the Liberal Democrats in their droves.” It either means a LibDem government in 2024 or it’s worth as much as Johnson’s pledges..I know what I think..

  • @ Malc. You’ve clearly missed the latest You Gov polls published today which show Keir Starmer ahead of Johnson…….

  • Actually Johnson returns year after year selling “different” nonsense, he sees which way the wind is blowing and goes in that direction. That said he is listened to – he’s an entertainer and people like that. You have to be the most serious type of political junkie to have got past the first 5 minutes of Starmer’s speech. Also people weren’t conned in 2016 or 2019 they voted for what they got – we were conned when we voted for the Clegg Lib Dems and got the most vicious right wing government this country has ever had. As for the opinion polls I think once Johnson’s speech is factored in the Tory lead will grow. I’m not a natural Tory (the 1st time I voted for them was 2016) but at the moment I’m not being offered an alternative.

  • John Marriott 7th Oct '21 - 8:38pm

    This isn’t show business. This is serious stuff. We are told that Roman masses were kept under control by “bread and circuses”. Well, our modern day Roman emperor has provided the “circus”. It’s the “bread” that might be a problem.

  • Malc 7th Oct ’21 – 6:14pm,,,

    Malc, The Tories have become the party of fantasists,, Johnson’s, and each preceding ministers’. speech was a regurgitated list of promises that they have made and broken time and again; 48 new hospitals, thousands of new police, doctors, nurses, ‘butchers, bakers and candlestick makers’..Patel, yet again promised a massive reduction in immigration (a promise that she makes and breaks almost weekly)..
    We were told that there was no downside to Brexit but now, when ‘project fear’ becomes reality, it seems these problems are a just a necessary part of a planned road to the kingdom of Brexitania..
    Johson’s closing words should have been, “If you believe clap your hands. Don’t let Brexit die.” (to paraphrase J. M. Barrie)

  • Guys I’m not saying Boris or the Tories are doing a great job. All I’m saying is they have gone through so many things in the last two years and are still comfortably ahead in the polls. If you and the Labour party don’t change your approach and get your act together you will be in opposition for many years to come. Boris is a proven winner when it comes to elections and at the moment the opposition parties aren’t laying a glove on him. You need to slow down the personal attacks on him – it isn’t working – and talk up (and about) your own leaders. The vast majority of voters know very little about them.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Oct '21 - 8:37am

    expats: There are about 20 so-called “Blue Wall” seats that could fall to a moderate Lib Dem targeted push. No-one is suggesting that winning seats off the Tories could make Ed Davey PM, but it could conceivably deny Johnson a Parliamentary majority.

    I do think we need to get a sense of perspective about the Tories’ standing in the polls. For the past few months they have been hovering around the 40% mark. This is way down on where they were in the summer of last year (often scoring over 50%). The most recent polls, taken during Tory Conference, show no sign of a Conference bounce. People might not be turning on the Tories just yet, but nor are they rallying to the government anymore. Optimism is one thing; total denial of reality is quite another, and Johnson’s speech most definitely falls in the latter camp. The Tories are alienating business and also risk alienating ordinary workers with their parroting of lazy stereotypes about people working from home. Things are only going to get worse for the country as Project Fear proves to be Project Reality, and this means the Tories are likely to slide further in the polls before too lon. People concerned about their lived realities, and who don’t appreciate being made fun of by government spokespeople, will not be minded to support the Tories.

  • John Marriott 8th Oct '21 - 9:40am

    @Alex Macfie
    If there is ANY way a party of limited financial resources like the Lib Dems is to make any progress under FPTP it has to be in the kind of seats you describe. For that to happen there has got to be some kind of deal with the Labour and probably the Green Parties. Unfortunately, as I often write, it takes two to tango, although in this case it probably takes three!

  • Paul Murray 8th Oct '21 - 10:21am

    Johnson’s speech technique is similar to Blair’s – he sounds good while saying nothing of substance.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Oct ’21 – 8:37am…………expats: There are about 20 so-called “Blue Wall” seats that could fall to a moderate Lib Dem targeted push. No-one is suggesting that winning seats off the Tories could make Ed Davey PM, but it could conceivably deny Johnson a Parliamentary majority…………..

    Moderate push??? Ed Davey said there are millions of people across the blue wall turning to the LibDems…

    YouGov defines the ‘blue wall’ as ‘a 53-seat strong cluster of constituencies across the South and East of England’..
    I was using hyperbole to claim a LibDem government but, as according to Paul Walter (Jan 2020) there are 91 seats where this party came second, with ‘millions’ switching it means most of those 91 seats (majority less than 15,000+/-) should most likely become LibDem..

    According to YouGov (7th Oct) these ‘millions’ are currently nowhere to be seen and with Tories on 39% and this party on 9% (equal to the Greens) It’s not going to happen

  • Alex Macfie 9th Oct '21 - 9:55am

    @expats: YouGov currently seems to be overestimating Green support (at the expense of Labour) when you compare its figures with those from other pollsters (which are putting Greens at about 4-6%). The Green Party is most unlikely to win 9% of the national vote in a GE. Its local election performance is still way behind the Lib Dems. Saying one would vote Green when asked in a mid-term opinion poll is one thing; actually voting Green after an election campaign in which it becomes clear who is competitive in the constituency where one lives is another.

    National opinion polls aren’t necessarily useful indicators of how parties would perform at the constituency level for that reason, and also because they don’t normally show localised distributions of votes. MRP polls may do better, but even they aren’t foolproof as they sometimes make incorrect assumptions about voter behaviour and swings (the one from December/January that had us on 2 seats from ~8% of the vote was way off beam, for instance).

    Ed’s “millions” of voters is probably hyperbole, but local and Parliamentary by-election results do suggest we are on the right track to punch some holes in the Blue Wall.

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