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On Tuesday, July 26, the UK’s fledgling news channel TalkTV scheduled a Conservative Party leadership debate with The Sun for 6 p.m.:

Kate McCann was the moderator.

She was to have been joined by Guido Fawkes alumnus Harry Cole, The Sun‘s political editor, but he had coronavirus:

TalkTV asked for questions from viewers, as well as their audience, half of whom had voted Conservative in 2019.

It promised to be a debate quite unlike the ones on Channel 4 and the BBC:

With The Sun involved, one knew that the candidates would get hard-hitting questions rather than boring ones from the media establishment.

In the opening round, Kate McCann gave the candidates 60 seconds each to present themselves and their platform.

Rishi Sunak did well …

… even if he was still in Tony Blair mode and sounded like Labour’s Keir Starmer …

… but Liz Truss had to glance at her notes:

Then it was on to the questions.

It was gratifying to see that the audience members, both in person and remotely, asked them of the candidates directly.

The first one came from John Hughes in Birmingham, who spoke remotely. He is a cancer patient and said that, since the pandemic, he has had a very difficult time getting the care and the support he needs. He said that a cancer charity has been helping him but the NHS and Macmillan Cancer Support nurses have not been available:

Rishi said that it was good that John was getting the support he needed. John retorted that he was not getting the support he needed. Rishi corrected himself.

Rishi gave a long answer, which did not respond to the question.

The Times has the dialogue:

Sunak said that he had been criticised for raising national insurance contributions to tackle the NHS backlog and fund social care reform, but that it was a “brave decision” and the right thing to do.

Liz said that she would reform the NHS, reducing layers of management so that the focus could be on patient care rather than bureaucracy:

I want to see fewer layers of management in the National Health Service and less central direction because I simply don’t think that people can sit there in Whitehall and direct everything that happens in local communities across our country.

It seemed that John preferred her answer to Rishi’s. At least Liz offered a plan. Kate McCann asked John what he thought. He said that:

he remained unconvinced by their answers and stated that the Conservative Party had been given 12 years to fix the NHS.

The next question came from a member of the studio audience. A lady said that she was used to buying steak several times a week, however, the price has gone up so much that she can no longer afford to buy meat of any kind. She asked whether she should become vegetarian:

The Times reported:

The debate then moved on to the cost of living, with Gemma from Manchester, a Sun reader, telling the candidates about the rising cost of meat in supermarkets and asking if more people should go vegetarian to save money.

Rishi said:

he would ensure that prices came down by “making sure that the supermarkets and all the other people in the supply chain are being fair in how they price these things [and that] no one is taking advantage of the situation to pass on price rises.”

Surely, although I agree with the principle, if everyone in the supply chain is being fairly remunerated, prices will go up even further.

Liz told Gemma that becoming vegetarian was ‘a choice’ and one that the Government leaves to individuals.

I understood what Gemma meant by asking about vegetarianism, because with this year’s price rises, it does seem as if that is the end game.

Bloomberg’s Alex Wickham summed up this refreshing debate well:

For once, we had real people asking about real problems.

However, the candidates reverted to a subject with which they were more comfortable — tax cuts.

As the i paper‘s Hugo Gye pointed out, it seemed as if Rishi and Liz still couldn’t connect with the audience as well as a certain Prime Minister — Boris Johnson:

Harry Cole, watching from home, tweeted this at 6:27 p.m.:

The Times reported:

The candidates’ response quickly turned to the economy, with Truss saying that Sunak’s manifesto-breaking tax rises had been “morally wrong” as she accused the former chancellor of having policies which are “making us less competitive” as a country.

Sunak said that tackling inflation remained his priority but suggested that some businesses were also profiteering from the cost of living crisis. He said he would ensure that prices came down by “making sure that the supermarkets and all the other people in the supply chain are being fair in how they price these things [and that] no one is taking advantage of the situation to pass on price rises.”

Sunak also defended his plans to increase corporation tax. He said: “I think it’s entirely reasonable to ask the largest companies in this country, just the top 10 per cent of companies, to pay a bit more because they’re received a lot of help during the pandemic.”

Truss countered by telling Sunak: “You’ve made it worse”. “Companies have a choice about whether they invest in the UK or whether they invest elsewhere. Rishi’s policies are making us less competitive,” she said.

