Boris Johnson's Brexit 'vaudeville routine' fails to fire up the crowd

Written by David Singleton on 14 February 2018 in Diary

The foreign secretary's big speech was light on detail - but it did have jokes about dogging and sex tourism.

Boris Johnson has attempted to woo Remainers by insisting that Brexit is not really anything to do with Nigel Farage.

But his big speech fell flat with some pundits after the foreign secretary eschewed details about exactly what he wants from Brexit in favour of passages about the liberal idealism of John Stuart Mill and jokes about dogging and Thai sex tourism.

After the speech, Boris provided hacks with an alternative angle when - in response to a question from The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn  - he failed to rule out resigning from the cabinet over Brexit this year.

When another journalist asked Johnson where the clarity was, the foreign secretary misheard and thought he had asked where the carrot was.





Throughout his address Johnson made repeated efforts to rebrand Brexit.

"It’s not about returning to some autarkic 1950s menu of spam and cabbage and liver. It’s about continuing the astonishing revolution in tastes and styles, in the arts, music, restaurants, sports," he said at one point.

He also weaponised the former Ukip leader as he argued that Brexit was the expression of a natural desire for self-government of the people, by the people, for the people.

"That is surely not some reactionary Faragiste concept," said. “It is to fulfil the liberal idealism of John Stuart Mill himself, who recognised that it is only the nation – as he put it, ‘united among themselves by common sympathies which do not exist between themselves and others’ that could legitimate the state."

But the foreign secretary couldn’t resist also throwing in a few close-to-the-knuckle lines as he tackled the suggestion that Britain is going to become more insular.

"Britain and Holland used to be joined by a territory known as Doggerland, though the customs of Doggerland are now lost to history," he noted impishly.

Johnson then risked another innuendo about Thai sex-tourism. "As I have just discovered we have more than a million who go to Thailand every year, where the excellent consular services deal with everything they get up to there... on which I make no comment," he said.

The version of the speech sent to journalists stated that "according to our superb consular services they get up to the most eye-popping things".

While many Brexiteers lapped up the speech, some of the political journalists watching on were far more muted in their assessments.

"Extraordinary lack of detail in Boris Johnson speech. Not a single mention of Northern Ireland, no explanation of what sort of trade deal we are pursuing, not remedy for ECJ jurisdiction of agencies,” tweeted Daily Mirror political editor Jason Beattie.

Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges declared: "If I was a Leaver and I was watching Boris I’d be apoplectic. There’s a case to be made for Brexit. But this vaudeville routine isn’t it."

The Guardian’s Gaby Hinsliff stated: "This Boris speech is a bit like watching a famous standup trot out the same routine that went down really well 10 years ago & wonder why people aren't laughing now.... As a Remainer who'd quite like to be convinced Brexit isn't a disaster, what with not loving disasters, I'm some miles past the point where whiffle & dogging jokes are going to do it."

And even the Tory-supporting columnist and diehard Brexiteer Tim Montgomerie was not won over. "Don’t understand the point of Boris’ speech. Pretty platitudinous," he declared.

Meanwhile Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman scathingly summed up the speech as: "Brexit can be great. Dogging joke. Transition can be same as now but nuts to remain close in perpetuity. Thai sex tourism joke. Doesn't promise not to resign."





Picture credit: Press Association



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