Tory MPs have widely criticised Boris Johnson’s speech today at a major business conference, after the Prime Minister compared himself to Moses, spoke at length about Peppa Pig World and lost his place for 20 seconds.
Conservative MPs were quick to express their dismay with the speech on WhatsApp groups across Westminster, with one minister telling City A.M. that the speech was “appalling” and reminiscent of the bumbling TV character Mr Bean.
It comes amid deteriorating relations between Johnson and Tory backbenchers in the wake of his mishandling of the Owen Paterson sleaze saga, for cancelling parts of HS2 in Yorkshire and for hiking taxes to their highest level in five decades.
Johnson’s key policy announcement in the speech to business chiefs at the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) annual conference was a change of regulations that will see home and business owners forced to install electric vehicle charging points on all new properties from next year.
However, the speech was overshadowed by a series of jokes and gaffes.
When speaking about the future of the automotive sector he made an impression of an accelerating car, before then comparing himself to Moses by saying he came down from “Mount Sinai” to deliver his 10-point climate change plan.
He also lost his place for 20 seconds as he shuffled through his papers and repeated “forgive me”.
The Prime Minister spent a portion of the speech talking about the Peppa Pig World theme park, telling the crowd: “I loved it and Peppa Pig World is very much my kind of place. It has very safe streets, discipline in schools, heavy emphasis on new mass transit systems, even if they’re a bit stereotypical about Daddy Pig.”
A Conservative backbencher said the Prime Minister’s speech was “unserious” and “embarrassing”, while another described it as “extremely concerning”.
One senior Tory said “it just looks shambolic” and that the speech had gone down “badly” among MPs.
“There is a great bit where after shuffling papers incoherently he then talks about skills. The skills missing were organisation and competence,” they said.
It comes as Johnson’s approval rating has sunk to its lowest ever level, with an Opinium poll two weeks ago showing just 30 per cent of people thought he was doing a good job as Prime Minister and 50 per cent thought he was doing a bad job.
The polling came after the government’s botched attempt to get ex-MP Owen Paterson off the hook for a recommended parliamentary suspension, which led to a torrent of press stories about the outside earnings of Conservative backbenchers.
A senior Downing Street source told the BBC: “There is a lot of concern inside the building about the PM….it’s just not working. Cabinet needs to wake up and demand serious changes otherwise it’ll keep getting worse. If they don’t insist, he just won’t do anything about it.”
The Prime Minister’s appearance at the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers last week was widely reported to have been very testy as MPs vented their frustrations.
Johnson admitted at the meeting that the Paterson saga had been “a car crash”.
Downing Street was contacted for comment.