The Mail‘s Henry Deedes described other exchanges between the candidates and the optics. Rishi still looked vexed when Liz contradicted him. Liz almost fell into the same trap this time (emphases mine):

Rishi seemed to have eased a little on the caffeine since the night before.

He’d also rediscovered his manners and used his opening spiel to wish his opponent a happy birthday. Truss, 47 yesterday, shot him an icicle smile

The Foreign Secretary wore a purple dress the colour of a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk wrapper. Très snazzy. She went into a brief monologue about how her upbringing was more modest than Sunak’s. ‘I know what it looks like when economic times are hard,’ she said. Rishi bit down and resisted making a tart response. There was a bit of early tit-for-tat, but nothing that required Kate to pull them apart. The candidates had a brief struggle over who had the stronger family connections to the NHS. ‘My father was GP,’ said Rishi. ‘Well, my mother was nurse!’ countered Liz

Tempers frayed whenever Truss began to discuss her economic plans. Rishi’s blood pressure would visibly spike, his eyes flickering from side to side as if to say: ‘Leave the maths to me, luv.’ 

Once again their main beef was over taxes – Liz wants to cut them, Rishi thinks it’s unaffordable to do so. 

He accused Truss of funding her cuts by saddling future generations with more debt. ‘That’s not true, that’s not true!’ Liz retorted, shaking her head crossly. 

Kate McCann was doing an excellent job as moderator, keeping everything going at a rolling pace which made it interesting. I was settling into an unusual comfort zone, which I normally don’t do when watching debates.

Just after 6:30 p.m., Kate asked Liz a question.

While Liz was speaking, viewers at home could hear a soft rocking noise, possibly a perspex podium against the floor.

Seconds later, there was a crash of perspex on the floor.

Viewers saw this:

The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley was also watching from home and describes what happened:

It was one of the strangest, most shocking moments in TV history. Liz Truss was in the middle of denouncing Russia with her characteristic tics – her hands gripping that invisible tea tray for dear life – when there was an almighty crash off-screen.

“Oh my God!” Liz covered her mouth. Then she stepped towards the camera.

Turns out that poor Kate McCann, the talented journalist and host, had fainted.

Rishi also went to Kate’s aid, but we didn’t see that.

We didn’t know what had happened.

The Mail reported:

A loud noise caused the clearly worried Foreign Secretary to hold her face in shock as she exclaimed: ‘Oh my God!’. Ms Truss was then seen leaving her podium and walking towards where Miss McCann had been standing.

The broadcast feed was swiftly cut, with viewers shown the message: ‘We’re sorry for the disruption to this programme. We’re working hard to fix the issue and will return to normal programming soon.’

Stanley wrote:

For 25 excruciating minutes, viewers speculated if a light had fallen, a bomb had gone off, or Boris Johnson had rushed the stage demanding to be heard – all the while that producers tried to carry on as normal by cutting to a promo for their other shows.

What were they thinking? That this was a great chance to promote their product? We’re lucky they didn’t try to flog us some diamante earrings …

debating tax policy is exactly how Liz would want to spend her birthdayand though the evening took an alarming turn, the gods did her a favour by having the camera focused on her when Kate passed out. Liz’s instinct to run towards the disaster did her credit, a reminder that whatever her job, she is first and foremost a mum.

And her mother was a nurse!

Just before 7 p.m., when the debate would have ended:

TalkTV put on two talking heads who calmly discussed what we’d been watching – vegetarian options, clown doctors – without substantial reference to the one bit we were all shouting at the telly about: “What the hell just happened?!”

It was surreal: the commercial equivalent of Soviet TV cutting from the coup against Gorbachev to 72 hours of Swan Lake. Thankfully, Twitter was still reporting the news: Kate was ok. By then it was 7pm and time for Piers Morgan’s landmark show on Ukraine – at which point what was probably TalkTV’s largest ever audience, all 250 of us, turned off.

Kate, you’re a star and your peers wish you the very best.

Henry Deedes said:

Doctor’s orders were that she was done for the evening. It must have been frustrating for Team Rishi, who are running out of time. The former chancellor has agreed to be interviewed by that fearsome rottweiler of an interviewer, Andrew Neil, on Channel 4 on Friday. For politicians, such encounters rarely end well.

