Boris Johnson’s “united society”

Boris Johnson made a tub-thumping, grown-up speech at Tory party conference today. Delivering his last address as Mayor of London, Boris warned of the dangers facing the nation from mass immigration to the EU.

The Mayor also took a swing at his main rival for the Tory leadership, warning that the Conservatives should “protect the hard-working and lowest paid” – a thinly-veiled dig at the Chancellor’s tax credit cuts.

It is not enough to build a “big society”, claimed Boris. We also need a “united society”. He pointed to retail staff and cleaners with “dreams for what their families can achieve” as examples of “people without whom the London economy would collapse”.

If I were George Osborne, I’d be extremely worried right now.

Boris also sounded a warning note on immigration, more of a hot-button topic than ever in the wake of the current European refugee crisis. It is, he claimed, “up to this Parliament and this country – not to Jean-Claude Juncker – to decide if too many people are coming here”.

Ever the brash blonde joker, the Mayor couldn’t help poking fun at his enemies. Boris had the hall in stitches with gags at the expense of the Labour Party and the leftist protesters infesting Manchester this week.

“The Labour Party”, he said, “has been piratically captured in a kind of social media twitstorm”. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is a party of “vested interests, and indeed, interesting vests”.

The ‘EdStone’ – Ed Miliband’s disastrous attempt to literally carve his promises in stone – was “the heaviest suicide note in history”. Boris also gave sound advice to Corbynistas looking to “ferment anti-capitalism”: “Folks, give that hooch a miss”.

In a line guaranteed to enrage anti-austerity types, Johnson also pointed to longer life expectancy under the Conservative government. “You live longer under the Tories, my friends!” the Mayor quipped, to applause and laughter from delegates.

The race to succeed David Cameron is well and truly on. Personality wise, Johnson and Osborne couldn’t be more different. It is a race between a tortoise and a hare.

The Chancellor is the political equivalent of a chess grandmaster – constantly routing Labour with shrewd, sharp, tactical manoeuvres whilst steadily gathering support from Conservative cabinet colleagues, the backbenches, and party members.

The Mayor, by contrast, is all about personality. Boris is an expert at using his loveable buffoon persona to disarm his enemies. Hated by the left, loved by party activists, popular with the public, he should never be written off lightly.

Yet both men seem to be fighting over the “one nation” crown.

Johnson can proudly trumpet his credentials as Mayor of a city where crime, air pollution and traffic deaths have fallen. He backed the living wage before the Chancellor did. He is now positioning himself as a champion of low paid workers against a Treasury obsessed with saving money.

Yet Osborne as Chancellor has increased the personal allowance and announced the introduction of a “living wage” – a measure that will cost 60,000 jobs according to the OBR. Cuts to tax credits are framed as ending a subsidy to low-pay employers.

The received wisdom in the modern Conservative Party at the moment is to appeal to the ‘centre-ground’ to win over centre-left voters disillusioned with Corbyns ‘new politics’. Boris and Osborne are entirely in agreement on this point.

Where is the champion of red-meat eating, liberty loving, free market supporting, ‘Tory scum and proud’, right wing conservatism? Where is our Margaret Thatcher, Enoch Powell or Ronald Reagan?

Chris has been a member of the Conservative Party since 2010. He believes strongly in individual freedom, personal responsibility, and the power of free markets to eliminate poverty by encouraging wealth creation. Follow him on Twitter: @cjmanby1989

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