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07 October 2021

From ‘barnstorming Boris’, to ‘second-rate comedian’, how the papers reacted to PM’s conference speech

07 October 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference has generated a varied array of reaction in the nation’s newspapers.

In the address on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said he was setting out the “difficult” process of reshaping the British economy.

With labour shortages hitting supply chains, leading to empty shelves and queues at petrol stations, Mr Johnson defended his strategy of restricting the supply of cheap foreign labour after Brexit, insisting his new approach would ultimately create a “low-tax economy”.

The Daily Express champions the PM’s “barnstorming” speech on its front page, even going so far as to dub him “Iron Man Boris”.

Inside the paper, political commentator Patrick O’Flynn called the address a “tour de force of political communication”.

He added: “Almost everything was pitched in the sweet spot of public opinion – firmly right-of-centre on issues where the electorate holds traditionalist views and a little to the left in areas where voters think bolder state intervention is required.

“It amounted to such a display of dominance it will probably redefine the political centre ground for years, crushing underfoot many orthodoxies of the Westminster class.”

Daily Telegraph columnist Janet Daley hailed the speech as “pitch perfect”, adding the PM toed the “fine line between good humour and flippancy”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson embraces wife Carrie at the conclusion of his speech (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)

The Daily Mail also praised the “bravura” of Mr Johnson’s oratory performance, but was slightly more critical of the details in his address – or lack of.

An editorial in the paper states: “There was no doubting his vision or his good intentions. But detail was scant.

“Beyond one reheated policy announcement – giving maths and science teachers a £3,000 premium to work in challenging areas – we are still in the dark over how exactly Boris will deliver his lofty goals.”

On the other side of the spectrum, the Daily Mirror lashed the PM’s speech as a “vapid, gag-filled insult to those his policies hurt”.

Boasts, false optimism and barefaced lies were the driving force of a confidence trickster divorced from reality, confirming Keir Starmer’s jibe that the PM is a 'trivial' man

The paper’s associate editor Kevin Maguire said Mr Johnson’s “rambling” address “confirmed that he is an unserious liability in very serious times”.

He added: “Boasts, false optimism and barefaced lies were the driving force of a confidence trickster divorced from reality, confirming Keir Starmer’s jibe that the PM is a ‘trivial’ man.

“Cracking bad lines about building back beavers, like a second-rate comedian, is shocking in a crisis. Yet the worst of the many crises facing our country today is the fact that there is an incompetent, trivial amateur in No 10.”

Elsewhere, The Guardian and The Times focused their coverage on the backlash the PM’s address received from the business sector.

The Guardian reports the free market Adam Smith Institute condemned the speech as “vacuous” and “bombastic and economically illiterate”.

The Times carries comments from Iceland boss Richard Walker, who accused Mr Johnson of blaming businesses for the nation’s labour shortage.

Mr Walker said: “The finger is being pointed at business as the bogeyman, but it’s much wider than that.

“We want to pay our people as much as possible but business is not an endless sponge that can keep absorbing costs in one go.”

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