The candidates spent the remaining half hour talking to the studio audience:

Kate received many supportive messages.

Harry Cole tweeted:

BBC Newsnight‘s Nicholas Watt complimented Kate on her moderation of the debate:

The candidates also sent their best wishes, saying they would like to return to finish the debate:

I hope the debate is rescheduled — and agree that it should pick up where it left off:

Harry Cole is an excellent journalist.

That night, The Sun reported that, after all these days of insisting his tax plan was the right thing to do, Rishi decided to do an about-face and cut VAT on energy bills.

But has he stolen Work and Pensions Minister Thérèse Coffey’s idea? Hmm:

Polling results must have been eating away at the former Chancellor.

The Telegraph also carried the story on its front page for Wednesday:

The Mail alleges that this was Boris’s plan but Rishi wouldn’t allow it:

Rishi Sunak makes a desperate bid to claw back lost ground in the Tory leadership race today by promising a £4billion VAT cut on energy bills just hours after he and his rival Liz Truss led tributes to TalkTV presenter Kate McCann after she fainted live on air.

The former chancellor has repeatedly refused to match rival Liz Truss on cutting taxes, labelling her plans a ‘fairytale’ and insisted such cuts must wait until inflation is curbed.

But today he pledges to scrap the 5 per cent VAT rate levied on domestic energy bills for a year.

Last night No10 insiders told the Daily Mail that this plan was something Boris Johnson tried to implement to ease the burden on consumers – but was blocked by Mr Sunak.

‘Boris begged him to do it – but he wouldn’t budge’, said the source. ‘It’s astonishing that he’s now claiming it as his own policy.’

A source close to Liz Truss’s campaign told The Telegraph: ‘It’s good that Rishi has finally woken up and decided to offer something to people struggling with the rising cost of living.

‘However, this feels like a screeching U-turn from someone who has spent the last few weeks of the leadership campaign branding everyone else’s tax cuts immoral and fairytales.’

The article states that this was also Labour’s policy:

Mr Sunak’s energy bill tax move, which would save an average household £160, has been Labour Party policy for nearly a year, and Mr Sunak voted against the proposal in the Commons in January.

He told the Commons in February that the policy would ‘disproportionately benefit wealthier households’.

He added: ‘This would become a permanent £2.5billion Government subsidy… when we are trying to rebuild the public finances.’

This month he argued that tax cuts are ‘immoral because there is nothing noble or good about racking up bills on the country’s credit card that we then pass on to our children and grandchildren’.

One can understand his point, but when the Work and Pensions Minister and the Prime Minister both want it, it’s the right thing to do.

I read only this week that VAT is an EU tax. Therefore, we can scrap it.

No one ever mentions that VAT is an EU tax. Why not?

The Mail says:

Until yesterday [Wednesday] Mr Sunak had refused to consider tax cuts before autumn 2023, the earliest point when a 1p cut in the basic rate of income tax could come in.

Autumn 2023 would be way too late, especially if our next general election is held in May 2024.

The Telegraph reported that Rishi’s team denied a U-turn:

The Sunak camp denied there had been a U-turn, adding that the tax cut was “a tool that was always in our arsenal”.

“We didn’t use it back in spring because the size of the jump of the bills was way bigger, and it wouldn’t have touched the sides,” a source said. “This is a response to latest estimates that suggest the rise might be £100-200 more than anticipated.”

For me, this volte face comes too late in the contest, because Rishi was adamant in three debates that he would not cut taxes.

As such, in Truss we trust.

———————————————————–

UPDATEGuido Fawkes posted TalkTV’s ratings for Tuesday night. The debate’s ‘off air’ message beat Piers Morgan’s show by far:

Morgan tweeted McCann, who has since recovered:

On Wednesday, July 27, the i paper reported ructions at TalkTV about the interruption of the debate, with staff asking why it didn’t continue with another presenter:

Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV is holding an inquest into why there was no “plan B” to keep its Prime Ministerial debate on air after presenter Kate McCann fainted.

Presenters at TalkTV and its sister radio station were said to be ready and able to jump in and replace the stricken presenter during the abandoned live broadcast, i has been told.

As panic spread, executives asked Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to remain at their podiums at the Ealing studio, normally used for Piers Morgan’s nightly programme, while they considered their options.

