Boris Johnson sings in German to prove he's not a little Englander
As Leave campaigners looked for a statesmanlike message, the leading Brexiteer was goaded into song.
Boris Johnson has stepped up his fight for Brexit – by following through on a threat to sing the Ode to Joy in German.
The former mayor of London cited the ode from 1785 as he delivered his biggest speech yet on why Britons should vote to leave the European Union in next month’s referendum.
He said: "If we leave the EU we will not, repeat not, be leaving Europe…
"I am a child of Europe. I am a liberal cosmopolitan. My family is a genetic equivalent of a UN peacekeeping force. I can read novels in French, I’ve think even read a novel in Spanish. I can sing the Ode to Joy in German."
At which point, one journalist piped up: "Go on then."
So the Tory MP replied: "If you keep accusing me of being a Little Englander, I will..."
In an otherwise serious speech, Johnson went on to fulminate about his anger at being branded a xenophobe:
"I find if offensive, insulting, irrelevant and positively cretinous to be told – sometimes by people who can barely speak a foreign language – that I belong to a group of small-minded xenophobes; because the truth is it is Brexit that is now the great project of European liberalism, and I am afraid that it is the European Union – for all the high ideals with which it began, that now represents the ancien regime."
He also claimed that Leave campaigners "stand in the tradition of the liberal cosmopolitan European enlightenment – not just of Locke and Wilkes, but of Rousseau and Voltaire".
Johnson ended his speech by setting out what he claims is the choice facing voters on June 23. He said: "It is between taking back control of our money – or giving a further £100bn to Brussels before the next election. Between deciding who we want to come here to live and work – or letting the EU decide.
"Between a dynamic liberal cosmopolitan open global free-trading prosperous Britain, or a Britain where we remain subject to a undemocratic system devised in the 1950s that is now actively responsible for low growth and in some cases economic despair. Between believing in the possibility of hope and change in Europe – or accepting that we have no choice but to knuckle under.
"It is a choice between getting dragged ever further into a federal superstate, or taking a stand now."
"Vote Leave on June 23, and take back control of our democracy."
But some Leave campaigners will be concerned that the former mayor of London had already distracted from the gravitas of his own messages by singing in German.