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From Borismania to tedious ramble: How the papers reacted to Johnson’s speech

Hundreds of people queued to hear the former foreign secretary’s speech.

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Boris Johnson speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party annual conference (Victoria Jones/PA)

Boris Johnson speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party annual conference (Victoria Jones/PA)

Boris Johnson speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party annual conference (Victoria Jones/PA)

All eyes may be on Theresa May as she addresses the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Wednesday – but many of the paper’s column inches are dedicated to a fellow top Tory: Boris Johnson.

Mr Johnson, the former foreign secretary, packed a 1,500-seater hall on the fringe of the conference and delivered a speech in which he said Mrs May’s Brexit blueprint was not “taking back control” but “forfeiting control”.

The Daily Mail said Mr Johnson staged a “public audition” for Mrs May’s job, saying the pair were at “daggers drawn”.

Inside, the paper spoke of how Mr Johnson “plunged the knife in”, and a leader column said that while the speech “pressed all the right buttons”, its content was “deeply disloyal to the Prime Minister and profoundly unrealistic”.

“The very timing of his speech, on the eve of the Prime Minister’s keynote address, was calculated to upstage her and cause her maximum embarrassment,” the paper said.

In the Times, Patrick Kidd wrote that “Borismania is back”, contrasting the excitement about Mr Johnson’s ovation compared to the vibe elsewhere in Birmingham.

He had not parked his tank on her lawn but on a nearby street so that she can see it whenever she goes to the shopsPatrick Kidd

On the speech, Mr Kidd said: “It was a muted challenge but perhaps a more effective one.

“He had not parked his tank on her lawn but on a nearby street so that she can see it whenever she goes to the shops.”

The Daily Mirror, perhaps unsurprisingly, was less kind towards the member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

The opening line of Kevin Maguire’s piece referred to Mr Johnson as a “deceitful charlatan” and a “deflating Tory windbag”.

It continued: “By publicly pretending to back Theresa May after verbally chucking her under the bus, he showed himself as a yellow-bellied coward.

“In Birmingham, he robbed me and hundreds others of more than half an hour of our lives with a dishonest, tedious ramble.”

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Boris Johnson spoke to an audience of 1,500 (Victoria Jones/PA)

Boris Johnson spoke to an audience of 1,500 (Victoria Jones/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Boris Johnson spoke to an audience of 1,500 (Victoria Jones/PA)

The Daily Telegraph, which counts Mr Johnson among its contributors, said he brought “much-needed vigour to what has been a somewhat lacklustre party occasion”.

Its leader column said that he should be praised for having an appeal which stretches beyond typical Tory heartlands.

“Leaving aside whether Mr Johnson is preparing a leadership bid or has passed his political sell-by date, as some of his erstwhile colleagues suggest, his speech showed why his party needs him in a front-line role,” it said.

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