However it was decided that stunned viewers would continue to be shown a recorded message saying normal programming would resume, rather than restart with a new presenter.

Trouble began behind the scenes when planned co-presenter Harry Cole was forced to pull out on the morning of the debate after contracting Covid.

An insider said: Tom Newton Dunn (presenter of TalkTV’s 7pm news show) would have stepped up to co-present but the bosses wanted Kate to front it solo as a showcase for her.”

McCann, Talk’s political editor, was said to be “nervous” at fronting the high-profile event but had shown no sign of ill health, even during the broadcast’s first half hour.

The source said: “It was very sudden. She crashed forward into the podium. That was the loud bang viewers heard.”

Truss, speaking on camera at the moment, said “oh my god” and rushed over towards McCann. At that point, with the clock showing 6.31pm, the channel cut from the debate.

“Rishi also rushed over. He knelt on the floot and held Kate’s hand, he was very comforting,” the insider said.

Faced with a crisis playing out live on TV and social media, some in the building believed that the show must go on.

“There were plenty of experienced on-screen talent already there who felt they could have taken over. They could have winged it.”

“All the News UK bigwigs were there. There was a panicked pow-wow. Some said ‘who can we get to fill in?’ but they decided against it.”

Instead the candidates were asked to stay in the studio and take questions informally from The Sun readers in the audience.

The insider added: “Today there is an inquest into why there wasn’t a Plan B to keep the debate on air. It’s a given for any serious broadcast channel”

The incident gave a brief boost to TalkTV’s struggling ratings. The channel has recorded zero viewers at low points in its schedules and Piers Morgan’s flagship show has even been beaten by rival GB News on occasions.

The screen message telling viewers TalkTV was off air was watched by one of the channel’s highest ever audiences.

Some 141,000 people tuned in, numbers comparable to Morgan’s opening week on Talk in April before his figures tumbled.

The debate peaked with 183,000 viewers tuning in shortly after its 6pm start. However Talk’s numbers dropped across the night with Morgan’s programme dropping to 14,000 viewers at its conclusion.

Despite the lure of the debate, Sky News, BBC News and GB News all recorded a greater audience than TalkTV across the whole of primetime, according to Barb data.

Insiders said this would disappoint NewsUK’s bosses who had hoped to relaunch TalkTV off the back of the debate, which was shared with sister title, The Sun

The podium “crash” even gave TalkTV what it has been seeking since it launched three months ago – highly-shareable viral content that creates a buzz on social media.

On this occasion though, that content, seized upon by media rivals including the BBC, was unintended.

Yesterday’s post discussed the first three days of the Conservative Party Conference.

Today’s entry will look at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.

It was still content-light, but at least he explained what ‘levelling up’ is. More on that below.

But first, let’s look at what happened the night before, the last opportunity for MPs and the party faithful to get together on the dance floor.

Tuesday, October 5, after hours

Pensions minister Thérèse Coffey had a great time as the temporary £20 Universal Credit boost came to an end.

A cold fish at the despatch box at the best of times, Coffey showed us a different side of herself as she, a chemist by training, belted out ‘Time of My Life’ from Dirty Dancing (video credit to the Daily Mail):

The Mail reported (emphases mine):

The cabinet minister in charge of Universal Credit was slammed today for belting out Time of My Life at a boozy Conservative party Conference karaoke bash hours before cutting payments to six million people.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey enthusiastically belted out the 1987 power ballad from the film Dirty Dancing in a duet with fellow Will Quince – a former welfare minister.

It came as a £20-per-week Covid uplift payment was removed from UC for families across the UK.

The Government has pressed ahead with the cut despite concerns – including from Tory backbenchers – that hundreds of thousands of people will be plunged into poverty.

From today, no assessments will include the uplift, meaning that from October 13 – a week later – no payments will be received that include the extra money.

I don’t know what I think about removal of the £20 uplift. The Government always said in Parliament that it was temporary and stated months ago that it would end in October 2021. I feel for those families. On the other hand, the last thing I want to see is Universal Basic Income, and if this £20 were maintained, it would have been a slippery slope along that road.

Furthermore, there are plenty of job vacancies and salaries are going up. Note the decrease in people clicking on the vacancies, however. Hmm:

Two other MPs, Levelling Up minister Michael Gove, in the process of divorcing his wife, and Tom Tugendhat, danced together. Guido referred to this season’s Strictly Come Dancing:

It was only a few weeks ago that Gove spent the early hours of one morning dancing in a nightclub in Aberdeen, his home town.

The Mail reported:

Michael Gove has been spotted rocking the dance floor again – this time busting moves to Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and belting out Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart at the Tory party conference. 

One hilarious clip shows the Levelling Up Secretary, 54, arm in arm with Tom Tugendhat as he throws his finest shapes to a cover of the 1987 hit while wearing a suit and tie – just a month after his infamous night out in Aberdeen.  

Newly-single Mr Gove, and Mr Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, are seen taking turns to spin each other as they go all out at the gathering – which is not usually known as a hotbed of hedonism

In a second clip shared by The Sun, Gove can be seen passionately singing along to Bonnie Tyler’s hit 1983 anthem with his mouth wide open, hands interlocked with an unidentified woman in front of him.

Meanwhile, at another Conference party event, Liz Truss danced to Beyonce (video credit to Guido Fawkes):

Wednesday, October 6

Wednesday was Boris’s big day.

He abandoned his diet temporarily:

Guido Fawkes has the calorific coffee order:

Sat in the conference exhibition hall ahead of Boris’s speech Guido was astonished to overhear the Speccie’s Katy Balls being told by a barista that Boris’s aides turned up at his stall yesterday to fetch the boss a coffee. The coffee order in question was a stomach-churning triple shot flat white, with extra caramel syrup with three sugars – an astonishing departure from the diet Carrie supposedly put him on after his Covid hospital trip.

Later, an appreciative crowd gave their Party leader a standing ovation:

Guido has the full text of Boris’s speech, which was not much shorter than Keir Starmer’s last week but was delivered in half the time: 45 minutes compared with 90.

Before going into Boris’s speech, Keir Starmer’s speechwriter dived in to say that his went on ‘absolutely’ too long:

Guido reported that Philip Collins, Starmer’s speechwriter (and Tony Blair’s), said the policy sections were ‘a bit baggy’ (red emphases in the original, purple one mine):

Philip Collins, the man who drafted Sir Keir’s epic 90-minute address at Labour Conference last week, has admitted the speech “absolutely” went on too long – and even claimed the sections on policy (such that they were) were “a little bit baggy” and yes, “boring“. This is a speech he wrote only a week ago…

Speaking on Politico’s Westminster Insider Podcast, Collins said:

“It’s always the same bits […] the policy bits are very, very difficult to bring to life. If you don’t include them, everybody will write that you have nothing to say, that you’re empty […] those bits, if I’m critical, could have been tighter, could have been more compressed. I think they were a bit long, a little bit baggy.”

Which in view of criticisms of Boris that his conference speech was light on policy detail, suggests he made the right call. Collins, who was also Tony Blair’s wordsmith, goes on to say that while he thought Starmer handled the inevitable heckles well, the interruptions and subsequent applause (“people enjoyed it far too much!“) contributed to the running time, claiming Starmer “was getting standing ovations for things that were just basically boring lines that were meant to just take you to the next stage of the speech“. “It got ridiculous”, Collins said…

Returning to Boris, Guido also has videos of his speech.

It was clear that Boris, a former journalist, penned the words himself.

He opened with an amusing put-down of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, recalling the 2019 election:

Isn’t it amazing to be here in person, the first time we have met since you defied the sceptics by winning councils and communities that Conservatives have never won in before – such as Hartlepool. In fact it’s the first time since the general election of 2019 when we finally sent the corduroyed communist cosmonaut into orbit where he belongs

Then he threw in a joke about Michael Gove:

The Mail was on hand to give us Gove’s reaction:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson later referenced Mr Gove’s disco moves at his conference speech today, branding him ‘Jon Bon Govi’ – prompting the minister to turn bright red.

Here’s Guido’s video:

Boris said:

… for months we have had one of the most open economies and societies and on July 19 we decided to open every single theatre and every concert hall and night club in England and we knew that some people would still be anxious, so we sent top government representatives to our sweatiest boîtes de nuit to show that anyone could dance perfectly safely and wasn’t he brilliant my friends? Let’s hear it for Jon Bon Govi, living proof that we, you all, represent the most jiving, hip, happening and generally funkapolitan party in the world.

Tom Harwood, a Guido alum now working for GB News, gives us tweeted highlights.

Despite the rise in National Insurance tax, Boris insisted that Britain would move towards a low-tax economy:

Boris then had a go at Labour:

He then went on to slam Insulate Britain, which had blocked the roads for ten consecutive days at that point (12 as I write):

He discussed immigration from Afghanistan and Hong Kong …

… adding:

We are doing the right and responsible thing and, speaking as the great grandson of a Turk who fled in fear of his life, I know that this country is a beacon of light and hope for people around the world, provided they come here legally, provided we understand who they are and what they want to contribute, and that is why we took back control of our borders and will pass the borders bill, because we believe there must be a distinction between someone who comes here legally and someone who doesn’t, and, though I have every sympathy with people genuinely in fear of their lives, I have no sympathy whatever with the people traffickers who take thousands of pounds to send children to sea in frail and dangerous craft. And we must end this lethal trade. We must break the gangsters’ business model.

He made reference to 2022’s general election in France and the newly-conservative outlook on the EU and immigration from our Brexit negotiator:

And is it not a sublime irony that even in French politics there is now a leading centre right politician calling for a referendum on the EU. Who is now calling for France to reprendre le controle?? It’s good old Michel Barnier. That’s what happens if you spend a year trying to argue with Lord Frost, the greatest frost since the great frost of 1709.

Boris then illustrated what he means by ‘levelling up’. Different areas of England will get solutions to their specific needs:

I will tell you what levelling up is. A few years ago they started a school not far from the Olympic park, a new school that anyone could send their kids to in an area that has for decades been one of the most disadvantaged in London. That school is Brampton Manor academy and it now sends more kids to Oxbridge than Eton. And if you want proof of what I mean by unleashing potential and by levelling up, look at Brampton Manor, and we can do it.

There is absolutely no reason why the kids of this country should lag behind, or why so many should be unable to read and write or do basic mathematics at the age of 11. And to level up – on top of the extra £14 bn we’re putting into education and on top of the increase that means every teacher starts with a salary of £30k – we are announcing a levelling up premium of up to £3000 to send the best maths and science teachers to the places that need them most.

And above all we are investing in our skills, skills, folks. Our universities are world beating. I owe everything to my tutors and they are one of the great glories of our economy, but we all know that some of the most brilliant and imaginative and creative people in Britain – and some of the best paid people in Britain – did not go to university. And to level up you need to give people the options, the skills that are right for them. And to make the most of those skills and knowledge and to level up you need urgently to plug all the other the gaps in our infrastructure that are still holding people and communities back.

As I’ve been saying over this wonderful conference to you when I became leader of this party, there were only, can you remember, what percentage of households had gigabit broadband when you were so kind as to make me leader? 7 percent, only 7 percent, and by the new year that will be up to 68 per cent. Thanks to Rishi’s super-deduction the pace is now accelerating massively as companies thrust the fibre-optic vermicelli in the most hard to reach places.

On that topic, he had a witty go at Scotland’s Ian Blackford MP, a multi-millionaire who gives the impression he has nothing. This bit is about the remote video connections Parliament had during the pandemic:

It’s wonderful, for years SNP leader Ian Blackford has been telling the Commons that he is nothing but a humble crofter on the Isle of Skye. Well, now we have fibre optic broadband of very high quality that we can inspect the library or is it perhaps the billiard room of Ian Blackford’s croft. And that is levelling up in action.

Boris wants to get Britons back in the office:

And my friends it is not good enough just to rely on Zoom. After decades of ducked decisions, our national infrastructure is way behind some of our key competitors.

It is a disgrace that you still can’t swiftly cross the Pennines by rail, a disgrace that Leeds is the largest city in Europe with no proper metro system, a waste of human potential that so many places are not served by decent bus routes. Transport is one of the supreme leveller-uppers and we are making the big generational changes shirked by previous governments.

We will do Northern Powerhouse rail. We will link up the cities of the Midlands and the North. We will restore those sinews of the union that have been allowed to atrophy: the A1 north of Berwick and on into Scotland, the A75 in Scotland that is so vital for the links with Northern Ireland and the rest of the country, the North Wales corridor. And we will invest in our roads, unblocking those coagulated roundabouts and steering-wheel-bending traffic lights, putting on 4000 more clean green buses made in this country, some of them running on hydrogen.

