Is Peppa Pig Boris’ Bacon Sarnie?
Tuesday 5th May 2015 will always be etched on the memory of Ed Miliband. That’s the day he was photographed uncomfortably eating a bacon sandwich. The tabloid press seized upon this as of proof that Miliband, who was never really a man of the people, was not someone who could connect with the bacon sarnie snaffling white van drivers of Britain. Two days later he resoundingly lost the general election to the Eton educated David Cameron.
Boris Johnson’s atrocious speech at the CBI Conference is not as time sensitive as Ed’s sandwich snafu. There’s no general election looming – indeed the Conservatives need not go back to the people until December 2024 – yet it still caps an awkward period for an increasingly gaff prone premier.
With the strange car noises, the curious diversion into his trip to Peppa Pig World and the moment he lost his place, saying “forgive me” numerous times like a penitent pilgrim, it was one of the worst speeches I’ve ever seen from a senior politician. 10 Downing Street was forced to deny that he was “unwell”.
From a communications perspective it was the worst possible delivery at the worst possible time. The Conservatives has been on the back foot because of sleaze allegations, and Boris is facing three particular challenges to his authority:
1. The social care reforms being pushed through against the opposition of many Conservatives (including a few on the right) raise questions whether the Tories have shed their “nasty party” reputation;
2. The cutting of the rail investment for the north of England undermined the levelling up agenda Boris promoted, so making the Conservative MPs who won “Red Wall” seats from Labour worrying that voters will think the Government can’t be trusted to keep its promises;
3. All across Government, there is an execution problem, raising questions whether Boris’ team is up to the job of delivering the policies they have announced.
An image of Boris losing his grip in front of what should be a sympathetic audience of business people has many recalling the shambolic John Major administration of the 1990s. This lack of competence was seized on by an energetic Labour team led by Tony Blair which scored a resounding victory in the 1997 election.
Can Keir Starmer take advantage? His polling seems to indicate he doesn’t motivate the electorate. But if Boris’ continues to flounder I’d expect the Tories not to take the risk that Labour can repeat its revitalisation act. Boris may soon have more time on his hands to spend with Peppa Pig.