At the beginning of February, 2020, barely hours after the UK ceased to be a member of the EU, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, delivered a speech in the painted hall of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. It was entitled, Unleashing Britain’s Potential.
The speech generated a fair amount of comment in the press and on social media so, as is my habit, I waited a while for the dust to settle before I addressed it.
Whoever was in charge of filming this video was so determined not to miss anything that the camera was switched on and left to its own devices while the throng awaited the PM’s entrance. You don’t have to wait: he enters at 3:14 and begins speaking at 3:20. He finishes at 31:04, turning to Q&A.
Nearly half a century ago I was involved in organising a gastronomic banquet in this Painted Hall; and the guests from all over the world barely noticed what they were eating, so grand is the setting. The PM opens with a detailed and scholarly, if slightly anarchic description. While admiring the work that went into it, he describes it as “slightly bonkers”. It makes for an amusing opening to the speech.
At around the six-minute mark he reaches the matter in hand, namely that Britain released from the shackles that have bound it to a failing enterprise of protectionist tariffs, needs now to get out into the wide world and exercise some free trade. He speaks of the teachings of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Richard Cobden; and no one can deny that Boris talks a good fight.
I find myself made anxious when at 8:25 he says that “politicians are failing to lead”. Smith, Ricardo, Cobden, et al, don’t teach that politicians need to lead; they teach that politicians need to get the hell out of the way. Boris knows this, and he’s a words man, so why does he use wrong words?
At 13:30 “We will be governed by science, and not by mumbo-jumbo!” He’s speaking of doing free trade deals, but I wish he was speaking of Climate Change. What has possessed the man to espouse the preposterous ambition to be “carbon neutral” by 2050? Futile, probably impossible, a short-cut to national bankruptcy, and utterly pointless given that the entire Climate Change religion is a tax-raising, citizen-controlling, political adventure based on mumbo-jumbo and not science. He has been quoted as saying that he doesn’t really ‘get’ climate change. Half an hour spent drilling past the fluff in which the creed is coated and simply looking at the actual data would be a good start. Or he could watch some of the YouTube videos on Tony Heller’s channel.
If, as it appears, he has Churchillian ambitions he really does need to get a grip.
In terms of his delivery it’s a stirring speech, and it is certainly refreshing to see a Prime Minister appear to exhibit a spine made of something other than marshmallow.
So he can talk the talk, let’s see how well he walks the walk.