And as we come out of Covid, our towns and cities are again going to be buzzing with life because we know that a productive workforce needs that spur that only comes with face to face meetings and water cooler gossip.

If young people are to learn on the job in the way that they always have and must, we will and must see people back in the office. And that is why we are building back better with a once in an a century £640bn pound programme of investment.

And by making neighbourhoods safer, by putting in the gigabit broadband, by putting in the roads and the schools and the healthcare, we will enable more and more young people everywhere to share the dream of home ownership, the great ambition of the human race that the left always privately share but publicly disparage.

And we can do it.

He discussed rewilding Britain:

We are going to re-wild parts of the country and consecrate a total of 30 per cent to nature. We are planting tens of millions of trees.

Otters are returning to rivers from which they have been absent for decades. Beavers that have not been seen on some rivers since Tudor times, massacred for their pelts, and now back. And if that isn’t conservatism, my friends I don’t know what is.

Build back beaver.

And though the beavers may sometimes build without local authority permission, you can also see how much room there is to build the homes that young families need in this country.

He talked about the housing crisis and the importance of home ownership, especially for the young:

He praised the success of the coronavirus vaccine rollout and the contribution of private enterprise:

He wittily criticised Labour’s reluctance to accept the Government’s pandemic strategy:

Boris discussed the Labour Party conference and Sir Keir Starmer. This is classic Boris:

Did you see them last week, did you watch them last week in Brighton? Hopelessly divided I thought they looked.

Their leader looked like a seriously rattled bus conductor, pushed this way and that by, not that they have bus conductors any more, unfortunately, like a seriously rattled bus conductor pushed this way and that by a Corbynista mob of Sellotape-spectacled sans-culottes or the skipper of a cruise liner that has been captured by Somali pirates desperately trying to negotiate a change of course and then changing his mind.

He discussed getting a trade deal with the United States, especially our export of British beef:

He touched on AUKUS …

… and Labour’s opposition to that alliance:

He also addressed political correctness, which, frankly, has only worsened under this Government. He really does need to tackle it, so I hope he means what he says here. On a lighter note, he mentioned Michael Gove again:

We are led by our values, by the things we stand for. And we should never forget that people around the world admire this country for its history and its traditions. They love the groovy new architecture and the fashion and the music and the chance of meeting Michael in the disco. But they like the way it emerges organically from a vast inherited conglomerate of culture and tradition. And we Conservatives understand the need for both and how each nourishes the other. And we attack and deny our history at our peril. And when they began to attack Churchill as a racist I was minded to ignore them. It is only 20 years ago since BBC audiences overwhelmingly voted him the greatest Briton of all time, because he helped defeat a regime after all that was defined by one of the most vicious racisms the world has ever seen.

But as time has gone by it has become clear to me that this isn’t just a joke. They really do want to re-write our national story starting with Hereward the Woke. We really are at risk of a kind of know-nothing cancel culture, know-nothing iconoclasm. And so we Conservatives will defend our history and cultural inheritance, not because we are proud of everything, but because trying to edit it now is as dishonest as a celebrity trying furtively to change his entry in Wikipedia, and its a betrayal of our children’s education.

He closed by paying tribute to England footballers, Emma Radacanu and Team GB’s Olympians and our Paralympians, who did so well this year:

The spirit of our Olympians. It is an incredible thing to come yet again in the top four, a formidable effort for a country that has only 0.8 per cent of the world’s populationbut when we come second in the Paralympics as well – that shows our values, not only the achievement of those elite athletes but a country that is proud to be a trailblazer.

To judge people not by where they come from but by their spirit and by what is inside them.

That is the spirit that is the same across this country, in every town and village and city that can be found. That can be found in the hearts and minds of kids growing up everywhere.

And that is the spirit we are going to unleash.

The crowd loved every minute:

Tom Harwood interviewed party members afterwards, all of whom gave Boris’s speech rave reviews:

I could go into the pundits’ analyses, but why bother? So many are disgruntled Remainers, still licking their wounds over Brexit, which means that they will attack any Conservative policy.

As a former boss of mine used to say: ‘Onwards and upwards!’

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