Boris Johnson’s leadership launch: what he said – and what he really meant
Our chief political commentator offers a translation of the Conservative leadership frontrunner’s speech and his answers to journalists at the launch of his campaign today
What Boris Johnson said: It is a measure of the resilience of this country that since the vote to leave the EU and in defiance of all predictions the economy has grown.
What he really meant: It is a measure of my resilience that, three years after wimping out of a bare-knuckle fight with Michael Gove, I stand before you, in a controlled environment, with strict instructions not to depart from my script.
What he said: English football teams have won both the Champions League and the Uefa cup by beating other English football teams.
What he meant: It’s a bit laddish, my advisers said. The Scots won’t like it, said another. But they wouldn’t let me make jokes about anything else and you have to have a joke at the start.
What he said: At Westminster, parties have entered a yellow box junction, unable to move forward or back.
What he meant: And I tell you the solution is to use water cannon and a flamethrower to end the gridlock.
What he said: While around the country there is a mood of disillusion, even despair.
What he meant: I am here to tell everyone: cheer up, it may never happen. I mean, it probably will, but if we can’t act the clown as the country goes up in flames, what is the point?
What he said: The longer it goes on the worse the risk of contamination and a real loss of confidence.
What he meant: Vote for me. I will make sure the chaos and confusion goes on for as long as possible.
What he said: The people of this country need courage, and they need clarity and they need a resolution.
What he meant: And that is why I have concluded that person cannot be me. No, wait. This time is going to be different. All I have to do is keep talking and everyone who knows I am completely unsuited to the job of prime minister will suppress that knowledge because they want a ministerial job for the few months that I might stay in office.
What he said: People who voted to leave wanted to be heard. They wanted to feel that they too could be part of the astonishing success of this country.
What he meant: Instead, they have to listen to me, blustering on.
What he said: After three years and two missed deadlines we must leave the EU on 31 October.
What he meant: And if we don’t, I will still be prime minister.
What he said: It is only by preparing for and raising awareness of no deal that we can ensure that we do not resort to that option.
What he meant: We have to pretend to be serious about a no-deal exit to avoid a no-deal exit. Pretending to be serious is my special skill.
What he said: Delay means defeat. Defeat means Corbyn. Kick the can again and we kick the bucket.
What he meant: I am an agent for the other side. I have no plan to avoid delay. Vote for me, and you get a Labour government and the destruction of the Conservative Party.
What he said: We’re going to do this by articulating a new and inspiring vision for sensible moderate, modern Conservatism. My friends, I ask you now to join me in that great project.
What he meant: Waffle and bluster.
What he said: We’re going to have six questions from representatives of the media, a huge number.
What he meant: And we’re going to have no answers from the candidate. I have been in politics long enough to know how to dodge a mere six questions on different subjects. The bunker walls are secure.
What he said: Occasionally some plaster comes off the ceiling as a result of a phrase I have used … but it is vital that we as politicians remember that one of the reasons people have become disillusioned with us as a breed is because too often they feel we are muffling and veiling our language.
What he meant: I have a prepared answer to any question about letter boxes, piccaninnies and watermelon smiles – and my other questionable phrases – which is to bolt for the Trumpian distraction of “I’m not a racist but political correctness means you can’t say what you think.”
What he said: Have I ever done anything illegal? I cannot swear that I have always observed a top speed limit in this country of 70mph.
What he meant: I saw that question about breaking the law coming.
What he said: What people really want us to focus on in this campaign is what we can do for them, extolling the merits of free-market capitalism.
What he meant: No, I am not going to answer a question about my use of cocaine.
What he said: Our job is to engage with everybody, and just to point out the real existential threat that faces both major parties if we fail to get this thing done. In the end, maturity and a sense of duty will prevail. I think it will be very difficult in the end for colleagues to obstruct the will of the people and to block Brexit.
What he meant: They blocked it before and they will block it again. They really don’t want a no-deal exit, but the Tory party members do, and I have a leadership election to win. The rest I can worry about later.
What he said: If we as parliamentarians block Brexit, we will reap the whirlwind and we will face mortal retribution.
What he meant: This is a prediction, not a warning.
What he said: With a government inspired with a new vigour and a new confidence, I think that we will get results.
What he meant: I can confirm that we are heading towards disaster.