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COMMENT: Better late then never, Boris Johnson keeps it simple

By Mark Andrews | Opinions | Published:

"Boris Johnson: any further delay will be a disaster" was the quote on the ticker as the amassed media waited – and waited – for this most hotly anticipated of political speeches.

Boris Johnson launches his bid to become Tory leader

Maybe it was intentional – it is the oldest trick in the book for politicians to up the ante by keeping their guests waiting, writes Mark Andrews.

But it also gave the would-be leader's anti-Brexit opponents – there appeared to be two of them – plenty of chance to hog the limelight outside before the man himself arrived.

Mr Johnson's bid for the Conservative Party leadership was due to have started at 11am, but it would be another 11 minutes before the ex-foreign secretary and former Express & Star reporter made it to the podium.

Before that there was a three-minute preamble by his warm-up man, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who seems to have carved out something of a niche as the master of ceremonies at Conservative Party set pieces.

He's certainly got the voice, his loud booming tones sound a bit like the shouty man at the start of the X Factor, but nobody was really listening to what he said. The audience wanted Boris.

He looked uncharacteristically hesitant as he took to the stage, struggling to make himself heard among the rapturous applause. The sound man had probably turned down the volume following Mr Cox's introduction.

It didn't take long for him to get into his stride, though. A half-funny joke about football – did you have him down as a fan? – was the precursor to such an optimistic picture of Britain you really wondered why we were having a change of leader in the first place.

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What we did see, though, was Boris doing what Boris does best. While Sajid Javid and Michael Gove talk about their modest upbringings, it is the old Etonian who connects with the working man in clear, simple words that people understand.

While Rory Stewart launched his campaign from what looked like a provincial theatre, BoJo opted for a lectern, a microphone, and 'Back Boris' in giant letters.

His message was simple too. No back stories, no pleas from the heart, just an oft repeated message that the Conservatives would not be trusted if Britain did not leave the EU by October 31.

Not that he wanted to leave without a deal, of course, but it was only responsible to make preparations in case Brussels didn't play ball. Deal or no deal, we'd be out by Bonfire Night.

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Unlike some of his rivals, he was careful not to take a swipe at the other candidates. There was no retaliation to the digs from Michael Gove or Rory Stewart, although there were big cheers for his withering appraisal of Jeremy Corbyn's talents.

His speech was peppered with alliteration – 'sizzling synergy', anyone? – and when he mixed metaphors about 'plain sailing', 'bumps in the road' and 'plain sailing', you did wonder if he had turned into Gus out of Drop The Dead Donkey. And if Mike Yarwood were still around, he would have had a field day with Boris's extravagant hand gestures.

He handled questions about his sometimes colourful use of terminology with aplomb, saying he apologised if he offended people, but would continue to speak plainly. He batted off a rather silly question about whether he had ever broken the law by confessing that he might have once broken a speed limit, but rather undid his claims of straight talking by dodging questions about past drug use.

But love him or hate him, you can't deny this man can communicate. He ought to be a journalist.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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