BORIS JOHNSON urged Conservatives to get behind his Brexit plans yesterday as he vowed to ‘reboot’ British politics.
In his keynote speech to the Tory party conference, the prime minister insisted his proposals were ‘constructive and reasonable’ — and repeatedly promised he would ‘get Brexit done’.
He told delegates: ‘I hope very much that our friends [in the EU] understand that and compromise in their turn.
‘Because if we fail to get an agreement, because of what is essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks, then let us be in no doubt that the alternative is no deal.’
He added: ‘Let’s get this thing done -and then let’s get ready to make our case to the country.’
But there was muted applause from the audience when Mr Johnson declared: ‘We are European, we love Europe — I love Europe, anyway.’
His speech was light on detail, with the main substance of his proposals being revealed in a letter to the EU sent later in the day. And there were also no new policy announcements.
But the PM did lash out at rival parties, accusing Labour of being ‘anti-Semitic’ and describing its leader Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘communist cosmonaut’.
He said the Lib Dems were ‘anti-democratic’ for wanting to stop Brexit and claimed the SNP risked plunging the country into ‘chaos’ by wanting another Scottish independence referendum.
There was scorn aimed at parliament in general from Mr Johnson, who skipped prime minister’s questions in the Commons to address the Manchester gathering.
He said: ‘If parliament were a laptop, then the screen would be showing the pizza wheel of doom.’
Mr Johnson got the audience laughing when he referenced ITV reality show I’m A Celebrity during a swipe at Commons speaker John Bercow.
‘If parliament were a reality TV show, then I’m afraid the whole lot of us would have been voted out of the jungle. But at least we could have watched the speaker being forced to eat a kangaroo testicle,’ he said. Describing his vision of Britain, he added: ‘We have always had the courage to be original, to do things differently, and now we are about to take another giant step to do something no one thought we could do — to reboot our politics, to relaunch ourselves into the world.’
The speech received a rapturous reception from the party faithful in the hall, and earned the PM a kiss from partner Carrie Symonds — in contrast to the awkward moment when Mr Johnson accidentally head-butted and kissed business secretary Andrea Leadsom on the lips.
But his address was met with derision from opposition parties. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the PM’s Brexit plans were ‘neither credible nor workable’.
He added: ‘The Conservatives have failed on Brexit, failed on the economy, failed on housing and failed on schools.
‘This crisis the Tories have plunged our country into can only be settled by letting the people decide.
‘We need a general election, followed by a public vote, as soon as the threat of no-deal is off the table.’
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said: ‘When you strip away the bluff and bluster, this was a speech by a prime minister who is determined to crash us out of the EU without a deal.’
Independent MP Nick Boles, who resigned from the Conservatives in April over Brexit, tweeted: ‘Johnson is an entertainer not an orator. Today’s speech was blancmange — sugar and air, signifying nothing.’