It was 40 minutes of unadulterated booster-ism: Boris Johnson’s conference performance – rarely a term more fitting for the prime minister’s speech – was filled with visions of higher wages, lower unemployment and greater skills for all.
It didn’t do anything so mundane as dealing with real-world issues like rising gas prices, supermarket shortages, and tax hikes.
On the streets of Worksop Wednesday afternoon, the strategy has hit the mark widely.
Over the course of several hours in this Nottinghamshire market town, shoppers, traders and – the most reliable of the zeitgeist-barometers – drink Weatherspoon all tell Granthshala That, yes, he still liked the cut of BoJo’s jib.
What about the fuel crisis he has embroiled in? Media mistake. What about the shortage of supermarkets? Due to a haulage industry that has long given less importance to its drivers. What are the nearly 140,000 dead to Covid? An unprecedented situation for which no one can be blamed.
Forget Teflon Tony. This is Bakelite Boris – a conservative prime minister who is apparently resistant to the most corrosive of cock-ups.
“I like him,” says Wayne Nixon, a forklift truck driver who spends the afternoon caroling and blacking out at the Licorice Garden pub. “He’s dealt with Brexit, dealt with Covid pretty well – that furlough plan helped millions – and now I think he’ll deal with leveling up. He doesn’t carp. He gets the job done.”
Now look, Sir Keir: In this quintessential red-wall-of-blue patch of the East Midlands, the prime minister appears to be as popular today as he did when he led the Tories in their 2019 general election landslide.
Their joke about making back beavers – lame as it may be – works because they are intentionally brash. When he makes fun of the Labor Party, people smile – not because they necessarily dislike the Labor Party, but because they like the fun.
Shouldn’t his speech have been more serious in times of many difficulties? Was it right to laugh and joke on the same day they cut Universal Credit by £20 a week? A shrug here in this pub.
“I’ve worked all my life,” says Nixon, 54, a grandfather of four. “And the government never gave me 20 rupees a week.”
Another drinker listens and cries. Dean Millard, 49, and unemployed himself, says “six billion pounds that’s a year’s cost.” “You have to help people but money is not unlimited.”
A market trader, Ian Coldwell, later echoed the sentiment. Between selling bedsheets and towels, the 55-year-old said, “Everyone thinks the world owes them.” “It’s not.”
Whether you agree with the sentiment or not, something may need to be taken out of it. Much media attention – and repeated Labor strikes – has focused on the fact that removing the (temporary) uplift will put nearly six million people in ever greater difficulty.
Perhaps someone within Johnson’s inner circle has come to the conclusion that there are millions more who do not benefit from it and who – now that the pandemic is approaching – do not necessarily agree with its theory.
In any case, what do Coldwell customers think of Johnson? “We don’t really ask, love,” says wife Sue, 54. “They don’t come up when we’re talking about towels.” Touch.
Yet to stand here for 15 minutes on a market day is to listen to the much talked about politics.
The lack of buses, the number of homeless people on the roads, empty shops – all this is a matter of concern in the workshop. So, shouldn’t the Prime Minister do anything about those things?
One woman said, “Tell Boris that if he can turn on my number 19, he has my vote for life.”
Positivity is not universal, it must be said. It is an old mining town – it returned a Labor MP for 84 years as of 2019 – and the reference to Margaret Thatcher by the prime minister in his speech would have been hailed as dying in a canary pit.
“I’m in a golfing group [with ex-miners],” Coldwell says. “They would call him everything from a pig to a dog.”
Stephen Cotton, a retired engineer, is less crude but shares his opinion. “Get Brexit?” asks the retired engineer as he sits in Old Market Square for his flu jab. “It’s been one disaster after another, right? He’s a clown.”
He, himself, was a lifelong Labor voter as of 2019. He couldn’t bring himself to give his cross to Jeremy Corbyn, he says, but neither was he meant to be blue. “For the first time in my life I didn’t vote,” he says.
What about next time? “I don’t know,” Ek’s 69-year-old grandfather replied despairingly. “I just don’t know.”
They are also uncertain at The Barbershop in Bridge Place.
What do they think of Boris? “with honesty…
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /